There’s Not Much Slippery Slope Left

Tony Jones is a name that has long been associated with the emerging church movement (I’m not sure what they call the movement now, or if it even continues to have a name, but it is still around).  This movement (at least the Tony Jones/Brian McLaren side of it) represents an attempt to reinvent the Christian faith by accommodating it to postmodern ideas, sensibilities, and culture.  Although its adherents seem to dislike the description, the movement formerly known as the emerging church is basically a form of repackaged liberalism.

The issue of homosexuality has, for several years, been a major point of controversy, confusion, and conversation for this movement.  It looks like that conversation has pretty much run its course.  It is now well-known that homosexuality has received a welcoming affirmation from this particular stream of the emerging church.

For Tony Jones, so he says, it’s time to move on to other things.  I quote:

 . . . many Christians are ready for our conversations about sexuality to expand beyond “what to do with the gays,” and instead have a more fully-orbed dialogue about sexuality and human identity.  I also know that, for the first time in my life I’ve met Christians who are in “open” marriages or are practicing polyamory — and I’m committed that my theological/ethical response to them be both Christian and pragmatic/realistic.

Read the whole piece to get the context.

What we are witnessing is the rapid acceleration of a movement down the slippery slope of theological compromise and cultural accommodation to the point that there is little slope left.  Tony Jones has almost hit the bottom, and, since he discarded his brake mechanism years ago, I don’t see how he is going to be able to stop.

He does pause to take a brief swipe at pedophilia in the article (kind of).  Obviously, no rational person would ever tolerate that!  But of course, rational people used to say the same things about “open” marriage and polyamory.  The only thing idolaters need to bless any kind of perverse sexual arrangement is sufficient time to overcome the “ick” factor.  We are well past that point with homosexuality.  Now, the dominoes will continue to fall one-by-one.

The increasing paganization of Western culture will provide the church an opportunity to define itself in stark countercultural terms as a living witness to the supreme authority of our crucified and risen Lord.  While Tony Jones continues his slide toward the pit of Hell, I am thankful for those sheep who know their Master’s voice and will follow him wherever he leads, no matter how puritanical or old-fashioned they may seem to everyone else.

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3 Responses to There’s Not Much Slippery Slope Left

  1. Alistair says:

    Hey Aaron. Did you ever have a look at my recent thoughts on the homosexuality issue? If you have time, it’s under the series section in the sidebar entitled, “How to talk about homosexuality”. I think some of the points there apply to these other issues that Tony Jones seems to want people to “move on” to, and therefore how we can discuss/speak into the culture about these things. (Or maybe I just think too much about my own opinions!)
    I agree re. pedophilia. I can’t see how that will remain taboo.

  2. Ali,

    I have seen your posts, and I think they are well done. However, as I read back over them, it occurred to me that, while the categories of oppression and freedom do communicate better to our culture today than does the category of a moral norm derived from an external authority, I think we should strive to link these categories together. We must demonstrate that there can be no freedom apart from submission to authority, and that the only true path to freedom is to submit to divine authority. Rebellion against divine authority is slavery to sin.

    We live in a society of people who function as their own gods. That is why personal autonomy is the highest moral value, and anything that restricts personal freedom is considered oppressive. Could it be that we may run the risk of implicitly affirming that value system if we only use the language of freedom and oppression? I think we should use the language of freedom and oppression in the context of an entire worldview where the true God stands at the center, and that will necessarily include the component of external authority. I salute you for your thoughts, and I think you have taken some initial steps in a good direction.

    It makes perfect sense that Tony Jones would flirt with the idea of open marriage and polyamory. After all, these are sexual arrangements that involve willing consent by all parties involved. I doubt that Jones would say the same about a hidden extramarital affair, for that would be against the will of the innocent spouse. The moral absolute is not the will of God, but rather the will of each individual person involved.

    To this point, pedophilia is taboo because children are assumed to lack the maturity necessary to give consent. Thus, pedophilia is a form of abuse, for it coerces an individual who does not have the mature judgment to decide for himself if he wants to participate in the sexual act. This is why pedophiles will seek to change our society’s understanding of what is required for consent. That is the pathway to the normalization of adult-child sexual relationships. And, if society’s opinion ever changes, you can be sure that the Tony Joneses who are out there at the time will be talking about the the possibilities for practicing pedophiles to be faithful followers of Christ.

    (When I say “the Tony Joneses” who are out there, I don’t mean Tony Jones himself; he clearly does not endorse pedophilia. But he does push sexual boundaries, and since pedophilia is, at present, a sexual boundary, those who do eventually push that boundary will be playing his role for their generation.)

  3. Alistair says:

    Hi Aaron. You are right, there needs to be a connection between the “freedom and oppression” paradigm and the “submission to external (moral) authority” paradigm. Absolutely. However, the same weakness you see in only using the concepts of freedom and authority can be also pointed to in the almost exclusive appeal to external moral authority of the past, i.e. people tried (and try) to be good by themselves, subtly putting themselves in the seat of moral authority/ becoming their own gods and judging their own goodness. It could be argued, then, and I think very successfully, that to use only the language of external authority implicitly affirms humanity in their wilfulness and self-determination, or their desire to function as their own gods.
    The answer to these things is exactly what you say: putting God at the centre of a whole worldview. But it has to be God in Jesus. You cannot measure up to God’s external moral standards without Jesus, and you cannot be free without Jesus. In Jesus all the “paradigms” come together. Freedom/oppression, good/bad, glory-honour/shame, love/fear, wholeness/brokenness, blessing/cursing – I can’t think of any more at the moment – and all these things need to be put together in a coherent worldview with Jesus’ death and resurrection at the centre. But I do think the emphasis can rightly be put on one paradigm in a certain context to avoid misunderstanding and to speak to the heart. We will never avoid causing offense.
    Yes, these thoughts are only a beginning, especially as the slippery slope continues to be descended. The freedom/oppression paradigm is not enough, and in one sense Tony Jones is right. There needs to be discussions about sexuality and human identity from a biblical point of view and forwarded winsomely in the culture. I still strongly believe that intimacy, love and glory are categories that can help in explaining and promoting the biblical views on sexuality in our culture, but there is so much more. The problem is, I haven’t seen all the – no doubt excellent – work done on these things in the Christian academy. That would be so helpful.
    Lastly, I’m finding it difficult to see where we should stand on this homosexual marriage issue. Paul says it’s not our place to judge those outside the church, which to me means that while we don’t want people to hurt themselves by such terrible legislation, our attitude to “married” homosexuals may need some tweaking. However, children will be terribly affected by the inevitable fight for the acceptance of pedophilia, so what is our “non-judging” attitude to that when it comes around.
    So much thinking to do, and it’s not just academic.

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