The Nashville Statement and the Nature of love1
Last week the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, in conjunction with many other leading biblical evangelicals, released a document called the Nashville statement. This statement upheld the historic Christian position on the biblical teaching of human sexuality and marriage. You can read it here. This statement, composed of a preamble, 14 affirm/deny articles, and the signatories, is a clarion call asserting the reality that there is no middle position on this matter. One side approves of varied sexual expressions or ignores the matter as insignificant, and the other side condemns any deviation as a departure from not only the design of God but from the Christian faith as a whole.
The Nashville Statement was months in the making so that the elusive trifecta of clarity, comprehensiveness, and conciseness could be achieved. I mention this in order to highlight the breathtakingly fast appearance of competing statements. Within hours you could find similarly formatted statements with signatories signing on, such as the Christians United Statement found here.
What is going on here? Why the need for a statement and why are others rushing to publish competing statements? I believe the core issue is the nature of love and how it will be defined. Love is rightly at the heart of the matter because the unquestionable biblical command is love. We must love God and love our neighbor, and all the laws hang on these first two. Both the Nashville Statement and the Christians United Statement are claiming to uphold what is truly loving.
Therefore, we have to go back a step. What makes something loving? Jesus says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is helpful. This assertion understands that we always do what we believe is good for ourselves. Always. Even people who cut themselves or commit suicide do it because they believe it is good for them in some way. Sadly, people believe all manner of wrong things and so make choices that ultimately hurt themselves. But in the moment, every person does what they think is in their best interest. Jesus capitalizes on this reality and calls us to love others like that. We are to do what is in other people’s best interest, and even sacrifice our own temporal interests in so doing.
The divide is easily seen at this point of people’s best interest. There are competing understandings of what is designed by God and therefore what leads to happy, holy, and healthy living. The Nashville Statement declares clearly in article 4, “WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.” On the other hand, the Christians United Statement says in article 5, “WE DENY that forcing individuals to embrace a gender identity that matches the cultural assumptions based on their biology is a healthy practice and that the heterosexual, male/female binary is the only consistent reflection of God's holy purposes in Creation.” It also states in article 8, “WE AFFIRM that non-inclusive teaching causes significant psychological and spiritual harm to LGBT+ individuals in Christian churches around the world.”
With these competing visions of what is good for humans, we find that we must go one more step back in our pursuit of understanding love. We now must ask how we can know what is in someone’s best interest. This is the true essence of the debate. Who decides what is helpful and what is harmful, what is designed and what is perverted? The answer: God. God created us and therefore He knows what is best. Has God spoken about what is best for humans? Yes he has, and it is in His written Word, the Bible.
At this point there is a stark and determinative reality that arises in this debate. For millennia, God’s people in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and up through the modern age had one unified voice on this matter. God’s people have always said God’s design for sexuality and marriage is one man and one woman. The unity in Christendom on this matter cut across every denomination, every theology, every continent, every culture and every age.
But in the last two decades there are new voices saying the “great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God's creative work.” Does this match God’s word? There are thousands of years of exegetical work in the Scripture showing over and over that it does not. Time-tested interpretations of Scripture matter. Additionally, many of these new voices don’t even try to align with Scripture, but simply emphasize certain parts and reject or ignore other parts to support their assertions. But any departure from God’s word will mean that you are departing from what is good for you.
If Jesus is Lord, you will follow him. You will follow because you believe he has the words of eternal life and that he is good in every way and all the time. Therefore, to reject his clear word about sexuality is to reject God and to reject life. The Nashville Statement makes this clear in a needed way for our day.
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