Monday, September 18, 2017

Why I Signed the Nashville Statement: For the Church’s Clarity in a Wayward World

Recently, an individual contacted me and told me that my book, God and the Transgender Debate, had been of great comfort to them. Every author hopes for an email like the one I received, especially given the labor of love one devotes to a book. This person divulged to me that they had struggled with gender dysphoria their entire life, but had not allowed the confusion of their mind to overwhelm the truthfulness of grounding their identity in their biological sex. This individual was clinging to the promises of Christ and the pathway of the cross to find direction and satisfaction in their gender confusion.

The Nashville Statement was written, in part, for the person mentioned above in mind. It was written for a person beset by physical brokenness who, despite what their mind convinced them of, believes the promises of Christ are a true and trustworthy answer more so than the fluctuating opinions of secular society. This person was looking for answers and my book, like the statement, are both intended to give an answer.

Writing to a church beleaguered and estranged from the world around it, the Apostle Peter instructed his listeners to “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Many translations use “answer” and “defense” interchangeably.

The Nashville Statement was written for one simple reason: To give an answer.

Our society loves to question; it does not like arriving at an answer. The message of the gospel, however, is an answer. It is an answer to a sinful world’s questions. The gospel is not silent. The answer it gives is one of righteousness and hope.

Our age is tragically undergoing a redefinition in human sexuality — “sex” here referring to both the way our body was created and the way our bodies fit together. This redefinition doesn’t just attack the integrity of Christian orthodoxy, it is a subversion of creation and nature at its deepest levels.

But the beauty of Christian ethic presumes that there is an ethic. There is an objective telos to offer the world. There is an answer. This is distinct from a secular ethic, which not only disagrees with a Christian sexual ethic, but views it contemptuously, since the secular ethic insists that there is no normative, universal ethic. This groundless relativism is problematic because self-autonomy and radical individualism offer no guidance or pathway on how to live.

The Nashville Statement was written to give an answer to the person beset by gender dysphoria mentioned above.

The Nashville Statement was written to provide a clear answer for local churches looking for doctrinal clarity.

Though received as a word of hate, the Nashville Statement was written as an invitation to the world to see the beauty of creation through the lens of Scripture.

The Nashville Statement is an answer to wayward attempts by some Christians to downplay, reject, or revise the authority of special and general revelation concerning sexual desire and human embodiment.

It was written to give an answer to the person not yet a Christian, but who is weary, questioning, and suspicious that the autonomy the world promises is not the balm that satisfies.

Does the Nashville Statement presume to give an exhaustive answer on all matters of sexual ethics? No.

One theme reoccurs in the many otherwise friendly critiques since the release of the Nashville Statement: Its scope.

Some critiques have cast the issue of narrow scope with nefarious motives — that evangelicals are avoiding their own complicity with the culture of sexual revolution by focusing just on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Others see ineptitude — that evangelicals lack sophistication and robustness around certain themes contained in the statement.

The Nashville Statement is not the Bible, so it is fallible. It can be critiqued. No signatory believes or has said otherwise. Critique sharpens those with common cause.

But just because the Nashville Statement does not say everything some of its critics want it to say, its narrow focus does not nullify its otherwise correct articles. Several figures who have made criticisms, including Carl Trueman and Scot McKnight, have made admissions along these very lines. (Trueman: “Such criticisms are pertinent, even if they do not invalidate the document’s positive assertions;” and McKnight: “Specific statements… are sound theologically and exegetically and many of us can affirm what is said.”) The larger principle is worth stating explicitly: Not everything must be said about something in order for something to be correct. Do all moral statements need to be exhaustive in order to be correct? Of course not. That the Nashville Statement does not have a sprawling, elaborate explanation on every relevant issue connected to the statement, it does not prevent sound ethical judgment from being proffered on the issues that the statement addresses.

The Nashville Statement provides an answer: What must Christians believe? It doesn’t have all the answers, but it is a faithful expression of Christian witness around controversial matters in an increasingly post-Christian age.

Andrew T. Walker serves as Director of Policy Studies at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is a PhD candidate in Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series in which signatories offer their own perspectives on The Nashville Statement.



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