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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.