Evangelical Christians just can’t get it right in this day and age. This time, their “error” comes in the form of the “Nashville Statement“, which was released earlier this week. The statement contains 14 articles that articulate traditional Christian beliefs on human sexuality. Among the articles are affirmations that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, the inherent dignity of transgender individuals, and the belief that no sinner is too far gone from God’s grace.
Upon the statement’s release, over 150 evangelical leaders signed the document. These include men and women from a variety of denominations. Some of their endorsements appear at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This organization co-sponsored the statement in conjunction with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the policy think-tank arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Why Do Christians Need Such a Statement?
Many of the endorsements praised the document for its clarity and adherence to biblical truth in our secular age. Conceptions of traditional sexuality are going the way of the dodo, and this trend has taken many Christians aback in both its intensity and its speed. To say that human sexuality is irrelevant to Christianity is gross understatement of the comprehensive nature of the faith. It is one of the first subjects addressed in the Bible, and it is reaffirmed time and again throughout the Old and New Testaments.
The Nashville Statement gives Christians experiencing cultural whiplash a fresh restatement of beliefs that their church has held for 2,000 years.
Given the controversial nature of the Nashville Statement’s articles, the intense criticism is not unexpected. Megan Barry, the mayor of Nashville, was one of the first to air her thoughts.
The @CBMWorg's so-called "Nashville Statement" is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) August 29, 2017
The statement’s composers said it was only named the “Nashville” Statement because that is where they wrote it.
Proponents of the First Amendment would be wise to remember that the Nashville Statement reflects the views of its endorsers and has no bearing on the activities of the state. This is a religious document, not a piece of legislation.
Other Christians, such as Jen Hatmaker, tweeted their reactions:
The fruit of the "Nashville Statement" is suffering, rejection, shame, and despair. The timing is callous beyond words.
— JenHatmaker (@JenHatmaker) August 29, 2017
Hatmaker publicly stated in an interview last year with the Washington Post that “she supports same-sex marriage and believes LGBT relationships can be holy.” That is remarkably new in the world of Christian thought.
How We Can Move Forward
While the church may disagree on how it addresses these sensitive issues, the Nashville Statement does its best to speak its beliefs in love. It ends on a hopeful note as it reminds the reader of the salvation that is absolutely central to Christianity and is available to all who seek it:
We affirm that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and 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.
As far as the state goes, one of our nation’s founding ideals is religious liberty. To say that these Christians are not entitled to their beliefs because some find them odious is unconstitutional, and frankly, un-American. Intellectual diversity is one of the great achievements of our society. If we can have a civil conversation on the issues discussed in the statement, great. If not, the laws are what they are, and Christians ought to do their best to live under them.
Nevertheless, Christians should always expect to feel out of place in this world. And that’s okay. Writing as one, I know we can handle it.