Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogging the Homosexualty Conference: Day 2, Vespers

I was not able to take my laptop to the vespers presentation by Robert Gagnon, so this synopsis will be based mainly on memory. Gagnon is the author of The Bible and Homosexuality which thoroughly, if his presentation was any indication of his thoroughness, argues the case for the traditional understanding of scripture on that topic. Gagnon shortened what we were told is a four hour lecture into three points.

His first point was based on 2 Cor 4:7-10 to the effect that death to self is necessary for life in Christ. Gagnon believes that satisfaction in our spiritual life can come as a result of not acting on our natural impulses. He views the issue of homosexuality through that lens.

Gagnon's other two points were essentially rebuttals of some arguments put forth to assert that the Bible does not address the issue of homosexuality as we know it today. One such argument is that Jesus did not have anything to say about homosexual relationshiops. However, Gagnon finds Jesus indirectly addressing the issue in Mark 10:1-12.

Gagnon holds that Jesus argument in this passage assumes that for him the only acceptable form of marriage was between one man and one woman. He argues that the twoness of the partners in marriage according to Genesis, which excludes polygamy, is based on the two different genders, which are to become one. Gagnon believes that marriage is the re-union of the two halves of humanity, and that homosexual relationships violate the otherness which the male and female are supposed to bring to marriage. On this level, he compares consensual homosexual sex to consensual incest, arguing that incest is wrong because the two partners are not different enough to bring the requisite otherness to their sexual relationship.

Gagnon's second text was Rom 1:18-27, concerning which he proceeded to rebut claims that Paul was not addressing a situation comparable to modern homosexuality. He proceeded to show from classical studies that consensual homosexual sex for mutual enjoyment and even quasi-homosexual marriages were known the the world in which Paul lived. Gagnon cited one classicist who wrote a book on homosexuality in the ancient world and concluded ancient homosexuals may have even had notions similar to the modern understanding of homosexual identity. His classical references on PowerPoint slides were illustrated with ancient artifacts depicting homosexual activity, and I'm fairly certain that was the first time sex scenes have ever been publicly displayed in Pioneer Memorial Chapel.

The evening ended with a lengthy Q&A in which the panelists basically reiterated points they had previously made.

Disclaimer: I have summarized the views of the presenters to the best of my ability, however my summary should not be conflated with their actual views. For this reason, any attempt to debate the presenters views in the comments section will be deleted. Comments that seek clarification are welcome.

Blogging the Homosexuality Conference (other posts)


  1. Thank you for these reports. I am learning much from them!

  2. I just have to say that you literally made me laugh out loud when you said, "I'm fairly certain that was the first time sex scenes have ever been publicly displayed in Pioneer Memorial Chapel." God only knows it's about time we started talking about it instead of hiding from it. Regardless of which side one stands on in this issue, it cannot remain "under the rug" any longer.

  3. "Homosexual" sex scenes no less! Yikes.

  4. I very much appreciate these reports. One wonders whether this was a self-affirming session rather than a critical examination of the issues through the clash of disparate positions that one might expect at a scholarly meeting.

  5. Prof. Archer:

    I consider it to be a professional rather than scholarly conference. See my comments here.

  6. Ha. I remember when D. K. Nelson showed a clip from the Titanic. Folks were pretty surprised to see moving pictures and he told folks that he advocated against going to the theater. Now they bring it to church.

    Anyway, fine work David.

    I found this comment by a presenter at the conference very significant in giving some backstage action.