Tony Jones Sounds Off

Q: You mention in a more recent blog that due to your stances on the atonement and SSM you're getting fewer invitations from Evangelical groups. Does it surprise you that after questioning some traditional theological commitments like scriptural inerrancy it would be the issue of SSM that would cause many Evangelicals to quit seeking you out?

A: It doesn't surprise me. It's indicative of how Evangelicals really have used social issues to become definitive of who is and isn't an Evangelical. Of course, Evangelical intelligentsia would say that they have a much more nuanced, sophisticated perspective than that SSM is "just bad." But, in the average heartland mega-church, most people are going to just point to certain passages and say that homosexuality is an abomination, and anybody that accepts it must be heterodox.

Q: From a social and cultural perspective, why do you think that SSM has risen to the level of the Atonement as a test of Evangelical identity?

A: The first reason is that more conservative Christians are notoriously bad about talking about issues of sex and sexuality. Second, a lot of conservatives have a naïve hermeneutic and they talk about homosexuality the way they used to talk about divorce. They would preach against it categorically, while their own divorce rates kept rising. But many still had no room for compromise or exegetical nuance in light of this experience.

Q: Do you think that the issue of SSM will continue to divide Christians for many decades to come or is there some sort of rapprochement on the horizon?

A: It freaks Evangelicals out when I say that in a hundred years our great grandchildren will not be debating this. But of course it's true; they won't be debating it. They'll be arguing over whether we should let clones pastor churches, whether we should marry clones, etc. We will eventually stop debating this, just as we eventually stopped debating slavery. And, of course, conservative Evangelicals are going to lose. Once the ball gets rolling culturally on an issue like this, it can't be stopped. Then, we'll all be done arguing. We'll look back at it with wonder and dismay like we do the Evangelicals who supported slavery 150 years ago.

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1/1/2000 5:00:00 AM
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