Wandering the savage garden…

The Nashville Statement

I am confused and conflicted by the Nashville Statement.

This is a doctrinal position on sexual purity. It’s apparently something meant as a tentpole; pastors and church members are asked to sign it to indicate their agreement and acceptance.

I will not sign it.

It’s not that I disagree with its sentiments; I think you can back those sentiments up, Biblically.

It’s that I don’t understand why it’s being written, or for whom, and I don’t know what it does to further the cause of evangelism; instead, I think it challenges potential readers in such a way that they can easily and justifiably reject the Good News in the context of what the Nashville Statement contains.

I can (and do) support the idea of sexual purity; I cannot (and will not) support something that doesn’t clearly support evangelism.

What it says

The Nashville Statement has its own website. It’s made of fourteen affirmations and rejections; the only actual reference to a Bible verse is in the Preamble. That verse is:

“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves…” –Psalm 100:3

The preamble also says this:

As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life.

It then embarks on a series of declarations that encompass sexuality and are limited to sexual expression.

I understand the limited scope; limiting scope is important, after all. (Otherwise, every discussion of every issue would loop back to the concept of sin and redemption, and all other concerns would disappear. That’s unrealistic.) However, while they mention salvation (sort of: “Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure”) they justify the rest of the statement’s existence in the context of moral purity: “in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials.”

The points themselves

Here are the points themselves; they’re offered as an affirmation and then a rejection, often polar opposites. My summary won’t include the actual texts, unless quotes seem necessary or relevant, and my summary will also not address both the affirmation and the rejection unless there’s enough of a difference that it seems important.

  1. Marriage is between a man and a woman, and is a covenant before and with God.
  2. God’s Will is for monogamy inside of marriage and chastity outside of marriage.
  3. God created both man and woman, and both have equal value in His sight. (I’m not sure how this is scoped; are they saying hermaphrodites are not created by God, or that genetic eunuchs are not created by God? I don’t know. It’s only a few sentences. Maybe they didn’t want to cloud the issue.)
  4. The differences between men and women are natural, created by God, and are meant for good and do not reflect evil.
  5. Biology is relevant for sex identification. (I am assuming – hopefully without justification – that this is a denial of transgender concerns in all ways.)
  6. Ah, here we’re addressing transgender issues at last: such people are “eunuchs created by God” and can have morally and physically uplifting lives.
  7. Homosexuality or transgender state is contrary to God’s design in creation.
  8. Homosexuals may live a pure and rich life in God’s Will. However, homosexuality is not part of God’s Will.
  9. A desire for sin does not justify that sin, with a particular focus on sexual sin.
  10. Approval of homosexuality is sinful.
  11. We must address sexual issues with gentleness and love.
  12. Salvation can redeem anyone who suffers in sexual sin.
  13. God’s grace enables us to supercede transgender or homosexual conceptions, and is not compatible with transgender or homosexual conceptions of self.
  14. Christ came to save all.

Whew! If I were you, I’d read the actual affirmations and denials themselves, rather than relying on my summaries; the affirmations and rejections are not long.

However… a few things stick out.

One is that you might notice how many biblical verses I used in my summaries; if you look at the original texts, you’ll see the exact same number of biblical references used. This concerns me. If you’re drawing a line in the sand based on what God says about an issue, I’d think you’d… want to show what God actually says about that issue. Sure, you’d probably cherry-pick it regardless, but I’d still expect it. For a Biblical statement of some kind, the Bible’s slightly important.

Another thing you might notice is the emphasis on … sex. Look, sex (and sexuality) is important; I’d never deny that (nor would I want to.) But they mention salvation in article twelve.

To me that says that obedience to a moral watermark is more important than salvation. It says to me that the signatories think it’d be cool and kicky if you got saved, but what’s really important is that you obey the rules.

I mean, think about it: these affirmations are saying that God can save you, sure, but what’s important is that you know how to act.

That’s backwards. That’s harmful.

God can save anyone, from anything, at any time. God isn’t going to be dissuaded by the fact that you’re married to someone of the same gender while having been born as a different gender (or whatever; mix and match how you like.) God can reach across every boundary as He wills and as the recipient responds.

And it’s up to that believer, at that point, how to respond. That may mean abandoning a lifestyle and living in a manner compatible with the Nashville Statement; if so, that’s great. I’d celebrate that kind of faith and dedication and obedience.

But it also might mean doing what the new believer can do. Maybe their faith isn’t strong enough to take drastic leaps of lifestyle or denials of a lifetime of impulse or habit; I don’t know.

I can’t judge. It’s not mine to judge. What goes between a believer and God is between that believer and God, and all I can do is present myself as willing to respond if asked. (If someone came to me as a Christian who was actively homosexual, and asked if homosexuality was contrary to the Will of God, I’d… say that it was contrary, yes. But I’d do so in such a way to allow the ministration of God to work on that believer. And if you’re wondering: yes, this has happened, and I’ve seen the effects that things like the Nashville Statement can have. They’re not pretty, and it’s just not worth it.)

Like I said, it’s not that I disagree with the articles of the Nashville Statement. I believe in (and practice) sexual purity (an easy task, as I love my wife beyond all other human beings). But I don’t see where the Nashville Statement actually furthers the Gospel, nor do I see it as being written in such a way that it can easily further the Gospel to the people whom it considers in need of the Gospel the most.

Instead, it purports to drive the lost away.

That’s bad.

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