Pro-gay book ‘undeveloped’ & ‘unconvincing’
    January 13 2015 by Baptist Press staff

    A former Union University faculty member’s new book arguing that churches should endorse homosexual marriage is “undeveloped and unconvincing,” Union’s George Guthrie wrote in a review published by The Gospel Coalition.
     
    Guthrie, Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union, reviewed David Gushee’s book Changing Our Mind in which Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, recounts his shift on sexual ethics and argues that the church should sanction monogamous, “covenanted” homosexual relationships. Gushee left Union in 2007.
     
    “Some of David’s proposals are well-taken, and his exhortations to love and compassion are appreciated and heard,” Guthrie wrote in a Jan. 9 review. “Many of the proposals, however, remain painfully undeveloped and unconvincing, both in terms of scriptural engagement and ethical reasoning, offering a poor basis for ‘changing our mind’ on a Judeo-Christian sexual ethic that has spanned millennia.”
     
    For Guthrie, a friend and former colleague of Gushee’s, critiquing Gushee’s arguments was a personal and difficult experience.
     
    “During our years of service together, many of us knew him as an articulate, compassionate, thoughtful colleague and an outstanding teacher, one who held the historic Christian view on the topics of sexuality and marriage,” Guthrie wrote.

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    Gushee’s departure from scriptural teaching seems to be a product of his personal experience rather than proper exegesis of Bible passages, Guthrie wrote.
     
    “David shapes his argument by weaving a consideration of biblical texts, moral reasoning, and, above all, the evoking of personal stories,” Guthrie wrote. “It’s important to attend not only to what he argues but how he does so. In many ways, the stories form the foundation of his paradigm shift – with scripture and reason being reconsidered in light of those stories.”
     
    Gushee describes the “creation order” argument – that God created marriage only as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman – as “the single most important biblical-theological ethical issue faced by any Christian wrestling with” the issue of homosexuality. He says that argument “deserves careful consideration” in light of Bible passages such as Genesis 1-2 and Matthew 5:31-32.
     
    But Guthrie argued that Gushee “does little to engage the key passages and fails to walk us through the ‘careful consideration’ he’s promised. He probes neither the story nor its parts, so it’s difficult to see how this constitutes a ‘careful consideration’ of what he himself describes as central to the debate.”
     
    Promising to analyze key Bible passages but never doing so makes Gushee’s argument appear to be biblical even though it is not, Guthrie wrote.
     
    Guthrie further took issue with Gushee’s ethical reasoning.
     
    “David often equates disagreement on the morality of homosexual practice with tacitly harmful discrimination,” Guthrie wrote. “Appropriate pastoral ministry is then collapsed into just one option: affirm covenanted, homosexual relationships in the church or be in ‘the community of the bullies.’ This type of reductionism is not helpful.”
     
    Concerning Gushee’s appeal to personal stories, Guthrie said the church must do better at listening to the stories of people who identify as homosexual, including those who have been hurt by insensitive family members or ministers. But others have stories to tell as well, including those who have come out of a homosexual lifestyle and those who have been persecuted because of their affirmation of the historic Christian position, Guthrie wrote.
     
    “At the end of the day, then, Changing Our Mind isn’t so much about David’s reasoned abandonment of 2,500 years of Judeo-Christian teaching on sexuality as it is a telling of his story, a story of seeking to pull together the disparate stories in his world,” Guthrie wrote.
     
    In his conclusion, Guthrie placed some of the blame on himself for Gushee’s departure from orthodoxy.
     
    Gushee’s book “points to my failure to live out the gospel as effectively as I could have before my friend,” Guthrie wrote. “I am confident, though, that whatever happens in our cultural moment as the church processes the stories surrounding the LGBT issue, the gospel story will be the one that endures.
     
    “The ‘good news’ that bids us come and die, that calls us to surrender all we are – including our sexuality – will have the last word in this debate,” Guthrie wrote.
     
    Gushee, in written comments to Baptist Press, said he stands by the arguments he advances in Changing Our Mind.
     
    “Traditional Christian teaching about homosexuality, drawn from a debatable, often decontextualized reading of a handful of biblical passages, has created a Christian moral universe in which that 5 percent or so of the human population who turn out to be LGBT very often have no safe place to exist – because they pose an unsolvable theological problem,” Gushee told BP in written comments. “The results are well-documented: profound personal struggles over many years, featuring often bitter alienation from self, parents, church, and God. I stand with the victims of this teaching, and for its revision. I am joined by a growing number of Christian leaders who have reached the same conclusion.”
     
    Union University President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver lauded Guthrie’s review as “an important, thoughtful and gracious reminder of the truth of scripture and its authority as we seek to live our lives in a world where people change their minds to fit their preferences.”
     
    “As Dr. Guthrie reminds us, it would be all too easy either to remain quiet or simply to dismiss Dr. Gushee,” Oliver said. “I am glad that Dr. Guthrie has not. I am glad that Union is an institution that will not give up biblical truth on sexuality and marriage. And, I hope and pray that as we bear witness with love and compassion to the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, lives may be changed.”
     
    Union Provost C. Ben Mitchell said Guthrie’s review was a needed response to a viewpoint that is unfaithful to Scripture. Guthrie’s review, Mitchell said, brings a great deal of clarity to the topic by probing the biblical issues.
     
    “The question is whether emotion or biblical revelation determines the truth of the matter,” Mitchell said. “We must be a genuinely welcoming community, but not one which affirms sub-biblical approaches for the sake of compassion.”
     
    Guthrie’s complete review of Gushee’s book is available at www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/changing-our-mind.
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Adapted from a report by Tim Ellsworth of Union University. David Roach, senior national correspondent for Baptist Press, contributed to this article.)

    1/13/2015 11:31:23 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments
    Filed under: book review, David Gushee, homosexuality




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