Why Does “Exegete” Now Mean “Homophobe”?

Exegesis is the art and science of pulling out the meaning of a particular passage of Scripture.

The word comes from the combination of two Greek terms:  exo, which means out; and hegeisthai, a verb meaning “to lead, guide.”

Exegesis is the opposite of eisegesis, which happens when the reader imports his or her previous understanding of the text in question into the interpretation.  Under eisegesis, readers take their biases and presuppositions and read them into the words of the bible rather than allowing the bible to read its own meaning out.

All that to say that someone who studies a passage carefully and then through the process of reading and research pulls out the interpretive meaning from within the text is an exegete.

All kinds of folks — lay people, pastors, and scholars — engage in the kind of interpretive work of an exegete.

Only these days, many serious exegetes are instead called homophobes.

I’ll show you what I mean. 

Bible scholars from the earliest days of the church and continuing into today have exegeted passages such as Romans 1:18-32 and I Corinthians 6:9-20 and concluded that homosexual practice is outside God’s will for the human race.

The conclusion comes from approaching those texts with an inquisitive mind and commitment to the exegetical process — and then guiding the meaning out from the words of Scripture.

Today’s experts do so with no malice, no sense of glee, no spirit of triumphalism and no gay-bashing.  Instead, after serious study, scholars such as Ben Witherington and Robert Gagnon — hardly members of Westboro Baptist Church, those two — remind us that if Scripture has any continuing authority over the life of the church, the church needs to teach that homosexual intimacy is not God’s design for men and women.

Sadly, if you align yourself with these longstanding exegetical conclusions in 2012 you run the risk of being given that new name I mentioned earlier:  homophobe.  I’ve been called that on this blog.  Other pastors and professors who preach and teach sexual orthodoxy have as well.  That word — that name — gets flung around pretty freely in the United Methodist debate over homosexuality . . . and never to the end of elevating the conversation.

As if the serious study of and honest conclusion about Scripture means you have an irrational fear of people with same-sex attraction and behavior.

Honestly, I wish Scripture wasn’t so unanimous in its lament over homosexual intercourse. 

But it is. 

So my “phobia” these days has nothing to do with homosexuality.

And everything to do with the fear that I might somehow allow my wishes to influence my exegesis.