FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- New Testament scholar Robert A.J. Gagnon said that those who defend homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage gain nothing by appealing to Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbors.
Gagnon discussed what the Bible says about homosexuality during the Summer Institute on Work and Economics organized by the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary last month. Gagnon, who serves as associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics and co-author of Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views.
Those who mention Jesus’ citation of Leviticus 19:18, the command to love one’s neighbor, in defense of homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage, Gagnon said, often ignore the immediate context of this passage of Scripture, beginning with Leviticus 19:17:
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Gagnon said that he and others who oppose homosexuality do not act out of hatred, but rather out of love, as defined in this passage of Scripture—a love that involves rebuking and instructing those who live in sin so that they will be saved.
"It is not about taking a pound of flesh out of somebody else for the sin they commit,” Gagnon said. “It is not about getting even with them or taking revenge or holding a grudge. It is not about whatever offense they might have committed against me, and the sin that they committed. It is about only one thing—reclaiming the lost. And that is all we ever want.”
“It is about loving enough not to be so beat down by the prevailing culture and wanting so much to be loved and approved and accepted by others that we accommodate on a matter which God has told us is foundational for sexual ethics,” Gagnon added. Then, discussing Christ’s comments upon marriage and divorce in Mark 10 and Matt 19, the creation account in Gen 1-2, and Paul’s criticism of homosexuality in Rom 1, Gagnon argued that homosexuality runs counter to the biblical view of human sexuality and marriage.
Craig Mitchell, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement, said Gagnon’s argument was very powerful and that his lecture reveals the diversity of issues discussed during the Land Center’s Summer Institute on Work and Economics.
“The Land Center exists to educate and to equip and to help mobilize people in the church about a lot of the contemporary issues,” Mitchell said. “Our primary focus is the theology of work and economics, and that has applications to a wide variety of things—to the family, to the church, to the state, to environmental issues.”
Other speakers at the conference, who spoke on economics, war, the environment, socialism and other issues, included Mitchell; Richard Land, former president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and president-elect of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.; Jay Richards, research fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of Money, God and Greed; Michael Matheson Miller, director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Bill Eckhardt, clinical professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Cal Beisner, founder and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation; Anthony Bradley, professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College in New York City; and Kevin Kennedy, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary.
Listen to the audio of Gagnon’s lecture at http://bit.ly/1bdNu2A (click on microphone icon). To learn more about Southwestern Seminary’s Land Center for Cultural Engagement, visit www.thelandcenter.org.