Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tony Jones and Sexuality

One of the emergent leaders of years past, Tony Jones, has been creeping further and further away from classical Christian orthodoxy and into some territory that Christian history does not look on with favor. Besides denying the doctrine of the Trinity, Jones is obsessed with aberrant sexuality. One glance at the larger blog will serve as evidence. There is nothing un-Christian about paying attention to a theology and anthropology of sexuality, but I’m not sure he is looking at the issues from an angle that will produce useful conclusions.

In any event, his positions on sexuality have been accused of being the first steps in a slippery slope, and in this video he responds.

To the matter that slippery-slope argumentation is fallacious, I think we need to be careful about what we mean. I know it is a form of argument that can be pulled out of a person’s pocket at any moment to be used as a scare tactic, and that often the reasoning is rather non sequitor, but that does not make the argument automatically fallacious. There is work out there that establishes forms of “slippery-slope” argumentation that is not fallacious, but in the sense in which Jones is using it the real proof is in the pudding. Can we point to actual, real-world examples of slipping slopes when a society’s attitude toward sexuality, family and marriage change? I think so. Slippery slopes do exist.

But a more fundamental error he makes is to shift the biblical and ethical burden to “monogamy” from “heterosexual.” Despite the machinations of some theologians, Scripture is abundantly clear both in the text and the context that God’s design for sexual expression is within monogamous heterosexual marriage. Jones has reached a point where “monogamous” is the key ethical term, and the words “homosexual” and “heterosexual” are either synonymous or superfluous. They can be swapped out without any change in the rightness/wrongness of the concept. I think he has put all his ethical eggs in the wrong basket.

Ironically, Jones’ current position may be an example of the result of a slippery slope. I think it can be argued that his original and laudable impulse to read our current culture and learn from it has turned into one of the classic theological mistakes: his cultural sensitivity may have slipped into culturally-driven exegesis.

HT: Constructive Curmudgeon


Dave James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave James said...

I watched Jones' slippery slope video the other day and am thinking about writing about it on the ABI blog.

I agree with your thoughts. I think it might be helpful to elaborate a bit on the examples of real-life slippery slopes.

Concerning monogamous relationships as opposed to heterosexual relationships: I think it might be even harder to prove that monogamy is God's will than it is to prove that heterosexuality is. There are so many multiple wives among God's men in the OT - that it can be a bit of a difficult question to explain. Of course, I believe the Bible teaches both - but I think it might be more obvious that homosexuality is wrong than it is that polygamy is wrong. The monogamy defense just doesn't fly.

Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

The Gyrovague said...

I am fairly firmly emergent, but I must give credence to the thought that a few of the emergents have slipped off the horse. Tony is one of the voices I have had to largely stop listening to. I am emergent in thought and practice, but within the confines of true biblical exegesis. Unfortunately he is doing a little to much cultural exegesis and not enough biblical.

I value him bringing points to the table that need to be dealt with thought through and reconed with. But this one is a little to far off for me.

Dave James said...

Our ministry is dealing with promoting and teaching biblical hermeneutics / exegesis - and also dealing with those who do not practice this - which often finds us dealing with emergents across a broad spectrum of that "category."

I would be very interested in discussing how your "brand" of EC intersects or utilizes biblical exegesis. What I have read and heard thus far is often a commitment to the inspiration and authority of Scripture - but we diverge significant on what that means exactly. So, unless one probes further there is often a sense of agreement, that is ultimately only superficial.

Perhaps we could get into a personal email conversation, if you are willing. Because I know that emergent can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, I am working to develop a broad understanding of the full spectrum of EC.

Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

Phil Steiger said...

The thoughts on polygamy and monogamy are interesting here. It is true that polygamus relationships are described and inclueded in the biblical history, but I can't come up with any prescriptive teaching in favor of it.

There is a difference between an activity being mentioned and being endorsed by Scripture. I wonder if you had any further thoughts.

Dave said...


I agree completely in the difference between description and prescription. And only monogamy is prescribed and is the only acceptable form of marriage. My point was that homosexuality is specifically condemned more often and is therefore arguably less defensible than polygamy. This is not at all to suggest that polygamy is in any way defensible. It was only a relative comparison.


Jason Phaneuf said...

I think the slippery slope can be seen in many real world examples. One that comes to mind is the language and amount of sensuality shown on basic cable television. The laundry list of profanity seems to keep growing. In my mind, the door just keeps opening wider and I think we will eventually be like Europe where full blown nudity will be shown on a non-PPV tv program and maybe even hear the f-word. I totally agree with your thoughts on this.