Some Responses to "Dale
Martin's Poststructuralist Persona and His Historical-Critical Real
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 2:40 PM
You won that
exchange. It is almost a shame it was not over a less controversial
topic so that one could focus more clearly on the hermeneutical issue at
stake. The essential dishonesty you flag in your opponent reminds me of
Machen’s argument against liberalism grounded in Common Sense Realism.
In Christianity and Liberalism Machen
liberalism's essential dishonesty in relation to average members of the
church. It may use the traditional concepts of Christian faith. It
speaks of "God," "Jesus," "Spirit," and the like. But in doing so it
"offends. . .the fundamental principle of truthfulness in language."
Honesty in language comes, "not when the meaning attached to the words
by the speaker, but when the meaning intended to be produced in the mind
of the particular person addressed, is in accordance with the facts"
(112). By investing traditional Christian concepts with a meaning that
is different from their meaning among ordinary folk, liberalism
abrogates the trustworthiness and integrity of the common language
shared by all. It turns theology into gnostic double talk. In this
regard, "it is inferior to Unitarianism in the matter of honesty"
[Prof. of Church History,
Sent: Tuesday, March
06, 2007 3:45 PM
Fascinating and so
sad. As I read his position, he states that he has NO position, only
an ever changing variety of positions, and yet he is entitled to make
definite conclusions. He also is a foundationalist with respect to his
chosen critical theories. As a literary scholar, I never got into
this. I thought that Karl Popper’s Open Society, chapter 22, on the
sociology of knowledge, predicted in about 1945 everything we have
seen in philosophy since that time. There’s a delightful novel by
Malcolm Bradbury, “Mensonge” (French for lying) that parodies the
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 2:13 PM
I am interested to see you
critique Martin on similar lines that I critiqued him a year ago in a
paper on New Testament theology. I accused him of doing what I call
"the postmodern two-step." This move is where one first takes a step
into the arena of objective (mind-independent and knowable) truth, and
then steps out of this arena, claiming all to be indeterminate and
unknowable, often as if the second step is the inevitable result, rather
than the contradiction, of truth discovered in the first step.
So Martin critiques
"Heterosexist" interpretations of scripture as if they are demonstrably
mistaken, and thus probably motivated by impure motives, and then says
that nobody is objective, not himself nor these "heterosexist" scholars,
which he supposedly had already demonstrated.
It really is dizzying to try
to follow such logic. But it is somewhat encouraging to see that one's
opponents are driven to such nihilistic excesses.
[Ph.D. student in theology]
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 2:17 PM
Of course Dale Martin would not want to
meet in a face-to-face! Anyone with common sense and a clear mind
would begin to discern very quickly that he is running in circles in
terms of logic. As a graduate of Yale Divinity some years back, and a
now-retired PCUSA Pastor, I wonder how much damage is being done to
current students with his kind of vaporous and circular reasoning. I
was one of only a relative handful of evangelicals at Yale back in the
late '70's, but we had fine professors, who were rigorous in their study
and logic. Now....Dale Martin? What has happened to what used to be
a liberal but academically sound institution? I am so glad that I am
not subject to teaching like Dr. Martin's. Thank you for a solid and
not-unkind critique of a position that has been used to effectively
destroy the PCUSA and other mainline denominations. I wonder of what
use the Bible (or any other book) is, if all we have are our own
individual interpretations, and nothing else has any certainty at all.
I might as well go back to atheism!
Sent: Wednesday, March
07, 2007 4:12 PM
Dear Dr. Gagnon,
For Dale Martin to claim that you
don’t understand literary theory is ludicrous. I have a Ph.D. in
philosophy with an additional 24 graduate hours in English literary
theory and composition besides—I say this not to brag, but to give you
at least a little confidence in what I say next—and what I see is your
surgical exposure of the holes in Martin’s own literary theory.
These same holes run rampant through
all poststructuralist/ deconstructionist/ postmodernist theories of
literature and knowledge. What poststructuralists/ deconstructionists/
postmodernists discard with their left hand, they retrieve with their
right hand, while not permitting you to do the same. My favorite
example of this is found in John Ellis’ little, but effective,
Against Deconstruction, in
which Ellis tells the story of the famous exchange between John Searle
and Jacques Derrida. Derrida, the patron saint of deconstructionism
who believes that texts have no inherent meaning other than what the
reader brings to them, that “logocentrism” is the premier vice of our
age, and that “all interpretations are misinterpretations,” can’t
resist writing a 100-page, over-the-top response to Searle in response
to a critical review by Searle of Derrida’s essay, “Signature, Event,
Context.” In his caustic rejoinder, Derrida claimed that Searle
misunderstood him on numerous counts and that his points should have
been obvious enough even to Searle. 100 pages! Seesh! It seems that
Derrida believed his text had some inherent meaning with some level of
authorial intent, and that Searle touched a nerve. The hypocrisy is
Thank you for taking on Martin so
capably and firmly, yet without rancor, at least on your part. I
thought Martin acted childishly toward the end, but that’s not
uncommon when you know your position is hopeless. You suddenly don’t
want to play anymore.
Grace and peace,
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 3:46 PM
I found the
whole thing to be way over my head for a moment. But I got the jist of
it after I read it three times. Dale Martin takes what I like to call a
Democratic stance on the issue of Biblical interpretation. In other
words he makes a statement about his beliefs or his interpretation. And
then when asked he suddenly says he can't speak on it because its too
complex or his critics may use anything he says against him. . . .
I am a
bisexual female and a Christian. . . . There is no 'interpretation' of
the Bible that allows for sin or claims that God allows for the sin of
homosexuality. Now what else do I believe? I believe that God does not
condone sex between two people of the same gender. This has been stated
in the Bible time and again with no ambiguity. I also believe that God
loves everyone, and yes God even loves gays, lesbians, bisexuals,
transsexuals, transvestites, and even pedophiles. But God does not
condone their sinful lifestyle jus because He loves everyone. . . .
Being gay or whatever doesn't bar you from Heaven, remaining unsaved is
what bars you from Heaven. This is a inconvenient truth that Dale
Martin likes to leave out.
As far as
myself, I am in conflict about my own sexual feelings. I decided to
look at the issue in a manner similar to Paul who had a thorn or pain in
his side. Perhaps my homosexual feelings are my own personal thorn. If
this is the case then I must just pray and bear it. I am saved so I
know I'm going to Heaven. Now i just have to try an stay on the
righteous path, which isn't easy, whether you are straight or not. I am
glad to see that I am not the only one out there that recognizes this
truth. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who ever spoke
You are exactly right about
using the thorn in the flesh example. Sometimes the word from God is: My
grace is sufficient for you, my power will be brought to completion
through your human weakness. This principle applies to all circumstances
where we want something that God has said "no," for our own good.
Forming Christ in us often involves denial of our deep desires, as
Jesus' statements about taking up our cross, denying ourselves, and
losing our lives show.
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 8:51 PM
I must first apologize: I have never read any of your works before
today when I read your exquisite smackdown of Dale Martin's silliness. I
enjoyed it immensely. I read through some of the 'reaction emails' you
received to that posting, and one caught my eye, and I'd like to ask you
about it [W. then refers to my response to C. immediately above].
I really do agree with you here, but here is my question: What
should one do when one asks God to change one's orientation from gay to
straight and the answer is a clear, firm "No"?
Don't pull any punches, I can handle my philosophical and theological
I'm sure you've heard stories like this before, but I wanted to give you
I am a gay man, and a Christian. I know the Bible well, and came to
exactly the conclusion you gave C. a few years ago when I finally
admitted to myself that I am gay, and not just going through some kind
of "phase". Since I first became conscious of my feeling towards other
boys (middle school, not a Christian at the time but raised in a
Christian household), I didn't want to be this way. I read every book I
could find on sex and sexuality in the library (yes, all of it), and
decided that I was just going through a phase, going with safe feelings
etc. and would grow out of it naturally. 13 years later, at 25, there is
no change. When I became a Christian in my heart and was Confirmed at
15, I began having to wrestle with the Scriptures and my feelings. Since
I was influenced by my surroundings and my earlier conclusions, and my
new-Christian-fervor, I didn't think that it was that scary, and prayed
for Got to help me grow out of this. As I continued to fail to grow,
despite my prayers and active internal work with no avail, and unable to
believe that God hated me enough to twist my life like that and then
condemn me for it, not that God wasn't there, I had to stare at the
conclusion that God has said "no," for [my] own good and conclude
that there is a reason I am gay, and a reason I am still gay, and that
somehow that is God's will, God's reason. Therefore, there must be an
error in the traditional interpretation or translation of Scripture, for
why would God cause me against my will to have such a strong desire to
do that which is sinful? It goes so far beyond Paul's thorn that I can't
even put words to it. I am both gay and a person for whom Paul
prescribes marriage, and I have seen the devastation that trying to put
a gay man in a heterosexual marriage wreaks on all involved. His Grace
is sufficient, but it has not granted me even the Gift of Celibacy.
So where does that leave me?
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2007 2:39 PM
you for your heartfelt candor. I really appreciate you.
correctly gathered from my correspondence with C., I do not think that
becoming a Christian will lead to the complete eradication of all
desires to do what God expressly forbids, including, for some,
homosexual desire. At least a small minority apparently do receive
elimination or virtual elimination of such desires (I think especially
women); some larger number experience a significant reduction in
intensity; some (of whatever number) experience no significant reduction
in the intensity of homosexual desire. The same could be said of sinful
impulses generally including, especially among men, a polysexual
orientation. Scripture clearly shows that no command of God is
predicated of people first losing all desires to violate the command in
point you say that what you experience goes far beyond Paul’s thorn in
the flesh. I don’t think so. If Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a serious
eye ailment (there is some contextual evidence for thinking so), it was
in the larger setting of a man who faced death daily as he went
proclaiming the gospel across the Mediterranean basin. Most days Paul
suffered more than we will suffer in a lifetime: beaten with a whip in
synagogues, beaten with rods by Roman or provincial authorities, poorly
clad, poorly fed, poorly sheltered, stoned (not on drugs), beaten by
robbers, shipwrecked, in constant anxiety for his churches, slandered by
fellow Jews (both Christian and non), a veritable scum of the earth. Was
Paul sufficient for such things? No. The whole of 2 Corinthians, though,
explains why he could get up each day and be faithful to what God
commanded him to do in his individual life: the magnitude of the
treasure of Christ now in us, the progressive revealing of God’s
presence when we daily die to our self-interests, the surpassing
magnitude and permanence of the coming glory that far outweighs our
“slight momentary pressures” in this life, and the constraining
influence of the boundless love of God for us so exemplified in Jesus’
death for us.
neither to minimize what you are going through (which is real and
substantial) nor to magnify it beyond what it is. There are more
heterosexuals who aren’t having sex and want to but won’t out of
obedience to God (i.e. the only kind of sex available to them would be
in ways that violate God’s commands) than there are persons who
experience same-sex attractions. We are talking about sexual impulses
here; you are not at risk of dying through disease or persecution, for
would God have you do? First and foremost, obedience—and when you
disobey to ask for God’s forgiveness. Second, to see your experience as
a special gift that will enable you to experience the love of God in
ways that others will not, because of your need to rely in this special
area of your life on a God who wants to show you that his grace is
sufficient (i.e., his help and kindnesses apart from necessarily
delivering you from the impulse). Third, to develop close (but
non-sexual) relationships with other men as a way of partially meeting
desires for intimacy and to become connected with groups of persons who
experience similar issues and are faithfully working through them. For
the latter you should contact Exodus International or affiliated groups
(in the Presbyterian Church USA it is OneByOne).
God has empowered you to live a celibate life is determined not on the
basis of whether you struggle with unwanted impulses but rather on the
basis of what God has commanded you to do. If you cannot get sexual
relations in the only way that God has deemed acceptable, a union of one
man and one woman, then you can be assured that God has empowered you in
Christ to obedience.
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 1:03 PM
points on the internal contradiction in Martin’s response to you!
[a retired theology professor]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 6:03 PM
I'm tempted to say that now
I think I understand why George W. Bush succeeded at Yale. (That should
endear me to nobody in this debate. Ha!)
[Professor at a Christian
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 6:35 PM
I have read your email communication with
Martin and I fully agree with your critique.
[A professor at a Christian seminary
and a graduate of Yale Divinity School.]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 3:20 PM
Dear Dr. Gagnon,
enjoyed reading the exchange between you and Dale Martin. You had him
and he just couldn't admit it. It was interesting to watch the shift in
typing skills as he became more and more agitated in the exchange with
you, while you remained calm and logical. It was almost like watching a
fencing match between someone who thinks he can fence, and someone who
knows he can fence.
[A Methodist pastor in
From: Dr. M.
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 2:56 PM
What a revealing series of
emails! Those walking in the truth are happy to bring everything into
the light. Others run from the light. Well done, as always.
[Ph.D. in Old Testament from
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 3:22 PM
To: Robert Gagnon
Your faithfulness to stick with your calling, and to persist in the face
of much opposition, is noble. God bless you.
“But a noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” Is
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 2:35 PM
I enjoy, love, have strong feelings after I read all your papers. I
don't know how to say it, but man I like to read your responses. May
God keep you.
has come out of the homosexual life]
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 3:01 AM
for sharing this exchange. If only consistency were still considered an
I am so
weary of the post-modern moves within the guild of the AAR. I find far
greater openness in the APA.
[A Lutheran in full-time renewal
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2007 2:10 AM
Please know that your time here continues
to bear great fruit and many in our congregations and community were
blessed by your spirit guided efforts with us.
Please know that Mark and I continue to
pray for you and your ministry; that God will grant you full measures of
strength, wisdom and grace.
God is good,
[A PCUSA pastor in the Northwest]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 10:32 PM
This was wonderful! Working at a secular
university where I encounter that kind of thinking all the time, I wish
I could be so articulate.
With Paul I say, "I thank God for you
every time I remember you in my prayers."
[An adjunct professor and a Christian
Missionary Alliance pastor]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 10:04 PM
As we say here in South
Carolina, 'you're a hoot!' That Martin claims to know the "textual
Gagnon" when he claims that text-based knowledge is fallacious - that
I was on our High School
debate team; if I'm captain and get to choose sides for the next team
I'm on, I'm picking you! Keep up the good work.
[PCUSA pastor who works in a
ministry to the sexually broken]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 8:49 PM
To: Robert Gagnon
Subject: Dale Martin's diatribe
I just had to stop reading Dale's stuff
when I saw the following: "So
I critique people's rhetoric even when I believe they are "right" in
their exegetical results. "
This is incredible. He
admits that exegetically you and others are "right" about what the texts
says, and then essentially says "SO WHAT?!"
One can tell by the demeanor of his
writing that he is clearly uncomfortable with his own position. He knows
it flies in the face of truth. The Truth.
God bless you as you continue to work in
this ministry. You have been a great blessing to me and others, and I am
sure that in the end, the Lord will say to you "Well done good and
Peace in the Lord!
[An ELCA pastor in the Northwest]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 6:47 PM
Thanks for sharing with me
this interchange with Dale Martin who is obviously in the throes of
deception believing a lie, then conjuring up and constructing clever
difficult to follow other lies to buttress it. That he is lost is sad
enough but that others may (do)believe his views to be the truth is
[A PCUSA pastor]
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 12:01 PM
How unfortunate that someone responsible for teaching the next
generation espouses such a philosophy. I'm reminded of Pilate's
reply when Jesus said, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my
fighting the good fight.
[A PCUSA pastor]
Dear Dr. Gagnon
Just read your exchange with Dale
Martin. It made me ask a curious question . . .
If I understand him correctly, (and I am
not sure that Martin would say that anyone could understand what he says
correctly on the basis of what he has written, given his
post-constructionist stance), I think I can say the following:
writes that he is a gay man.
writes that one cannot draw conclusions about reality on the basis of
what a particular individual asserts in textual form.
cannot write with any certainty that Dale Martin is gay, given that I
only “know” that he is gay because he has put such a statement in
Of course the above is a logical
argument, and I am not sure that Martin agrees that there is such a
thing as logical argument . . . at least not when it puts him in a bad
Have I understood what Martin seems to
A PC(USA) pastor