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Sinful and Saintly Sex
Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary thinks he knows exactly the difference between sinful and saintly sex. Lutherans like Ed Schroeder have a different view.
The most important biblical scholar used by the conservative right to justify their view against the legitimacy of same-sex relationships is Robert A. J. Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Professor Gagnon is not one of those academics who writes books but otherwise stays hidden in his study. No, he is carrying on a very active campaign to promote his views and demonstrate their correctness over against his opponents.
Gagnon, a Presbyterian, even thinks he knows Lutheran theology better than Lutheran leaders such as Ed Schroeder of Crossings who has written a piece warning a seminary president against inviting Gagnon to speak. He has a long article on his website where he goes after Schroeder. In this article he just assumes that when Paul speaks of "flesh" he includes any homosexual contact.
What all Christians can learn from Lutherans is a key dialectic. Luther taught that we are saints and sinners at the same time. Before hearing the gospel word of grace in Jesus Christ we are sinners only. After that hearing we can know ourselves as redeemed sinners, but there is no time before the end when we can claim to be anything other than sinners. And this goes for all dimensions of our lives, including sex.
This means that all sex and sexuality is sinful. Yes, Lutherans seem to be that pessimistic about everything. There is no perfect sex, there is no sinless sex, there is no sex according to biblical law that is not sinful. Humans corrupt everything they touch. So the whole enterprise of Gagnon which is trying to find the absolute biblical rules concerning homosexuality is faulty.
And yet, all sex is also redeemed through the power of the Cross of Christ. It is through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that we are able to affirm our participation in the life of this fallen world, including physical relationships. That Spirit opens us to the other and seeks the best for the other. It is in that Spirit that we should make decisions about all sexuality, including homosexuality.
The bible is where we learn about the overwhelming grace of God. To use it as a rule book to justify our fears and hatreds is the absolute opposite of what God intends. God is revealed directly in the person and work of Jesus Christ; the rest of the bible should be interpreted through faith in this Jesus. So to know the spirit of Jesus just sit down and read about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The Journal of Lutheran Ethics recently published an excellent article by John Wickham, chair of the Geology Department at the University of Texas at Arlington: http://www.elca.org/scriptlib/dcs/jle/article.asp?aid=496. This article details ways in which sexual sin is true of heterosexuality as well as homosexuality.
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