Last week in the US the CBMW (Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) released a statement regarding the biblical presentation of issues surrounding sexuality and gender. You can read it here. It has lots of notable signatories including John Piper, Jim Packer, Denny Burk, Al Mohler, John MacArthur, Don Carson, Rosaria Butterfield, Ligon Duncan etc etc etc.
The statement, unsurprisingly, has elicited plenty of reaction. If you want to get a flavour of the responses (and think a bit deeper about the issues for yourself) then here’s a few links representing a variety of opinion (there’s a bazillion more on the interweb if you really want to go digging!).
- Mike Bird at Euangelion
- Mark Yarhouse at Psychology and Christianity
- Luke Geraty at ThinkTheology
- Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed
- Nadia Bolz-Weber’s ‘Denver Statement‘ – a response to the Nashville Statement. You really should read this one just to see a good example of misrepresentation, Bible mishandling, theological misunderstanding, and generally just missing the point.
- Ian Paul at Psephizo
- Preston Sprinkle
- Matthew Lee Anderson at Mere Orthodoxy – check out also the latest podcast from Mere Fidelity which is relevant.
- Brian MacLaren at Auburn Seminary
- Wyatt Houtz at The PostBarthian
What’s interesting in the responses is a general sense of unease (by those sympathetic to the statement) concerning the brevity and tone of the statement. Many of those above fear that the statement hasn’t taken enough consideration of the complexity of the issues, the need for pastoral sensitivity, or the ways in which the church has failed. Anderson has a good quote in his article along the lines of, ‘issues of maximal importance require maximal response.’ I’m sympathetic to the idea of the statement, but the issues really are quite complex, and the statement really is quite brief.
Those who oppose the statement though really fail to engage properly with the argument. Nadia Bolz-Weber tweeted, “Just read the #NashvilleStatement Perfect example of ignoring the hearts and lives of real people so you can adhere to an idea or doctrine.” Brian McLaren offered, “Need a popular way to avoid talking about race and greed? Keep focusing on sex.” And Shane Clairborne chipped in, “After #Charlottesville & #Harvey, a bunch of mostly-white, mostly-male evangelicals release a ‘manifesto’ on sexuality. #NashvilleStatement”.
Of course none of these opposing responses (and arguably those listed above) really engage with the issues. The fact that race and greed may be real issues does not mean the church shouldn’t talk about other things as well. The frustrating narrative that keeps coming is ‘doctrine divides, let’s just love.’ This of course presupposes that their ‘doctrine’ (thought they wouldn’t want to call it that) is true. Because if it isn’t it’s doing people an awful lot of harm, and therefore isn’t really loving them at all.
Truth and love belong together. If I love someone truly I will want to tell them the truth, even if its hard. And to tell someone something that isn’t true, simply because its what they (and maybe I) want to hear is much closer to a hate-crime. The prophets in Jeremiah’s day assured the people, ‘you will have peace . . . no harm will come to you’ (Jer 23:17). YHWH responded, ‘which of them has stood in the council of the Lord . . . who has listened and heard his [YHWH’s] word? . . . I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message . . . if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways’ (Jer 23:18-22).
Sensitivity and nuance are hugely important, but only in the service of truth. Sensitivity and nuance in the service of that which is untrue is not a loving thing to do. The answer is not to keep slinging tweet sized rocks, but for those with the voice and influence to sit down, side by side, pray together, open God’s word, discern what is true, and consider how best to glorify His name.