The Los Angeles Times and the US News and World Report both presented as a fact this week that Christianity calls for the death penalty against homosexual acts. This fallacy seems to be a part of a new talking point of the advocates of same sex marriage that they have managed to get into the news stories. Christian advocates of traditional marriage need to be prepared to respond with the truth.
The LA Times article inserted this claim into a sentence with quotes from Richard Mouw, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, here:
Mouw cites Romans 1 in the New Testament that decries men and women abandoning “natural relations” and men “inflamed with lust for one another” committing “indecent acts with other men” — behavior that carried death as punishment.The newspaper reporter was quoting the President of Fuller Theological Seminary for most of the sentence, but notice where the quote stops and he inserts this misunderstanding. This creates the impression that Mouw is the source for the idea that Christianity calls for the death penalty for homosexual behavior.
Then later in the LA Times article, the claim is made again like this:
Perhaps the most frequently cited is Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: It is an abomination.”The passage from the Torah is repeated, with slight variations, in Christian scripture, which, like the Jewish text, orders death for violators.
Notice how this second sentence is claiming that Christian scripture orders death for violators of the Old Testament (Torah) command. The New Testament does not order death for homosexual acts. Someone reading the article who does not already know this is false is going to think it is true because of the source in the first quote and because the reporter repeats the information later in the article.
We can best understand the purpose of spreading this fallacy in the US News and World Report article:
Frank Kirkpatrick, author of The Episcopal Church in Crisis: How Sex, the Bible, and Authority Are Dividing the Faithful, is particularly troubled by the conservatives' assertion that their reading of Scripture is not one of many possible interpretations of a complex text but instead the only true way of reading it. "It is disingenuous," says Kirkpatrick, an Episcopal priest and a professor of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut. "They do not call for homosexuals to be stoned to death. They choose to follow some passage from the Bible and not others. So, clearly, they are interpreting."Here we can see that spreading the fallacy that Christian scripture calls for the death penalty for homosexual acts lays the groundwork for arguing that scripture can be selectively ignored and calling for new readings of scripture.
I like what the comment by Carl at Stand Firm in response to Frank Kirkpatrick:
The existence of many possible interpretations does not imply the existence of many credible interpretations. The fact that people disagree about the meaning of a text does not imply the meaning of a text is impossible to sufficiently discern.
UPDATE: I further reflection, maybe this is not so new. It may be relevant to reflect back to last September, At that time there was a scurrulous rumor embraced by the progressive Episcopalians that an Anglican bishop had called for the death penalty for homosexuals. The rumor proved false. Nevertheless, on the conservative Anglican website Stand Firm in Faith, Sarah Hey conducted a two part survey of members to see where they stood on theonomy. The results here and here are clear -- none of the conservative Anglicans participating believed in the death penalty for violations of biblical morality. This is a fear tactic of the progressives.
H/T Mollie at Get Religion,Kendall Harmon T19 and Greg Griffith at Stand Firm