The Presbyterian heresy.Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality
by the Rev. Dr. Jack Rogers
Westminster John Knox Press, 155 pages, $17.95
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA) cracked the door open for the ordination of gay men and women at its annual General Assembly meeting (the 217th) last June with an "authoritative interpretation" that allows local ordaining bodies some leeway. One might be tempted to speculate on the impact a particular book had on that decision. Jack Rogers, Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary San Francisco Theological Seminary is a theological seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) located in San Anselmo, California, with a second campus in Pasadena, California in the United States. It is a member of the Graduate Theological Union. and author of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, was moderator of the PCUSA PCUSA Presbyterian Church (USA, formal denominational name) General Assembly four years ago and has had a hand in educating many of its ministers.
Rogers' new book is much more than a rehash re·hash
tr.v. re·hashed, re·hash·ing, re·hash·es
1. To bring forth again in another form without significant alteration: rehashing old ideas.
2. To discuss again. of old arguments that have come down to us from John Boswell John Eastburn Boswell (March 20, 1947 - December 24, 1994), was a prominent historian and a professor at Yale University. Many of Boswell's studies focused on the issue of homosexuality and religion, specifically homosexuality and Christianity. and the more popular Daniel Helminiak, author of What the Bible Really Teaches About Homosexuality. Granted, Rogers does lean heavily on these two authors, among others, when looking at the biblical material. But the real importance of this book lies in the fact that Rogers is a self-identified evangelical Christian who has arrived at a pro-gay position after much biblical and theological reflection.
Disavowing any personal motive for adopting this position, Rogers derives his conclusion from history as much as from theology. In a chapter aptly titled "A Pattern of Misusing the Bible to Justify Oppression," he examines how the church has handled two issues in the past, slavery and women, and finds a close parallel in its treatment of gay men and lesbians. In sketching how Christendom in general, and the Presbyterian Church in particular, misused the Bible to justify its oppressive attitudes toward women and blacks in the second half of the 19th century and well into the 20th, Rogers assigns much of the blame to a wrong-headed theology based on Scottish Common Sense philosophy. (He also blames, among others, Saint Augustine Saint Augustine (sānt ô`gəstēn), city (1990 pop. 11,692), seat of St. Johns co., NE Fla.; inc. 1824. Located on a peninsula between the Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Anastasia Island; , who provided an argument for slavery in The City of God.)
A Southern Presbyterian philosopher and theologian, Rogers offers fascinating insight into the thinking of two leading theologians of the late 1800's, James H. Thorn well and Robert L. Dabney, on the theology of slavery and race. He turns to Princeton Seminary professor Charles Hodge for an analysis of how the American church justified its oppression of women. How could such learned men get it so wrong? To answer, he points above all to their dependence on Common Sense doctrines as developed and expounded by Thomas Reid in the late 1700's. Coupled with the hard Calvinism of Francis Turretin, it was virtually unavoidable that the American version of Presbyterianism (and other Calvinist traditions) would adopt a hard-line position on both slavery and women, a stance that it would eventually renounce as inconsistent with Christ's teachings.
The later part of the book is devoted to a worthwhile discussion of the U.S. Constitution, marriage, and other issues with which the Presbyterian Church is currently wrestling (such as gay ordination). But by far the most important and captivating cap·ti·vate
tr.v. cap·ti·vat·ed, cap·ti·vat·ing, cap·ti·vates
1. To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence. See Synonyms at charm.
2. Archaic To capture. aspect of this book is the journey it describes as Rogers is forced to confront the issue of homosexuality and the church he loves as a biblical scholar and a church leader.
David R. Gillespie is a writer and activist based in Greenville, S.C.