Scot Miller has been doing a thorough analysis of Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice over the past week. The whole set of articles is worth reading. But I think the crux of his argument comes down to this:
Gagnon seems to misunderstand the kind of material he’s dealing with when it comes to biblical texts and theological arguments. Texts and theological arguments are not like mathematical formula that have timeless meanings. Language is slippery. Translations are difficult. (As a philosopher, it’s interesting to me that both Continental philosophers likeHans-Georg Gadamer and Anglo-American pragmatists like W.V.O. Quine agree on the difficulty of translating anything with complete accuracy. Gadamer argues in Truth and Method that “every translation is at the same time an interpretation” [p. 384], and in Word and Object Quine speaks of the “indeterminacy of translation” [pp. 72-79].)
The best anyone can do is come up with likely interpretations that are subject to revision based on better evidence and arguments. With any luck, your interpretation may become widely accepted and a consensus can form around it, but even a consensus is historically conditioned and subject to correction and rejection later.
Gagnon wants to convince us that the theological and scientific arguments which reject his way of reading the Bible must be wrong because they contradict his conclusion about homosexual practice. In fact, the alternative arguments are really proposals or suggestions that may actually allow us to read the Bible more adequately. It is a mistake for Gagnon to understand these arguments as ways of undermining the Bible’s authority. They are rather different ways of valuing the authority of the Bible.
Having not read Gagnon's book, I'm relying on Miller's reading and working on the assumption it's accurate. It certainly seems reflective of the kinds of conversations I've had with others on the issue of the Biblical teachings on homosexuality, and Miller says better than I've been able to articulate what I think the central problem is with those kinds of conversations.
As a protestant Christian, I put the Bible at the center of my faith. But saying this never really gets to the question of how the Bible is the center of faith. For someone like Gagnon, it seems to center faith precisely in presenting commands and propositions that, even if one is not a fundamentalist, one must accept as normative without qualification. But as Miller points out, once you've put aside the need to read the Bible as a fundamentalist, it becomes exceedingly difficult to decide just how the Bible is to be in dialogue with culture and still understand it to provide these kinds of normative commands. And, as Miller notes, Gagnon seems to have decided what he wanted the Bible to mean on the subject of homosexuality, and then read the Bible in the way that reinforced that.
But there are other ways to put the Bible at the center of one's faith, and for me, understanding it not as a set of divinely ordained commands and norms, but as the very human story of how the community of faith comes to understand itself as related to God, in a very fallible and evolving way, is much truer to what one can actually read from the text. And what that means for the Christian community is that we too have to struggle to understand ourselves as related to God, in light of the experiences of those who have come before us, and in conversation with the world we find ourselves in the midst of. At the center is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which defines the core of the Christian reality. Apart from that, we are in dialogue both those who came before us, and those who travel the road with us now.