…test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1Thess 5:21

Tony Jones is a leader in the emergent church movement and renowned (by whom?) expert for postmodern theology and the American church landscape. He was formerly the National Coordinator for the Emergent Village and is the author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier and The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life (I’d link the books on Amazon, but quite frankly, I don’t want you to buy them).

Jones now writes for www.belief.net and recently began a blogalogue with Rod Dreher about same-sex marriage. In Jones’ latest post he says that one of his seminary professor Bill Pannell said the following about the church’s response to homosexuality: “Civil rights and abortion will be nothing compared to how the church has to deal with homosexuality.” I would tend to agree with Pannell here. The grassroots movement by the homosexual community to remove the moral stigma associated with homosexual practice has already been overwhelmingly embraced in urban Western civilization. The legal fight in the public sector to make sexual orientation an equal civil rights issue to race is being won. The war being waged for the heart of the next generation for the normalization of homosexually in the eyes of our children is being fought through the media in the form of children’s books, network television, and public school system agendas. And recently the gay and lesbian rights movement has declared war on the Church. If the Church would sanctify homosexuality as “normal” as much as any of the rest of us are “normal” in our fight for personal holiness, then the battle for the widespread acceptance of homosexuality would be won.

This means that conservative Christians who believe in the authority and validity of the Scriptures as God’s revelation to man for how to live as His image-bearers on this earth for the sake of His Kingdom are in the line of fire. Because of what is happening culturally within the secular sector, the Church is being held at gunpoint by the homosexual agenda in hopes that we respond the way that they want us to. There is a lot at stake because homosexuality is but one sin detailed in the Scriptures. The Church cannot afford to overreact to the sin of homosexuality. But one must also admit that the bullying that is taking place within culture over this issue is forcing our hand, and the reality is that the way that we are called to respond biblically may not be tolerated culturally in the near future.

This morning I read that Jones said the following:

“I now believe that gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transsexuals can now live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.”

Why is Jones’ coming out party important? It is important because Tony Jones is a megaphone for the emerging church movement. The emerging church movement claims to be Christian. Jones himself has made a confession of faith in Jesus. Jones, therefore, represents, to some degree, the Christian voice in the world, and this presents grave danger to the Gospel and the witness of the Church in the world. The emerging church is fast becoming the “brand” of choice for many younger evangelicals and the stance of the emerging church on and response to homosexuality should concern evangelicals. To be fair, Tony Jones does not represent the convictions of all participants in the emerging church. But as one of its leaders, his leadership will likely have a trickle down effect on its congregants.

But there is another reason that Jones’ statement is troubling to me. When you read Jones’ post there is not one shred of biblical evidence to support his call for the Church to both “sanction and bless” same-sex marriage. The lack of biblical evidence is troubling because it places this particular confessing Believer in the sphere of false teachers and imposters.

When Paul writes to Timothy in 2Timothy he tells him that everyone who wants to live in righteousness for the sake of Jesus will be persecuted. He then says that “…evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The purpose of this post is not to argue the biblical merits for denying same-sex marriage sanction from the Church (although this stance is what is at stake in the way the Church must lovingly respond to the homosexual community). The purpose of this post is simply to say that if any Christian, but especially public Christian figures, are going to make the bold claim, even demand, that the Church should sanction same-sex marriage, they should provide biblical support for such a demand. The only logic that Jones provides for his claim is personal experience. His Mama made it plain to him that his family would accept whomever he chose to love one day, and so since Mama said it, then it must be so. He talks about his gay friends who lived hard lives, and since they lived hard lives, we then have a civic responsibility to make their lives easier by embracing their sexual orientation as normal (of course, here’s the thing: The homosexual community doesn’t just want us to declare their sexual orientation as normal. They want us to bless their sexual orientation as well). This means that any claim that appears to contradict or contravert what is a clear biblical mandate (homosexuality is a sin) by a “follower” of Christ suggests that such a person may be an “imposter”.

The road to apostasy begins when we deviate from what God has revealed to us plainly in the Scriptures. I want to be fair to Jones as I think that he plans to try and offered a theological / biblical treatise for his now public endorsement of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Our responsiblity as discerning believers is to intellectually engage in the discussion and test what is being said in accordance with the Scriptures.

Why should we even listen to what Jones has to say? Our reasoning for engaging the conversation at all has nothing to do with Tony Jones. It has to do with the fact that the public debate about homosexuality isn’t going away any time soon. Evangelicals need to engage the debate not simply so that we can prove that our biblical position on homosexuality is right. It is not enough to declare that homosexuality is sinful and that marriage should reserved as a human institution established by God between one man and one woman. We need to engage in the debate because homosexuals, like all sinners, need Jesus Christ. We need to engage in this dialogue because the Gospel is at stake, so that what was said by Paul about the believers in Crete might be said of all who would turn to Jesus for salvation, including homosexuals:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astry, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he porued out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:3-7