The Nashville Statement Reaffirms Biblical Doctrine. Why Are Christians Upset?
Evangelical leaders from around the country recently released a theological statement reaffirming historic, orthodox Christian teaching. And the world lost its mind.
When the Nashville Statement was released late in August, the backlash from Christians and non-Christians alike was immediate and strong. There’s no need to post or link to those comments because a simple Google search will take you to all you want to see. Suffice it to say, many were displeased with the statement.
What is mind-boggling to me is the number of self-professing Christians that are unhappy with the statement. I can understand lost people hating it, they hate the truth of God’s Word. Their mind and heart are ravaged by sin and under the influence of their inherent sin nature. As enemies of God (we are all born this way), they reject His authority and the clear principles for life given in Scripture. After all, darkness hates light. Darkness craves darkness to continue evil deeds that darkness loves. So when lost people react with vitriol to a biblical statement of orthodox Christian doctrine, it’s no surprise.
But I can’t figure out why Christians are so upset.
I read the Nashville Statement. I read a statement reaffirming centuries of orthodox Christian theology regarding human gender, sexuality, and marriage. I read a statement that is designed to pastorally lead and teach the church concerning these issues. The only thing the authors could have done to make the statement more biblical, was to include the actual Scripture references for each Article. But anyone with a cursory knowledge of biblical theology could add those without much trouble. The statement itself, however, reads like the contents page of a biblical theology textbook used in the basic theology class of seminaries across the world.
So why are Christians so upset over this statement?
Like I said, I understand the reaction of lost people to this statement. Saying “this isn’t the God I know,” or “Jesus has been hijacked” makes sense if you don’t know the Bible. But the response of Christians continues to confuse me. One Christian was baffled and upset over Article 10 saying it states that “parents who love and support their LGBTQ kids are IN SIN!.”
Wait, what!? Here’s Article 10 from the Nashville Statement:
“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.”
The glaring point of obviousness is that this article doesn’t talk about parents at all. It speaks of a general understanding of how Christians think concerning homosexual behavior and transgenderism. To be clear, any parent that affirms (support) the homosexual behavior or transgender lifestyle of their child is indeed in sin. Christians cannot condone sin, even in their own kids. We don’t condone lying in our kids. We don’t allow them to steal. So too we cannot condone (support/affirm) them if they engage in homosexual behavior or transgender behavior. John Hendryx shares some clarifying thoughts on Article 10 and its application:
“Those within the visible church who APPROVE of homosexual immorality are not acting in love toward our neighbor but, for fear of man’s opinion, are denying him or her the gospel, which is the only hope for any of us. Those churches who approve are, therefore, guilty of doing harm and/or murdering souls. [Ezek. 3:18] I have seen some theologically left-leaning comments online which attempt to paint the Nashville Statement as intolerant and hateful since, they say, in the gospel ‘all are welcome to the table.’ Of course this is to twist the gospel enough to simply make it a message of universal acceptance and not a message of Jesus coming to liberate us all from our captivity. The Nashville Statement essentially makes the point that the gospel declares forgiveness of sins is available to all who believe, but we cannot cling to our sins (basic historic Christianity). The progressive alternative wants you to be forgiven and be totally affirmed in your sin.”
Many have speculated as to the purpose of the authors in drafting this statement. Why would Christian leaders release such a controversial and “divisive” statement? Why put a target on their backs for critics to attack and denounce them? Albert Mohler, one of the authors and signatories of the statement makes its purpose clear:
“The “Nashville Statement, like many other doctrinal declarations common to Christian history, seeks to summarize, clarify, and affirm what Holy Scripture reveals. In this case, we find ourselves clarifying what no previous generation of Christians has been called upon to clarify. We must now clarify and specify what the Bible teaches about human sexuality, marriage, and what it means to be made male and female…The main goal of the “Nashville Statement” is to point all persons, regardless of the form of our struggles over sexuality or self-identity, to salvation and wholeness in Christ. With all our hearts, we believe that the sexual revolution cannot deliver on its promises, but that Christ always delivers on his.”
John Piper, another author and signatory of the statement shares key information on the purpose of the statement that all reading it should be mindful of:
“The Nashville Statement is a Christian manifesto concerning issues of human sexuality. It speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance, and practical helpfulness. There is no effort to equivocate for the sake of wider, but muddled, acceptance. It is built on the persuasion that the Christian Scriptures speak with clarity and authority for the good of humankind. It is permeated by the awareness that we are all sinners in need of divine grace through Jesus Christ. It affirms with joy that no form of sexual sin is beyond forgiveness and healing. It touches the most fundamental and urgent questions of the hour, without presuming to be a blueprint for political action. And it will prove to be, I believe, enormously helpful for thousands of pastors and leaders hoping to give wise, biblical, and gracious guidance to their people.”
Some have mistakenly assumed that this is some sort of political statement intended to drive public policy. It’s not. Piper makes that clear. There’s no ;political motive intended here. This is a theological manifesto not a political manifesto. It is intended to be a guide for Christians in thinking biblically about pervasive issues of our times. The idea that you will be able to avoid the homosexual or transgender issues is terribly naive. These issues are already impacting you and, if you are not paying attention, you will not be prepared to address them biblically. So let’s understand right now that this is not a political document but a theological document.
This is a theological document intended to, as Piper stated, help pastors and Christian leaders “give wise, biblical, and gracious guidance to their people” Political document don’t help pastors. But theological documents are vastly helpful in guiding pastors to study Scripture and present biblical perspectives on these difficult issues.
Frankly, I’m glad that a consolidated statement has been issued for Christians to unite around. These articles are nothing more than our biblical theology put into modern words for everyone to easily understand. It’s a way for lost people that don’t understand the Bible to know where Christians stand on these issues. It’s an opportunity for us to have conversations that allow us to teach Scripture to people that otherwise might not ask. Someone we know will wonder if we agree with this statement, when we explain that it clearly communicates the historical, orthodox Christian position on the issues we will then have the opportunity to use Scripture to teach what God has said.
For anyone that believes a statement like this is divisive, let me remind you of the words of Jesus:
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)
Jesus is divisive. His message is foolish to a lost world. He is the light that the darkness hates. If we have grand allusions of bringing peace and unity by proclaiming the Gospel to a lost world we are, at best jaded; and at worst we are in danger of preaching a false Gospel. The Nashville Statement, similar to Scripture, will unite Christians and clearly communicate the biblical position on these issues. But this statement, also like Scripture, will cause the darkness to cry out in anger due to the condemnation of their own hearts at hearing the truth of God.
I still can’t figure out what Christians are upset about in this statement. I can only assume that these are Christians that ascribe to a liberal doctrine, agree with the moral revolution, and don’t know biblical theology. Or, perhaps as Rosaria Butterfield has stated, these wolves and lions that are on the prowl seeking to devour. It’s easy to come to this conclusion as they are offering the same criticism as liberal media, scholars, and politicians. It causes me to pause when Christians are on the same side as lost people in criticizing a theological document. I’m reminded of several Scriptures:
“Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
“I have given them your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify myself for them, so that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (John 17:14-19)
Already Christians are uniting around this document. Nearly 250 of the nations leading Christian thinkers, leaders, pastors, authors, theologians, and teachers have signed the document. If you’re interested, you can visit nashvillestatement.com to view a list of initial signatories and to sign the statement yourself.