There have been many social media posts over the last day or two regarding the Nashville Statement. For those who are not up to speed, the statement was created by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, was endorsed by a coalition of scholars, pastors, and other leaders, and is comprised of 14 affirmations and denials, addressing issues related to human sexuality.
This public statement, by dealing with sexuality in this age, in our culture at large, is in my opinion, a somewhat courageous act. It is not courageous because of it’s content, but because of the frontal attack that will ensue by simply stating the position in such a public and proactive way. Discussed and endorsed on August 25, 2017, the statement had been excoriated across social media. And although much of the belligerent criticism, has been from secular observers, and therefore expected, some of the sharp blowback has also been from the “progressive” Christian community. A reality that is disheartening and reveals much about the state of the Christian pastorate and the drive for societal inclusion.
I have signed my name to the statement. Here are my reasons for doing so.
Clarity is an important distinction when discussing faith with culture at large. Of course, this also means that agreement is simply not the stated goal in such an exercise. The Nashville Statement, by and large, is academic by nature and draws lines, in as graciously a way as possible, on the differences between the views of popular culture and the historical, orthodox view of the christian church. There seems to be an under current view that the church “better hurry and get on board” the enlightened train or be left in the dust. This view, though it may feel righteous, is not, at least in the eyes of christians holding the line against an eisegetic creep in their biblical interpretation. The church has never followed culture to an end of greater good. It cannot. The secular world and the church subscribe to opposing worldviews.
Biblical affirmation does not constitute lack of compassion. Unfortunately, even within the church, people are divided on idealogical grounds that to holding a certain viewpoint, must be done at the rejections of all others. To affirm biblical teaching in areas where strong feelings exist due to the rejection of a person’s actions, does not constitute a rejection of the person. You only have to be a parent, or for that matter a child, to realize this reality. I do not approve of all the actions of my parents, nor do they of mine over the years, but that does not mean I do not love them, care for them, and want to spend time with them. The modern christian church, at-large, in many ways is confused on what the bible teaches about sexuality and the biblical affirmations within the Nashville Statement reminds all of us in the christian community that the bible is still to be trusted, consulted, and revered in matters of 21st century American culture.
The Gospel And Cultural Popularity
The church at large is being stretched to find ways to accept culturally normative positions. It is the struggle that many churches are facing on a daily basis. The Nashville Statement gives cushion to many pastors, that they are not standing alone on the side of historic biblical theology. We live in a culture of polling and Facebook likes. However, a snarky comment on social media does not change the truth of the biblical narrative. And a church or individual can hold true to the teaching of the bible, while simultaneously loving the person whose actions are condemned by scripture.
A Biblical Worldview Is Worth It
The Nashville Statement serves as a gracious, but firm affirmation of a biblical worldview on issues of sexual activity and gender absolutes. And yes, I do believe in biblical absolutes. The affirmations present in the statement do not in any way try to force a conservative view on unsuspecting readers. If you read it, you know from the preamble that “To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.” Those who processed through this manuscript and signed their names to it in Nashville, did so knowing they would be beat up by a sometimes belligerent populous, all of whom clamor for a tolerance they themselves are unwilling to extend. Why? Because in the end, truth is worth the bruising.
Truth, Although Potentially Offensive, Is Still The Goal
The Gospel reality will be offensive to those who disagree with it. And our goal as leaders is not to steer clear of offense, but to present truth with thoughtfulness and compassion. And although I should not have to say it, I will – Statements should never be said with an intent to offend. However, a statement of truth, and in this case, biblical truth, may still offend. That has to be okay. For those of us who claim to possess a love and affection for Jesus, we did not come to this place in purity of comfort. I was offended for years when confronted with scripture. I am thankful those speaking into my life did not stop because I spewed my displeasure. However displeasurable, however offensive to others it may be, truth must be our goal wrapped in as much compassion and grace as possible.
In the coming days and weeks I am sure many witty and seemingly well intentioned statements and articles like this one will be posted across the internet finding fault for all sorts of reasons. However, christians must remain diligent, sorting through the muck and the mire. For only a few things can be as dangerous to a society than confusing hubris for courage and wit for wisdom. For those who will claim the Nashville Statement divides and does nothing to reach the heart of the unbeliever living in such a lifestyle, I can only say the divide is in worldview and not a statement. Lastly, a statement of 14 affirmations can never reach a person, only loving Christ-followers can. Be careful not to ascribe to the Nashville Statement the abdication of individuals living out the truth among their friends.