Andrew Marin has provoked fellow evangelical Professor Robert Gagnon to fury after Gagnon published a 24-page debunking of Marin’s book Love Is an Orientation.

Gagnon is perhaps the most prolific biblical scholar supporting the traditional reading of the Bible on the subject of homosexuality. For years, he has happily propped up the anti-gay and ex-gay movements with his scholarship, going so far as to join the notoriously extreme Peter LaBarbera’s “Truth Academy.”

Marin, a one-time “Bible-banging homophobe,” says he wants to put aside theological issues and “build bridges” with gays and lesbians. He steers away from commenting publicly on whether homosexuality is right or wrong, and seems to encourage others–to the understandable frustration of many of his gay critics–to evade questions too.

Now the two have clashed, with Gagnon “stunned” at the attention Marin’s approach has received:

Andrew Marin’s book, Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (2009), has been gaining some traction in evangelical circles. Having just finished reading the book I am stunned that an evangelical press like InterVarsity would publish such a fatally flawed work—and that persons such as Scot McKnight (a New Testament professor at an evangelical university, North Park) and a certain Michelle Strombeck of Moody Broadcasting Network (a conservative evangelical organization) would provide endorsements for it. (A foreword by Brian McLaren is not surprising since McLaren had already surrendered to a homosexualist view. The same applies to Tony Campolo, whose enthusiastic video endorsement is posted on Marin’s site.)

Marin did not respond directly to Gagnon’s criticisms, but mentioned it on his blog, with the headline “Conservative theologian REALLY doesn’t like me, or anyone ASSOCIATED with me.” He refused to engage Gagnon’s analysis and pointed to this paragraph of Gagnon’s as a “big red flag”:

I have written extensively on homosexual practice for a decade now, with two academic books published and many scholarly articles and articles for a general audience. I’m widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on the subject, certainly from a ‘traditional’ (i.e. scriptural) perspective. Yet CBN never asked me for a comment on Marin’s work, much less ever devoted an article on my work.

Gagnon, never one to do things by halves, responded with 26 pages of comment. Yes, 26 pages, just because he was slighted by Marin.

Ironically, despite having glibly described Brian MacLaren as a “homosexualist,” Gagnon objects to being called a conservative, a term “designed to isolate me into some fundamentalist/evangelical ghetto.” Gagnon quite rightly realizes he was slighted by Marin, although Marin denies it, but why this ridiculous overreaction? Gagnon really, really hates being diminished in this way, and reacts in a way I’m not used to seeing scholars do. Yes, scholars engage other people’s substantial criticisms, but since when do they write full-length treatises because someone sniped at them on a blog?

Observe what happens (pages 22-26) when “John from Arizona (a born-again Christian and a brother in Christ)” sends him an email of a mere 48 words insinuating Gagnon is a closet homosexual. Gagnon responds with over 400. John replies again with 500 words and Gagnon in turn sends him a staggering 1,600 words. A university professor who invests so much time and energy into responding to what at the end of the day is internet bickering is not in a secure place.

And Marin? I’m not surprised he doesn’t directly address Gagnon’s criticisms, since Gagnon is probably right in much of his biblical exegesis. The Bible does say some very ugly things about homosexuals–the offensive thing about Gagnon is not that he thinks the Bible condemns homosexuality, but that he agrees with it and uses it to justify prejudice against gays and lesbians today.

I haven’t scratched the surface of what Marin has written, despite pressure to denounce him on this blog. I’m eager to see what Marin does with those problem texts. Does he avoid them, like he (I think) avoids questions about the morality of homosexuality? Marin is already finding out that this tack doesn’t please those on either side. So who is it benefiting?

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