The Rev. Dr. David C. Jones, Professor of Theology and Christian Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, has publicly announced his opposition to anti-sodomy laws, and his support for allowing homosexuals to enjoy domestic partnership benefits. He enunciated his views in a forum on homosexuality and public policy entitled "Just Saying 'No' Is Not Enough," which appeared in the October 4, 1999, edition of Christianity Today magazine. Others participating in the forum were Richard Mouw, a member of the Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.) who is President and Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary; Stephen Spencer, Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary; and Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Professor of Psychology and resident scholar at the Center for Christian Women in Leadership at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Dr. Mouw moderated the forum.
The magazine stated: "The participants all started from the assumption that genital intimacy between persons of the same sex is not scriptural and is incompatible with the holiness to which God calls Christian disciples. The question was not how to deal with homosexuality in the church but what Christians have to say in the public arena about homosexuality and how they should communicate it."
In response to his question about public policy, Dr. Jones responded: "Because all human beings are created in the image of God, public policy ought to protect all human beings regardless of their sexual behavior. Therefore, we don't make sexual behavior a test case for civil rights in terms of those things which are due to all of us as citizens. We need to assert in a strong voice that just as we give civil rights to adulterers, so also people that we believe are involved in homosexual sin have civil rights.
"Quite a different question is whether homosexuals need special protection rights.
"I think that Christians also must make the case, without quoting Scripture, that there is a compelling state interest in the public recognition of the unique sexual relationship of husband and wife and its implication for the rearing of children."
Professor Jones stated that there are "three components to social transformation." The first is "personal renewal, which has to continue." The second is ecclesiastical practice: "We are a light to the nations and should demonstrate that reality, not least in the area of sexuality." The third is "structural reform. If our calling is to do justice and to love mercy, there is a calling for public justice. We must ask how to go about that from the point of view of the Christian policymaker.
"Emil Brunner once said, 'A Christian engineer doesn't build Christian bridges. A Christian engineer builds solid bridges.' I think that Christian policymakers don't make Christian policy; they make solid policy that derives from their world-view."
The discussion turned to the matter of domestic partnership laws. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen asserted: "The state has a compelling interest and Christians have a compelling interest in people's emotional and economic commitments to one another. If people can demonstrate that they are emotionally and economically committed to one another, then they should have some of the tax benefits in that particular culture that would be given to a married couple."
Dr. Jones responded: "I worked one summer at Camp Nathaniel in Kentucky when I was in college and spent some time with two single women who were part of that organization and owned a home together and lived together in a perfectly chaste relationship. If one of them went to the hospital, I would expect the other to be able to serve as next-of-kin." Dr. Mouw said: "You're saying that the law should recognize persons who live together and have deep and abiding friendships, whether or not those friendships are genitally intimate." Dr. Jones replied: "It's not the state's business whether they're chaste or not."
Moderator Mouw then raised what he called "two slippery-slope issues that we need to deal with before we endorse domestic partnerships. The one is, if we endorse domestic partnerships where two people live together, then what about three people living together? What will keep us, down the line, from endorsing three people living together, four people living together? Already we hear people in the gay and lesbian community saying that their goal is, really, to defeat the heterosexist model of two persons living together in a lifelong committed relationship.
"The other slippery-slope issue that I find very troubling is the rhetoric of the pro-gay movement over the last several years. Several years ago, we heard gay/lesbian rights. Then suddenly, it was gay/lesbian/bisexuals. Then it was gay/lesbian/bisexuals/transsexuals."
Dr. Jones responded: "People are hesitant to address any of the domestic-partnership issues because they fear that it will lead to implementation of some larger agenda from the gay and lesbian community. The removal of the sodomy statutes stalled when people perceived that it was part of a larger agenda."
Dr. Mouw reacted: "You're going on record now as opposing sodomy statutes?"
Dr. Jones answered: "Yes. I don't think they're necessary. At the same time, we should oppose laws that would make it mandatory for Christian schools to hire practicing homosexuals or a Christian couple who own a rental property to rent to a gay couple if it is against their conscience."
Toward the end of the discussion, the participants intimated that the attitude of an independent church in Grand Rapids toward the gay community should be emulated. The leadership of that congregation said to some in the Grand Rapids gay community, "You know what our stand is on homosexual practice, but we love you and want to do something. How can we help you? What would you like us to do?" Dr. Mouw also suggested that an evangelical group on a university campus should have reached out to the gay community before placing ads in the student newspaper. He stated: "I said, 'It would have been wonderful if before you ran the ads, you contacted them and said, "We're planning to issue a statement but we want you to see it first and even to talk to you about it if you're willing. We want to do this in a way that states our convictions but doesn't stir up anger for you."' They never thought of that. Simply reaching out and saying, 'Can we talk?' would be a wonderful gesture."
Dr. Jones immediately followed with this comment: "We must be intolerant of persecution of gays just because they're gay. We must send out the message that persecution of gay people, especially-but not only-violence toward them is wrong. We cannot tolerate the various ways in which people, by their jokes or sneers or whatever, put down people, who are made in the image of God, just because of this sin."
with David Jones
In a telephone interview on December 7, 1999, Dr. David C. Jones clarified some of his views which were expressed in the Christianity Today article. He began by noting that the discussion which was the basis for the article was a "sort of free-wheeling forum"; and that not everything that was said was put into the article.
One point he made in the forum that wasn't included in the article was the threefold biblical framework that he presupposes in thinking about the issue: (1) All human beings are created in the image of God; (2) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (3) all are offered forgiveness and renewal in Christ.
He is also concerned that his opposition to same-sex marriage may be obscured. "I have supported the Marriage Protection Act from its introduction in Congress as I believe it is necesssary for the civil law to uphold the creational norm of marriage. I do not support domestic partnerships that are explicitly homosexual, but I do think that the state can recognize social contracts between persons of the same sex that allow for mutual care and economic benefits. I would not privilege these for sexual expression as I believe that would impinge on the creation norm," said the professor.
In his book, Biblical Christian Ethics, he has defended the social norm of the marriage-based, two-parent family.
Professor Jones stated that, in terms of his comment on anti-sodomy laws, he was concerned with the "structural issue of maintaining heterosexual marriages as the societal norm." In his view, "sodomy laws are not working to protect the family"; and he cited the fact that such legislation is "not distinctly anti-homosexual" in that these types of laws also regulate certain kinds of heterosexual behavior.
In his opinion, such laws, "in our pluralistic society, we do not enforce." The question for him is whether or not it is really helpful "to criminalize that activity."
He believes that the civil government should tolerate homosexual activity, but not approve it. "Criminal law ought not to try to eliminate all sin."
He added: "I think if we have laws on the books that we're not going to enforce, this creates the possibility of people taking the law into their own hands." In the contemporary scene, "we've moved away as a society from prosecuting them [homosexuals]." Moreover, for the sake of evangelizing homosexuals, "we shouldn't criminalize homosexual acts."
He would not, however, argue that laws against prostitution should be eliminated, since prostitution has "social consequences," and its practice is a violation of social righteousness. To legalize prostitution would involve the state in sanctioning an illegitimate form of trade.
With regard to adultery, he would not want laws which would criminalize that activity, but he does believe that there should be "civil consequences" (as would be manifest in divorce proceedings).
When asked whether the law of God applies universally, Dr. Jones answered in the affirmative. "I believe that there's only one moral law, known both naturally and by Scriptural revelation." However, he does want to make a distinction between moral law and civil law.
The professor was also asked about his view of the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q/A 99, point 7 ("That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places."). He responded by saying, "I'm not sure the civil law is the way that should be applied." As an example, he stated that the church preaches to the society against divorce, but that divorce laws in the various states allow for divorce on other than Biblical grounds; in his view, allowing people in society to obtain un-Biblical divorces is appropriate for a pluralistic society.
Dr. Jones, in the Christianity Today article, made favorable reference to Emil Brunner, a neo-orthodox theologian. He stated that he thought that Brunner made a good point, that Christians do not build Christian bridges, but rather solid bridges; and Professor Jones then applied that point to social ethics. How, then, does one determine what a "solid social policy" looks like? According to Dr. Jones, "I look to general revelation as illumined by Scriptural revelation." He explained further: "Social justice has to be applied in a pluralistic society." In his view, "We have to make our case [with respect to a position or piece of legislation] not simply by quoting Scripture."
Part of the impetus for his views on anti-sodomy laws is his belief that "just because something is sin, it doesn't mean that there should be a law against it." One of the philosophical problems he has with sodomy legislation revolves around the question of whether there should be the enforcement of social law against private, consensual behavior.
Does that principle apply to laws against drugs? No, not necessarily, said the professor, as he maintained that it is a "judgment call" as to what types of laws to enforce in order to restrain evil.
Dr. Jones indicated that he looked to Calvin's Geneva for inspiration for his views on social ethics. Even though there was a "Christian consensus in Geneva" in the sixteenth century, Calvin, according to the Covenant Seminary professor, did not think that he should try to erect a theocracy.