The “Nashville Statement”, just released on August 29, 2017, is a brief and captivating read from a host of evangelical Christian representatives. You should check it out for yourself, preferably before you read all the bad press about it. If you are like me, you’ll find this document interesting, because it seems to have upset all the right people; or should I say, all the left people.
Don’t expect fireworks, though, in the text. They aren’t there. It’s entirely unsurprising orthodoxy. It’s basically a traditional evangelical statement on same-sex practice, same-sex marriage, sexual immorality, and gender-identity. The fireworks emerge elsewhere, in the media firestorm that it’s sparked. Critics are labeling it “shameful,” “harmful,” and “hate speech.”
Despite the bad press, I am honestly refreshed to see what it actually says, as opposed to the exaggerated and villainous interpolations offered by it’s enemies.
If we have the patience to sidestep the reactionary smokescreen, and just read it for what is says, and only what it says, then you may find as I did, that it’s worst offenses are illusory; frightful shadows that do not reflect any evil in these pages, but only the jagged backlit reflection from the angry mobs themselves. The real danger is not in the biblical prescriptions for gender, sexuality, and family. The real danger is the sin nature within all of us. The most tempting evils are the one’s we already want to believe, the one’s we wish were true, and good, and beautiful.
So, I appreciate the Nashville Statement. I signed it. It shows a careful reconciling tone, balancing precise and principled statements of biblical Christianity within its fourteen articles, as well as the emphasizing the main thing, the gospel. They do not impose any heirarchy ranking same-sex relations worse than other sexual sins. We are all fallen, gay and straight alike. We all need Jesus, whatever our struggles may be.
This document reads like a simple, clear, conservative statement on family values. It’s brief, a mere three pages not counting the signatures. And it affirms and asserts what has been the dominant, traditional, and historic position of evangelical Christianity across church history. That part isn’t surprising.
Neither is the “liberal” backlash surprising. In today’s political climate we have a true example of “global warming.” Partisan politics has raised the temperature. There’s racial violence, backlash against police, public rioting, hate-groups clashing with authoritarians in the streets. Democrats and republicans are fighting across the aisles like they always have. But they’ve been fighting in-house too. And don’t forget the outhouse fighting; over gendered bathrooms. Tensions are high already. It’s not surprising at all to find that the recent shift in public opinion on LGBTQ issues has left many people with raw nerves.
What is surprising, however, is the degree of grace and tact employed throughout the statement. When nerves are raw, people are easily pained. A delicate touch is necessary, and even then, it still hurts. But felt pain does not always mean harm. Surgery hurts too. The trouble is in telling the difference between a knife-wielding maniac and a scalpel-wielding surgeon. If our only clue to “good” and “bad” is our feelings, then we would never be able to tell when a principle is operating surgically on our worldview to help and heal, as opposed to sharp and cutting language stabbing us recklessly. It does not take much from biblical evangelicals to spark a pain response from the easily grieved. Yet we have the biblical and Christian duty to wield the truth with skill and accuracy, and bounded on all sides with the love of Christ. We dare not advance except on the dual track of truth and love. We must aim to be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves, speaking with gentleness and respect, and loving others as Christ has first love us.
Fortunately, this statement, I think, does a good job of phrasing these difficult points with care and balance. Perhaps with ministry-minded Christians, this statement can be administered in healing ways. A little grace and a lot of wisdom can go a long way in sustaining healing conversations.
I encourage you to read the statement for yourself. It’s presented below in it’s entirety, without any internal commentary, or any textual editing so you can see for yourself what all the controversy is about.]
Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. 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. Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.
This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?
We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. 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.
We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, 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.
WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.
WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.
WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.
WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.
WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.
WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.
WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.
WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.
WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.
WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.
WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.
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.
WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality— a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.
WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.
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.
WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.
WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his image-bearers as male and female.
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will.
WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.
WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.
Institutional affiliation for identification purposes only
President, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Founder & Teacher, Desiring God
Chancellor, Bethlehem Seminary and College
Founder, Focus on the Family
President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
J. I. Packer
Professor of Theology, Regent College
Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
President, Family Research Council
D. A. Carson
Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Pastor, Grace Community Church
President, The Master’s Seminary and College
Speaker & Apologist, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
R. C. Sproul
Founder & Chairman, Ligonier Ministries
Author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
Author & Pastor, We Are Church
Editor in Chief, World Magazine
Chancellor & CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary
President, The Southern Baptist Convention
Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church
Andrew T. Walker
Director of Policy Studies, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
H. B. Charles, Jr.
Pastor, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church
Speaker & Author, Moody Bible Institute
Founder & Former President, FamilyLife
President & CEO, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee
Former SBC President
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Author & Speaker, Revive Our Hearts
Daniel L. Akin
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church
Reverend, Parkside Church
Executive Director, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
Jerry A. Johnson
President & CEO, National Religious Broadcasters
Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church
Director, Eternal Perspectives Ministries
Karen Swallow Prior
Professor of English, Liberty University
Pastor, The Village Church
Senior Pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church
Former SBC President
Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
Former SBC President
Pastor, Cross Pointe Church
Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
J. D. Greear
Pastor, The Summit Church
President, Phoenix Seminary
President, Cedarville University
Senior Pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
Former SBC President
President, Colorado Christian University
Director of Theology, Sovereign Grace Churches
Pastor, FBC Woodstock
Former SBC President
Jason K. Allen
President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Editor in Chief, The Resurgent
Mark L. Bailey
President & Senior Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary
K. Erik Thoennes
Professor and Chair of Theology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
Rector of St. Ebbe’s Church (UK)
Senior Writer, National Review
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
R. Kent Hughes
Visiting Professor of Practical Theology, Evangelism and Culture, Westminster Theological Seminary
President, Gateway Seminary
Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church
President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
Robert A. J. Gagnon
Scholar and Author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice
Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver
President, Union University
Senior Pastor, Cross Church
Former President, Southern Baptist Convention
C. J. Mahaney
Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville
Jason G. Duesing
Provost, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary & College
Pastor of Preaching and Vision, The Austin Stone Church
President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Copastor, St. Andrew’s Chapel
President, Family Policy Alliance of Kansas
Scholar & Author of Heirs Together: A Theology of the Sexes
President, North American Mission Board
Pastor, Immanuel Church
O. S. Hawkins
President, GuideStone SBC
Thom S. Rainer
President & CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources
President and Professor of Theology, Union School of Theology (UK)
Pastor, Watermark Community Church
John M. Frame
Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary
Senior VP for Academic Administration and Provost, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
H. Wayne House
Academic Dean and Distinguished Research Professor, Faith International University
J. P. Moreland
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Associate Pastor, FBC San Francisco
Founder, World Magazine, World News Group
Lead Pastor, Providence Church
Founder & CEO, Charisma Media
Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Preaching, Community of Faith Bible Church
James M. Hamilton, Jr.
Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Senior Pastor, Concord Church
President & CEO, Ligonier Ministries
Bruce Riley Ashford
Provost and Professor of Theology & Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Associate Executive Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention
Dean, School of Theology and Missions, Union University
Founder & President, LIFE Outreach International
Founder & Publisher, The Stream
C. Ben Mitchell
Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University
Senior Professor, Dallas Theological Seminary
Executive Editor, Desiring God
Professor of Christian Ethics, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Senior Professor of Christian Ethics, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Hershael W. York
Professor of Christian Preaching, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Director, Seminary Wives Institute
Associate Professor, Union University
Dorothy Kelley Patterson
Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of Expository Preaching, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
John N. Oswalt
Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
Author and Speaker, Grace Church
Juan R. Sanchez
Senior Pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church
Malcolm B. Yarnell III
Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Editorial Director, 9Marks
Mary A. Kassian
Author, Director, Girls Gone Wise
Mark Daniel Liederbach
Professor & Vice President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Matthew J. Hall
Dean of Boyce College & Senior VP of Academic Innovation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Senior Pastor, Brainerd Baptist Church
Senior Pastor, Northeast Houston Baptist Church
President & CEO, Family Policy Alliance
Vice President of Content, FamilyLife
Casey B. Hough
Senior Pastor, FBC Camden
Director, Salem Media Group
Retired Professor of Theology, Asbury Theological Seminary
Director of the Center for Biblical Apologetics & Public Christianity, Cedarville University
Homemaker, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Physician, Spanish Trail Family Physicians
Pastor for Preaching and Theology, Occoquan Bible Church
E. Calvin Beisner
Founder & National Spokesman, Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
Donald A. Balasa
Adjunct Faculty, Trinity International University
Adjunct Professor and homeschool mom, Biola University
James A. Borland
Professor of New Testament & Theology, Liberty University
Eric C. Redmond
Assistant Professor of Bible, Moody Bible Institute
Pastor of Discipleship, Providence Church
Lead Pastor, Providence Road Church
Executive Vice President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Dean, Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, & Ministry, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homemaker & Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Cedarville University
Dean, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies, Scarborough College
Rhyne R. Putman
Associate Professor of Theology and Culture, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of Christian Theology, Boyce College
President’s Wife, Adjunct Faculty, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Executive Director, TruthXchange
Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Apologetics, Boyce College
Senior Professor of Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church
Associate Professor of Ethics, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Vice President for Operations and Chief of Staff, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Professor of Old Testament, Biola University
VP for Public Policy, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Chief of Staff, The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
Michael L. Brown
President, FIRE School of Ministry
Assistant Professor & Dean, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of Ethics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Co-founder, Pure Freedom
Associate Pastor of Worship, Kenwood Baptist Church
Director of Communications, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
President, Los Angeles Bible Training School
Executive Director, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood