The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released the Nashville Statement this week. I have had more disagreements with the CBMW over the years. Initially I was enthralled by them. But more reading, in particular historical reading, has led me away from them. However, this statement is good. It lays out mere sexuality, as in basic, very basic, Biblical sexual ethics concerning marriage, sodomy and transgenders. Initially, I thought the statement was too basic to be worthwhile. But the response by many progressive Christians has vindicated the need for it. Surprise, surprise many Christians are not as firm on the basics as they let on.
The strength of the statement is that it covers the basics. Nothing in the statement should be shocking to Christians. Marriage between one man and one woman is exalted. Sex of any kind outside of marriage is forbidden. Men and woman should identify with their biological sex. The blood of Christ covers all sins. Homosexual sex is sin. They are more precise on the transgender issue than on homosexuality, but all in all it is standard. In most times the document would never have seen the light of day because of how mundane it was.
Perhaps the most helpful article is #10, which reads as follows:
WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.
This article makes an stand by calling the approval of homosexual immorality unChristian. Not just practicing, but approving of sodomy is an “essential departure from Christian faithfulness.” As Denny Burke notes this was intended to be a line in the sand and it is. While this is not a creed, it should help denominations be clearer in saying that approval of sodomy excludes you from Christian fellowship.
There is broad consensus for the article among conservative Christians because it is so very basic. It also shows how far liberal Christians have fallen when they cannot agree to these foundational statements on human sexuality. It is one thing to say you wish the statement said more, as Ryan Anderson did. I wish it had as well. It is another to reject what it says. Anyone who rejects the substance of the document is not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. As one friend said, “It is smoking out heretics.”
The reaction of progressive Christians and secular folks indicates that the document was necessary. As I listened to critics I realized how far many Christians are from the Scriptures on these issues. The basics needed to be repeated and affirmed because many who claim the name of Christ reject them. This is what Christians believe. Jen Hatmaker’s statement is consistent with how progressive Christians viewed the statement:
The fruit of the “Nashville Statement” is suffering, rejection, shame, and despair. The timing is callous beyond words.
— JenHatmaker (@JenHatmaker) August 29, 2017
And then we have Perry Noble:
When we issue statements rather than build relationships we are more like Pharisees and less like Jesus #NashvilleStatement
— Perry Noble (@perrynoble) August 30, 2017
And I could post more.
While I am positive, the statement is so basic statement that it lends itself to some weaknesses. The document had a particular purpose: give the fundamentals. But there are some flies in the ointment that need to be addressed in the future.
First, numerous sins have led us to the point where sodomy and transgenders are a problem in the church. By problem, I mean they are affirmed instead of called to repentance. Having sinners in the church is not a problem, as long as they live a life of repentance. The sins which got us here need to be addressed. How did we (and the we is important) reach this place? The list of compromises is long including, sexual immorality, feminism, contraception as the norm, the rejection of motherhood, rejection of any meaningful submission by wives, machismo, easy divorce, loss of the authority, sufficiency, and clarity of Scripture, men failing to submit to elders, the gospel of self-fulfillment, etc. I have not yet read this book, but my understanding is that it addresses some of these upstream sins that have helped us reach our current weak position on homosexuality. Al Mohler also mentions birth control in his book, as well as divorce, as paving the way for the sexual revolution.
But these sins often remain unaddressed in conservative churches. While the statement draws a clear line in the sand on basic issues, there are numerous other snakes in the garden that have to be dealt with if deep reformation is to take place. For example, Aimee Byrd, in an article which largely misses the point, wants the CBMW to retract its “hyper-authoritarian, hyper-machismo teaching about manhood and their hyper-submissive and stereotypical teaching about womanhood.” In other words, there are substantial disagreements within conservative ranks that will have more to say about the future of sexual ethics in the church than this document.
Second, the articles on same-sex attraction are okay, but not great. They will need to be fleshed in the coming years. Here is Article 8, which addresses SSA:
WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel
This article is too soft. A call to repent of same-sex attraction would have helped. The affirmation is unclear. How can they “live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God?” Is SSA sin? The denial that SSA is “part of the natural goodness of creation” leans that way. But it is still not clear enough. However, Wesley Hill was not happy with Nashville Statement, which means he saw it as attacking the “gay celibate” movement. The “gay celibate” movement is a danger to the church. It is not directly addressed in the statement but Hill’s concern shows that it hit a nerve. That is good. More work must be done on SSA and there is disagreement among conservatives. If this article had been clearer some consensus might have been lost, which points to the elephant in the room.
I have some other quibbles, such as the marketing, which I hate, the speed at which the document was written (taking more time would have made it more precise), it is too nuanced at points and needs more uses of terms like “repent,” “abomination,” and “sin, and, as others have noted, the failure to address “chastity” within marriage.
I wish this statement was not necessary. It is a sign of how sick our culture is that basic sexual morality needs to be reaffirmed and when it is many Christians reject it. The greatest value of this statement is that it makes people take a stand. Do you stand with the historic position of the Church and the Scriptures or will you go another direction? On that point it has already done good work. I am guessing the long term impact will not be great. But for now it has brought clarity to a culture that loves to keep things murky and therefore I am grateful for it.