Reflections on the Nashville Statement

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!).

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  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  & , a bunch of mostly-white, mostly-male evangelicals release a ‘manifesto’ on sexuality. ”.

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.

One Reply to “Reflections on the Nashville Statement”

  1. Thanks for your reflections Martin.. I’d not really sat down and given it full attention until now. Muy conclusion is pretty much summed up by the Think Theology title -a lot of the complaints are nit-picking from people who don’t like CBMW’s position on men and women in ministry and/or as a result of that have also taken an uninformed dislike to the position of people like Mike Ovey on the Trinity which certainly isn’t unorthodox or Arian. This has led to them reading in motives and tone and reading out nuance. My thoughts here

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