Wednesday, May 25, 2005


There is an interesting discussion going on over at the ALPB forum blog, "looking forward to Orlando."

I asked Brian Stoffregen what he thought of Gagnon's work on the TFR. He replied that he scanned the "article" [a thick 50 some page slice-and-dice of the methodology and content of the TFR] but that he was familiar with his books (he then goes on to discuss Gagnon's work from memory without going to the Gagnon piece, which all ELCA people who profess any love for either truth or the church simply must do since this is the issue that is splitting the church).

Brian wrote a bit of a response to me and then Mr Gagnon appeared out of nowhere!

I want to post Gagnon's response and I hope that eveyone reads it and commits it to memory. In a time like ours where people are blindly twisting theology to suit their worldview it is essential to educate yourself.

I'm not just speaking about Brian, who seems tis be a pretty good, but seriously deluded, soul. He and a thousand like him are being blinded by their world view (or the Enemy or whatever)so that they have no correct historical reality of real Lutheranism. What they say is "Lutheran" is a "shadow" of the real thing.

This blind leading the blind has to end. To redo another metaphor, our twisting of the truth is going to lead to our twisting in the wind. Liberal theology is the rope in which the ELCA is going to hang itself.

Read Gagnon's response:

"Brian Stoffregen in his posting claims that porneia in Paul refers only to sexual activity involving prostitution and, just maybe, adultery. This is a misunderstanding of the evidence, corrected by a simple concordance check--to say nothing of BDAG (Bauer-Danker's Greek Lexicon of the NT) which defines the word as "various kinds of 'unsanctioned sexual intercourse.'"

In 1 Thess 4:3-8, Paul refers to fornication and adultery as porneia (4:3), a form of behavior typical of “the Gentiles/nations who do not know God” (4:5), a product of “passions of desire/lust” (4:5), “uncleanness” (akatharsia, dirty or filthy conduct, 4:7), acts that by their very nature oppose the Holy Spirit and reject God (4:8). For a similar referent to porneia, see the exception clause in Matt 5:32; 19:9, which (as BDAG correctly notes) alludes to "the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman" (though, as BDAG also, notes, some apply it to incest).

In 1 Cor 5, Paul characterizes a case of incest between two consenting adults as a kind of shocking porneia that receives widespread disapproval even from Gentiles (5:1), a behavior that should be mourned by the community and that merits temporary expulsion (5:2-5, 9-13), an activity that, if not repented of, leads to the destruction of the perpetrator (5:5) and exclusion from the kingdom of God (6:9). It is likened to the corrupting properties of old rotting leaven and to wickedness and evil (5:6-8).

In 1 Cor 6:12-20 Paul regards sex with prostitutes as porneia (6:13, 18) which, like all cases of porneia, involves the horrific act of defiling the very body purchased by Christ’s blood to be a sanctified “temple” of Christ’s Spirit (6:15-20)—worse even than the sacrilege of throwing mud at the temple in Jerusalem. One is obliged to flee from such activity (6:18), the implication being that failure to do so brings upon the perpetrator God’s terrifying eschatological wrath.

In 1 Cor 7:2, where Paul enjoins the Corinthians to marry and, for those who are married, to have sex in marriage in order to avoid "sexual immoralities" (i.e., various forms of sexual immorality) he clearly is concerned not only with prostitution but with other sexual offenses such as fornication and adultery.

In 1 Cor 6:9 Paul implicitly brings together porneia (here incest and sex with prostitutes, perhaps too fornication), adultery, and same-sex intercourse as instances of egregious sexual immorality. In 6:9-10 offenders known as pornoi head up the vice list, just as in 5:10 and 5:11. In 6:9 the word appears before “idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, and arsenokoitai.” Why isn’t the word grouped with the three other types of sexually immoral persons? The answer has to do with the fact that the incestuous man is called a pornos in 5:8 and his actions porneia in 5:1. Paul places pornoi at the head of the list, before idolaters and other sex offenders, because it is still the main subject of the discussion. In following pornoi with adulterers, malakoi, and arsenokoitai, Paul does not mean to distinguish the latter three from the rubric pornoi but rather to further specify who would be included under that rubric. The immediate context in ch. 5 (incest, called porneia in 5:1; cf. pornos in 5:8) and 6:12-20 (sex with prostitutes, called porneia in 6:13, 18; cf. porneuō in 6:18 and pornē in 6:15-16) makes clear that pornoi would include at least participants in incest and men who have sex with prostitutes. The following three categories of sexual offenders simply fill out explicitly who else would be a pornos. This also explains why the vice lists in 5:10-11 employ pornoi as the sole term denoting sexual offenders; it is a general term that normally covers the sweep of sexual offenses. Similar to 1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10 singles out immediately after pornoi “men who lie with males” (arsenokoitai)—not because arsenokoitai are distinct from pornoi but because arsenokoitai are a particularly egregious instance of pornoi.

Although Romans 1:24-27 does not specifically refer to same-sex intercourse as porneia, it does refer to it as an instance of akatharsia ("uncleanness") which is generally associated in Pauline literature with porneia (1 Thess 4:3-7; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5). Moreover, it is clear that Paul in Rom 1:18-32 has constructed an expanded vice list, where idolatry is discussed at length in 1:19-23; followed by a discussion of sexual "uncleanness" in 1:24-27, where Paul lifts up same-sex intercourse as a pinnacle example of the suppression of the truth about God's will for our sexual behavior given in the material structure of creation is particularly obvious; and then in 1:28-31 adds a list of other (non-sexual) vices to round out the vice list. Since the combination of idolatry-porneia or porneia-idolatry appears in all the Pauline vice lists and akatharsia in Paul is often used synonymously with porneia, it is obvious then Paul here is treating same-sex intercourse as a premier instance of porneia / akatharsia.

In addition, the term porneia appears in the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25). Why is that important? It is widely acknowledged that the prohibitions therein imposed on Gentiles are derived from the laws imposed also on resident aliens in Lev 17-18. Why, in turn, is that important? Leviticus 18 brings together sex laws concerning incest, adultery, male-male intercourse, and bestiality, which would have been enshrined for Jews of the first century under the rubric porneia. What transpires in the Apostolic Decree is part of a developing trajectory of "Noahide laws" in early Judaism which group together various sex laws under the rubric of sexual immorality, which even Gentiles are required to abstain from. For further discussion and documentation of this point, see: The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 435-37.

Time doesn't permit me at the present moment to cite all the texts from early Judaism that prove my point. But Mr. Stoffregen should quote the TDNT entry more fully. The entry doesn't just say that the meaning of porneia occasionally broadens to adultery. It says: "Porneia then comes to mean "[immoral] sexual intercourse" in general without more precise definition" (p. 587). For example it refers to Reuben's act of incest (Testament of Reuben 1:6, etc.) and the sexual immorality of the Sodomites (Testament of Benjamin 9:1, etc.). Incidentally, the verb form porneuo is used by Jude 7 to refer to the Sodomites: "by committing sexual immorality they went after other flesh." For the defense of "by committing sexual immorality" as a translation and as a reference, in part, to male-male intercourse, see pp. 41-42 in my critique of Journey Together Faithfully that appears on my website at (specifically,

That akatharsia usually refers to "sexual uncleanness/impurity" in Paul is, again, self-evident from any concordance check. That by "uncleanness, impurity, filthy conduct" Paul primarily had in mind immoral sexual behavior is evident from the direct connection between 1:24 and 1:26-27, the use of the word as a description of sexual immorality (adultery) in 1 Thess 4:6-7, and the close conjunction of akatharsia with sexual immorality in vice lists (noted above). Cultic or ceremonial uncleanness is no longer at issue; the sense is moral. A contemporary parallel is the use of the words "smutty" or "dirty" for sexually immoral material and practices. A secondary allusion in Rom 1:24 to a wider range of "filthy" behavior is likely given the extension of the vice list in Rom 1:29-31 and the use of akatharsia in 1 Thess 2:3 with reference to the "impure practices" of deceit, trickery, and flattery as a pretext for greed. But the primary referent is sexual. Certainly too the reference to akatharsia in Rom 6:19 has in view the akatharsia mentioned in Rom 1:24 (the only other occurrence of the term in Romans) which is epitomized for Paul in the case of same-sex intercourse (1:26-27): “for just as you presented your members as slaves to sexual uncleanness (akatharsia) and to [other acts of] lawlessness for the purpose of [manifesting] lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for the purpose of [manifesting] holiness (or: sanctification).” A reference back to the self-dishonoring behaviors of Gentiles, especially sexual practices, is precisely what we find in 1 Thess 4:3-7--where Paul conjoins the terms porneia and akatharsia, as he does often elsewhere.

I see that Mr. Stoffregen wants to limit Paul's critique of same-sex intercourse to acts of temple prostitution. The same argument was made about a year ago by a former moderator of the PCUSA and theology professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary, Jack Rogers. For my extensive rebuttal of such a contention (which Jack Rogers never responded to, I suspect because a counterargument was not possible), go to for the pdf version or to for the html version. I came up with 15 arguments against such a position; there are certainly more but after 15 there seems to be little reason to elaborate further.

Responding to postings such as the one by Mr. Stoffregen is a tiring affair because it requires me to repeat points and arguments that I have made over and over again but which people like Mr. Stoffregen apparently never bother reading or never bother dealing with the arguments contained therein.


Dr. Robert Gagnon"

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