If Brian McLaren is the author of A Generous Orthodoxy, then Tony Jones is certainly the author of gobbledygook “orthodoxy.” And, yes, the scare quotes are necessary because, as you will soon see, Jones’ “orthodoxy” is anything but orthodox.
Tony Jones is the National Coordinator of Emergent Village (a network of emerging churches that constitutes the theological leftwing of the emerging church), and he is not so happy that his plenary address will be excluded from the published volume of essays from the 2007 Wheaton Theology Conference. The conference theme was “Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future,” and the presenters examined among other things the contemporary church’s relation to the “Great Tradition” of Christian orthodoxy.
Tony Jones says that his paper was rejected for inclusion in the published volume not because of his scholarship, but because he was “off message.” I guess the meaning of “off message” is debatable, but at the very least it seems to me in this instance that “off message” means something like “off orthodoxy.” You’ll have to read the whole paper before making any definitive judgments, but here are some of the relevant lines from Jones’ presentation:
“While Vincent exhorts us to hold fast that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all, you’ll have about as much luck finding that elusive thing as you will be hunting Jackalope in South Dakota. No such universal, a-contextual orthodoxy exists” (p. 15).
“Orthodoxy is a happening, an occurrence, not a state of being or a state of mind or a state-ment” (p. 20).
“There is no orthodoxy out there somewhere, only here, in me and in you and in us when we gather in Christ’s name” (p. 23).
“There is no orthodoxy without orthopraxy. It doesn’t exist. People may talk about it, but they also talk about unicorns” (p. 24).
“There is no song until it’s sungâ€”it’s just words and notes on paper. There is no strike until it’s called by the umpâ€”’It ain’t nothing till I call it.’ And there is no orthodoxy until it’s lived. It is an event that happens when we gather to worship, when we change a diaper, when we read a book, when we present a paper” (p. 24).
“You have heard it said that the emergent church is run by relativists, but I say to you that we are all relativists” (p. 25).
Someone may object that I have taken these lines out of context, and it’s not fair to judge these statements out of context. I agree with that objection, and that is why I encourage you to read the entire paper. I feel quite certain that you will find that the context only makes matters worse, not better. Not only does Jones jettison the “cocksure certainties of conservatism” (p. 10), but he also “deconstructs” the Council of Chalcedon as the source of the church’s orthodox confession of the two natures of Christ (pp. 15-16).
No doubt Tony Jones and the Emergent Village belong to what has been called the “revisionist” wing of the emerging church. They are among those who are radically redefining what it means to be Christian, which for some is another way of saying that they are not Christian. When a movement or “Christian” community treats the seven ecumenical councils as if they were up for grabs (or otherwise as a plaything to be deconstructed), then that movement or community has crossed over from the ranks of the orthodox to join the JW’s, the Mormons and all the others who do not stand in the life-giving stream.
The danger of Emergent deconstruction is that in many cases its heterodoxy wears an evangelical garb. But this should not be surprising. We received fair warning that this is precisely how the wolves always work (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29-30).