[Updated] Five theses about the #NashvilleStatement

When the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood announced its statement on biblical sexuality entitled, “The Nashville Statement” the internet (predictably) erupted.

You can read it here. It is ostensibly a theological document outlining the theological vision of its framers.

Many are upset by it.

Some decry the fact that two of the more than thirty signatories are or were involved in the Trump campaign.

Others lament that it was released in close proximity to the troubles Houston is experiencing due to Hurricane Harvey.

A couple fail to understand the classical model of “affirmations” and “denials” the statements uses in order to be precise and find it somehow too academic.

More than a few think that this document is offensive or insensitive to LGBTQ persons.

Here’s my take in five theses:

  1. The Nashville Statement represents, for the most part, classic Christianity. The contours of the document ought to be uncontroversial for anyone with even a modicum of understanding of basic Christianity. You might disagree with it, but there’s nothing remotely radical in the statement.
  2. In the domain of sexuality, the signatories would have been wise to have paid greater attention to the innate dignity of all people. All people are created in the image of God, but that image has been marred and distorted. That’s just as true for people who are straight, gay, transgender. The distortion looks different in all of us and none us possesses a righteousness capable of even approaching the holiness of God apart from the grace manifested to us in Christ.
  3. The framers ought to have explicitly addressed the Trinitarian basis for their position. The CBMW has promoted and defended a view of the Trinity that is contrary to that established by the church universal at Nicea. To the extent that the Statement roots its conclusions in a faulty Christology–one that views the Son as eternally subordinate to the Father–we ought to keep it at arms length.
  4. The statement errs or is unclear at several points. (1) For example, the affirmation that men and women are different genetically doesn’t necessitate that women ought to be subordinate to men in either the church or the world. I favor an affirmation of the fundamental difference between men and women, but do not extend that to roles in the church. (2) The implied endorsement of a literal, seven-day understanding of creation is unfortunate.
  5.  I question the wisdom of statements, manifestos, and other pronouncements. When liberal denominations issue these sorts of things I roll my eyes and keep scrolling. If the purpose of this statement is to address the world, it could have done so in a more irenic tone. If the purpose of this statement is to address the church then it could have profited from a broadening at least in the areas I mentioned in thesis four.

In sum, it’s important for the Christian church to be internally convinced, convicted, and passionate about our core theological beliefs.

I agree with the framers that we are not free to disagree about the issue of homosexual practice and transgenderism. We’re also not free to disagree about racism, sexual abuse, domestic violence.

We have to become, as the Ancient Church was, a peculiar people whose beliefs and practices were mutually-reinforcing and whose life made the culture around puzzled.


Part of the problem for evangelicals discussing issues related to sex, sexuality, and sexual practice is that we have lost the long tail of metaphysical reflection produced by the Church across the ages. I’m tempted to say to evangelicals “don’t pick up your Bible,” pick up Aquinas.

Update II:

I want to like this Statement more than I actually do. I wish it was more of a Manhattan Declaration, pulling together the three major Christian traditions.

What to do when you’re hopeless

We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown. –John Calvin

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you think about doing when your hope is small is…read a book or go to a conference. It’s sort of programmed into our contemporary way of being and doing–there’s nothing that we cannot master if we have the right training or education. And as American Christians, we’re a resource-rich people.

Don’t get me wrong, books and conferences aren’t all that bad. They’re just not the first place we should look when life in the Spirit starts to become flat, as it almost surely will at one time or another.

Faithful Christian living in a fallen world requires more of us than we have to offer–that’s the reason for God’s provision of the Holy Spirit to enliven our hearts and empower our faithfulness.

Calvin points out that our first and greatest resort in dry times is God Himself. We simply need ask God to restore to us the joy of our salvation and to trust that, feelings to the contrary, we belong to Him and that His purpose in our lives is to make us into saints. We ask God for inward and personal renewal and revival through prayer–conversation with God using both spontaneous words and forms of prayer used by the church over the ages.

We also have access to other tools that God has given to us to fortify our strengths and kindle the flame of our heart. The Westminster Larger Catechism identifies the word, sacraments, and prayer as the outward and ordinary means of grace. That is, the normal avenues that God has given us to get more of His grace into our lives.

Prayer is, of course, a lifting of our hearts up to God as we talked about above. It is a personal (and yet not always individual) interaction with God in and through Jesus Christ.

If we speak to God in prayer, God speaks to us in His Word–the Bible. As the Bible is read, reflected upon, studied, and taught we are given the gift of hearing the Word of God. Simply put, when the Bible speaks God speaks. Through careful reading, thoughtful reflection, and some hard work we can know and experience God in the Bible.

Lastly, God works to give us strength and fresh hope through the sacraments. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. I’m think mostly about the Lord’s Supper here. There is no reason we shouldn’t be celebrating Communion weekly. If the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, if it is an ordinary means of grace, if it is a way of enacting the Word of God and forming that Word in our hearts and minds through physical action, why not do it more than quarterly or monthly?

So next time you feel like hope is waning. Remember that God has given you some tools to through which He can revive your flagging heart.

Fighting terrorism with humor

Fundamentalism cannot laugh at itself. Terrorism can’t roll its eyes and say, “Yep. You got me.” These comedians, supported in part by U.S. dollars, are making comedy that pokes fun at ISIS and in so doing shows just how ridiculous it is. In many ways, these guys are just brave–albeit in a different way–than battlefield soldiers. They’re risking their lives in a show of resistance to tyranny. They all live in a part of the world where they can be “gotten at” by organizations like ISIS, but they’re willing to take that chance. And they realize what so many others don’t, that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Read the CNN article here.

Religious book sales decline

Screenshot 2017-08-05 08.47.50.png

According to Publisher’s Weekly:

Sales of adult trade books rose 3.4% in the first quarter of 2017 over the comparable period in 2016, according to the latest figures released by the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot program. Within adult trade, hardcover sales jumped 18.1% in the quarter, offsetting declines in the paperback formats. Downloadable audio sales rose 23.1% in the quarter, but

e-book sales continued to drop, falling 4.5%. Sales in the children’s/YA category fell 3.2% in the first quarter. The major factor driving down sales was weak demand for paperbacks. Sales in the format fell 14.2%, offsetting a 14.6% sales gain by board books. The higher-educational course materials segment, which had a large sales decline in 2016, experienced the largest gain in the 2017 first quarter, with sales up 24.3%.The area with the most significant decline was religious publishing, where sales dropped 7.4%. The StatShot figures are compiled from 1,202 publishers that report to the AAP. Overall sales for reporting publishers were up 4.9% in the first quarter of 2017 over 2016.

A couple of interesting notes:

  1. Sales of e-books continues to decline. Could it be that readers have decided that the convenience of electronic reading is overcome by the tactile experience of holding a book?
  2. Religious books have declined. It’s hard to know exactly why this is. From my perspective IVP is publishing some of the best books we’ve ever published. I’m really confident about our sales even as we recently celebrated surpassing a major milestone for revenue in 2016-2017!


Friday News Roundup

Who is to blame for Colin Kaepernick’s plight? George Yancey says, ironically, it’s the left.

“So if you want to know who is responsible for creating an environment where Kaepernick may not get a job, then please stop looking towards conservatives. They did not sabotage free speech in this way. It was the anti-free speech left that did this. I think a lot of Christian conservatives would be quite willing to call a truce on getting people fired for their political or religious opinions. I am not very confident that those invested in firing conservative Christians, who affirm traditional morality, feel the same way. Maybe if a couple more political progressives lose their jobs, then that will change.”

Leroy Barber disagrees and calls for a boycott of the NFL:

Screenshot 2017-08-04 10.17.00.pngThe real cost of college  – the-true-cost-of-college_pdf


The #1 reason churches end up in court – It used to be child sexual abuse now its something altogether more mundane – link


The Curious Case of the Overdue Manuscript – David Congdon discovers a contract that remained unfulfilled 30 years later – link


Christian Colleges and Sexuality – can Christian colleges agree to disagree on sexuality?

Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary thinks there’s no room for negotiating or offering compromises with proponents of GLBTQ on the college campus – link

“The desire expressed by some to dialogue with their opponents on this matter is not a good sign. At worst, it represents the cynical prelude to capitulation: “We listened, we heard, we changed.” At best, it represents a miscalculation based upon the naïve idea that both sides have some level of mutual respect and an interest in co-existence. There is no evidence that this is the case, and now that the Southern Poverty Law Center regards the Alliance Defending Freedom as a “hate group,” I might suggest that such optimism verges on criminal negligence.”

Rod Dreher agreeslink.

Bethel professor Chris Gerhz, on the other hand, disagreeslink.

“I don’t believe that marriage, sexuality, or gender identity is anywhere near “the heart of the Gospel.” But as a Christian university professor who annually reaffirms a lifestyle covenant reserving sexual activity “for monogamous, heterosexual marriage,” I fully understand the seriousness of this debate. And while I would hate to deepen Christian disunity over those issues, I know that they’re hardly matters indifferent for many of my sisters and brothers in Christ: those who see this as a test of fidelity to Scripture and tradition, those who believe anti-LGBT discrimination violates biblical principles of human dignity and social justice, and least of all the queer Christians who simply want to study or work on campuses like mine.”

A PhD on welfare – it happens more than you’d think –  link

“In this most recent situation, my first caseworker at the welfare office was confused, she called me on the phone one day to ask about why in a supplemental document she had requested I had referred to myself as a “Dr. Sanchez” and asked if I was a doctor why wasn’t I practicing….”


The future of theological education

The news broke a couple of weeks ago that Fuller Seminary would close several satellite campuses. Fuller, headquartered in Pasadena CA, will be closing its regional campuses in Seattle, Menlo Park, and Orange County CA. It also will discontinue offering the MDiv, MAT, MATM, and MAICS degree programs in its Phoenix AZ campus, however the MFT program at Phoenix will continue to be offered.

Provost Joel Green wrote:

In 2010, the Fuller Seminary faculty voted to mainstream online education by adopting a faculty-intensive approach to teaching and learning and by raising the number of units our students could complete online. At the time, we wondered if we might be able to offer 100 courses online, with room for enrollments of 2500 each year. We could not have imagined that, today, we would be contemplating 260 courses online, with enrollments reaching some 6500 in a year. Nor could we have anticipated the mile marker we reached in the 2016 Fall Quarter, when Fuller Online out-enrolled all other Fuller Seminary campuses.

This is a remarkable development. Fuller is a mainstream seminary with close to a one hundred year track record of educating pastors. With the expansion of Fuller Online, it becomes the first seminary with such a robust online offering.

An interesting question that’s related is: what is the future of textbooks? Will academic publishers become multimedia companies that partner to produce the content and material used in online spaces? I think there’s a strong chance that the answer will be yes for some companies.

Whatever the future, it’s an exciting time to be in publishing.



The truth about writing


When I was young, I envisioned writers as people who sat at a desk and poured words forth from mind to page by way of a fountain pen. In that fantasy the words always flowed freely and in final form. Some people write that way. C. S. Lewis was famous for writing with little to no revision something for which his friend J. R. R. Tolkien chastened him. Lewis’s prose style is fast and loose. Tolkien’s is slow and precise.

We all know that this puerile vision does not really accurately capture the writing life. What’s also true is the writing a book is only half the battle.

I used to think that writers finished their manuscripts, packed them in a large envelope and mailed them off to a publisher. That publisher would print and distribute the book. Every book, so I thought, would sell in the thousands of copies in its first year.

Not true.

Obviously writers send manuscripts electronically today. It’s also likely that a book by a new author will sell far less than 10,000 copies. It may, with luck and some skill, sell 10,000 over a couple of years. Even that, however, is unlikely.


The best way for a book to sell well is for the author to work hard to develop a platform. 

A platform is a way of being noticed by potential readers; it’s a way to establish you as someone to whom people ought to listen. The most obvious example is a website that shares information about you, your writing portfolio, and other resources that establish you as an expert in your field.

If you want to be a writer and you don’t have a website. Stop writing and go to WordPress and get yourself a free blog.


Michael Hyatt, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.