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Nashville Statement

A few days ago on August 25th, there was a document published by the Coalition of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood also known as the Coalition of Biblical Sexuality, called the Nashville Statement. This statement was just signed by a number of Evangelical Christian leaders across many denominations at the meeting of the  Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention.

A year ago, Denny Burk, President of the Coalition, announced,

Evangelicals [need] to come together to produce a new statement of conviction concerning these current challenges. [Concerns about gender and sexuality.] This will be hard work and will likely take some time. But it will be worth the effort to produce a statement of evangelical unity on these matters that can serve as a reference point for churches and Christian organizations that are looking for confessional language on these issues.

The point of this statement or confession is to declare simply and succinctly the biblical stance on issues of gender and sexuality. And I think it is timely coming out of 1 Corinthians 4, where we talked pretty extensively about judgment.

We’re putting 1 Corinthians 5 off until next week, but that chapter opens this way,

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you… (1 Corinthians 5:1, ESV)

We are talking about judgment in general, but Paul brings it up because of sexual immorality.

To recap last week, we are not to judge the sins of those outside the church, in the world, but we do judge the sins or behaviors of those in the church. Look What Paul says,

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9–13, ESV)

Paul is explicit that God judges the world around us. The world is God’s business. But, as believers, sin in the church needs to be purified at any cost.

I want to be clear going in. This statement is for Christians. And you’ll notice the implications for how Christians ought to love those outside the church who deal with these sins.

I’m going to go through all 14 articles as quickly as possible in order to demonstrate, not just the teachings of the scriptures, but also how we address these as the church.

Each article contains an affirmation of scripture and a denial of lies that are perpetuated by liberal Christianity on issues of sexual ethics. Let’s jump in.

Side note: I’m not putting most of the scriptures on the screen and I’m going to loosely reference or read a bunch of scriptures, so you should probably get a pen out and write on the statements I handed out so you can go back later and look up the verses.

The preamble for the Nashville statement reads as follows:

Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life. Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.

This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.

We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials.

Article 1

WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

There’s a lot in this statement so I’ll only allude to most of the scriptures, but I want you to notice a few things.

  • Humans officiate marriage, but God signs the contract. Marriage is a Christian sacrament signed by God Himself. It’s something He does, not us. The reference is Mark 10:9, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Notice, marriage is supposed to be lifelong since we should not separate what God has joined.
  • A major purpose of marriage is procreation, therefore, marriage must be sexual. Humanity was charged to build a Kingdom for God’s glory on earth, “And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Genesis 1:22
  • And you can read Ephesians 5, regarding the significance of the covenant love between a man and wife in regards to the covenant love Jesus has for the Church. God designed marriage to image Jesus’s relationship to the church.

The article goes on,

WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.

Polygamy is the practice of taking multiple husbands or wives. Polyamory is the practice of taking multiple sexual partners at the same time, in or out of marriage.

The issue here is the destruction of the covenant love of Jesus. Jesus has bound himself to the church as the Kingdom of God and not to any other group of people. The marriage covenant is designed to mirror that covenant love and is, therefore, between only two partners. Marriage is a contract that ought not to be broken since Jesus will never divorce himself from the church.

Homosexuality is probably the hot button in this statement. The forbiddance of homosexuality is not abstract. It is not a random prohibition. It is prohibited because it fails to model humanities God-given purpose, to multiply and fill the earth, to build a Kingdom for God’s Glory.

Not many realize this, but Paul clearly tells us where homosexuality comes from. We want to say, people are born this way or that they were treated poorly as kids or something like that. But neither of those are exactly correct. All people are born idolatrous sinners under God’s wrath. That’s true for you and me and everyone else who has ever lived.

Homosexuality is the result of the collective idolatry and arrogance of humankind. Paul writes this in Romans 1:22-28,

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.           

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.          

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.         

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:22–28, ESV)

Notice these verses are past tense. People are not homosexual because of their own idolatry per se. Rather, homosexuality exists because of the historical, collective idolatry of humankind.

In the church, we judge homosexuality as sin because it doesn’t accord with the mission of God and Christ’s righteousness. But, in the world, we don’t reject people, argue with people, belittle or dehumanize them in any way. They suffer the same sinful condition as the rest of us, just without Christ. Therefore, the solution is, you must give them Christ.

Article 2

We’ll do this one faster.

WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

The underlying idea behind this article is the argument that God made me this way. I was born like this. I can’t help how I am. Whether, homosexual, transgendered, promiscuous, adulterous, the idea is that you can’t help who you are. So, people say, ‘I was born this way.’ Or they blame their sin on a traumatic childhood event, which is horrible, and say, ‘this is who I am now.’

But Jesus said in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

We were all born into imperfection. But, we don’t bring our imperfections into God’s house and blame Him for our immorality. You were born into the Kingdom of the World, but you must be born again into the Kingdom of God. You must confess your sin and the Holy Spirit will give you new life.

I totally get it. You don’t feel like you can be any different than you are right now. But, God’s Kingdom is all about change. It’s all about replacing our imperfections with the perfection of Christ. So, ‘I was born this way,’ cannot suffice as an explanation for any sexually immoral behavior.

Article 3

WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.

WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.

The lie that many believe is that the perceived and biological distinctions between men and women elevate men and degrade women. Therefore, many have rejected the notion that there are designated roles in the church, family, and society, for men and women that are distinct from each other.

The Bible actually affirms something completely different. We are to celebrate the distinct roles of men and women, because those distinctions point us to the relationship between Jesus and His Church, Ephesians 5 again. The husband is to love and value his wife even above his own flesh, just as Jesus gave up his own flesh, dying on the cross, in order to rescue the church from God’s wrath.

Distinctions like those presented in Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 14:34, and 1 Timothy 2:12 differentiate the function of men and women, but in no way speak to the value of men or women.

Listen, that we tend to value a man who works over a woman who stays home is cultural not biblical. Don’t blame the Bible for what man created in our culture. God values men and women equally as imagers of Jesus even within their different roles.

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.

WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.

This is a continuation of the previous article. The teaching of the Bible is that roles for men and women existed from the beginning and were not part of the curse. Read Genesis 1 and 2. It’s pretty easy to see that woman was created as a helper for the man to carry out God’s purposes even before sin entered the world.

This is important to maintain, because, if the distinct roles of men and women are part of the curse, then we ought to discard them when we come to Christ, because Christ frees us from the curse. But, if roles for men and women are part of the created order, then we ought to celebrate those roles.

Article 5

WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.

WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.

Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

What we see here is intentionality in gender, ordered by God. We live in a culture that wants to self identify gender. But, God identifies gender. I don’t get to decide that I feel like a boy or a girl or something else entirely, because God created according to the gender He determines.

But, how does God identify gender? How do I know what gender I really am?

Some people would say your gender has to do with how you feel. God makes you feel one way or another and that’s how you know what your gender is.

But, if you are a Christian, you have to follow the biblical paradigm. God created humanity to multiply into a Kingdom and fill the earth with His glory. Reproduction only occurs when someone who is biologically male has sexual intercourse with someone who is biologically female. If the primary purpose of humanity is to build a Kingdom for God’s glory, then God identifies gender biologically.

You might ask, well, what about people who are born sexually ambiguous?

That means people who are born without obvious genitalia to identify their gender.

We’ll deal with that more in the next article, but people like that are an anomaly, not a reason to throw out the whole paradigm. Only 1 in 1500-2000 people are born sexually ambiguous.

Article 6

WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.

That reference is Matthew 19:12. Jesus references people who are born without the ability to have sex as either a male or a female. Today doctors can determine the likely gender of a child and treat the child with hormones or surgery to give them the biological traits of the gender they choose. The ethics of that practice are outside the scope of this discussion. But, here we see an affirmation that sexually ambiguous people have a purpose in God’s Kingdom, Jesus loves them and calls them to himself, and they are valued as imagers of God in the same way as those who are clearly male or female.

The article continues,

WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.

Here we see that people who are sexually ambiguous are able to receive the full rights and inheritance of any other child of God when they profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

So, here’s where this gets difficult.

How do we treat people who are not sure about their gender or who feel like they have a gender that is different than their biology suggests?

The answer for a Christian is to abstain until your preference agrees with your biology.  In other words, you don’t sin because you feel one way or another. Your sexual preferences and your gender preferences are not sin. But, when two people engage in a romantic relationship or sexual activity that is in opposition to their biological gender identities, then it becomes sin.

For the Christian who struggles in this way, pray for clarity, seek counsel from others who will tell you the truth about the Bible and will love you regardless, and be patient. Remember, you have to be born again, you need a new way of seeing yourself and the world before this will change.

And maybe it won’t change. In that case, the answer is abstinence. Maybe God has created you for pure devotion to Him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is better to remain single so that your interests are not divided. Maybe you have recieved a gift of singleness.

And how do we deal with questions of gender in the world around us?

Again, we don’t need to hide what we believe, but we never make gender identity a criteria for someone to come to Christ. Gender identity shouldn’t even be part of the conversation. We don’t ask people to escape the brokenness of the world on their own before we invite them into the Kingdom of God. We invite them in and then we allow the Holy Spirit speaking through the scriptures to do the work of rebirth.

Article 7

WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.

WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

Again, they point to the created order to define issues of gender and sexuality. I won’t go over that again.

Article 8

WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.

WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.

This is an issue of the Gospel that really needs to be proclaimed to the church. We don’t condemn anyone for their sin, because no one is so vile a sinner that they are outside the reach of the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus is for all people no matter what their sin is.

The statement says that same-sex attraction is not part of the natural goodness of God in creation, but notice, there is no sin that was part of the natural goodness of God in creation.

Your sin is no more acceptable to God than the sexually immoral. Therefore, we do not put restrictions on the Gospel.

Further, we don’t put prerequisites on the Gospel, either. We don’t say, repent of your sin and you can come to Jesus. We come to Jesus so that we can be born again, made new, so that we are able to repent of our sins. This is what the scriptures teach, that regeneration or rebirth, precedes repentance. Until you know Christ, you cannot repent of sins. So, there can be no prerequisites on the Gospel.

Article 9

WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality—a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.

WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.

Again, this is Romans 1. Homosexuality and conflicts between perceived gender and biological gender are  distortions of God’s righteous desire for sexuality caused by the idolatry and arrogance of humankind throughout history. Therefore, ‘I was born this way,’ or  ‘this is who I am inside,’ doesn’t suffice as an excuse.

We are all born sinners and are all desperately sick in our hearts. No one excuses the their, he murderer or the pedophile on the grounds that they were born this way. Neither will God excuse the sexually immoral. Not unless they come to know Jesus, acknowledge their sin, and repent.

Article 10

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

There’s a lot of talk about this in Christian circles. Most Christians do not openly affirm others in their decisions to be homosexual or to self-appoint their gender. But, we tend to take a backseat.

I think the bigger question is whether or not to attend a homosexual or transgender wedding. Many voices in evangelicalism are saying that to attend a that kind of wedding is to affirm their lifestyle choices, so Christians should not.

But, I want you to think bigger about this. Marriage belongs to God. It is, in my view, a Christian sacrament. It belongs to the church. All the government cares about is registering unions for census purposes.

As a pastor I take a different position than most pastors. Most pastors will not marry two people unless they share the same worldview—i.e. they are both Christians or they are both non-Christians. But, I only do weddings for Christians, because I don’t believe non-Christians have a genuine desire to be married before God.

So, this becomes a slippery slope.

If marriage is a Christian sacrament, should a Christian attend a wedding of a non-Christian at all?

That seems to me to be the more important question. And it’s one that frankly is going to take some discernment. You’re looking for a balance where you aren’t condemning the homosexual for their sin, and yet, you aren’t communicating that you affirm or validate their lifestyle choices.

That’s going to be different in every situation, so that’s all I want to say about that one. There are too many nuances involved to take a dogmatic stance. If you ever need help working through a specific situation, though, I’d love to meet with you to help you navigate the situation biblically.

Article 11

WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.

WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his image- bearers as male and female.

This article and the next three speak to the obligations of Christians. A Christian is never just in condemning the immoral people in the world. And yet, we must never neglect the truth either.

Notice the theological tension in Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

To love the sinner means to be patient and kind, not boasting as if you are in some way superior. You don’t scoff arrogantly as if it were so clear that their beliefs are so wrong. You aren’t rude, but gentle. You don’t even insist on your own way. You aren’t irritable or argumentative. You are gentle, peaceful, patient and loving.

But, here’s the tension, you have to love them without rejoicing in their sin. And you have to rejoice with the truth. It’s really hard, but that’s what must be done. We don’t condemn the world, but we also don’t affirm the sins of the world.

Many of us love to a degree that we downplay the truth. Others of us uphold the truth to the degree that we don’t love. Love and truth are both equally necessary.

Article 12

WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.

So, first, and we already talked about this, no sin is too great for God to forgive. No one is beyond salvation until they are beyond the grave.

But, notice the affirmation. The article states, “the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power.”

The Gospel has the power, not just to save us from the penalty of our sins, but also to transform us into the image of Christ, even now.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The Gospel conforms us to the image of Jesus.

Why is that important?

Because, those who struggle with their sexuality or gender identity have the hope of future conformity to the righteousness of Christ. Many people have this testimony, that in Christ, they have the power of repentance and that their sexual preference and gender identity are brought under the righteousness of Christ so that they operate, sexually, the way God designed them to.

There is real hope of deliverance from all sins. As Christians, we are entrusted with the message of Christ, not to condemn the world, but that they might be saved, delivered, and transformed by that message.

Article 13

WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self- conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female.

WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will.

In other words, we don’t acknowledge self-conceptions of gender, but we believe Christ has the power to transform the heart and mind in order to bring someone’s perceived gender and sexual preferences into alignment with their biological sex. Jesus can make that happen.

Finally, and most important,

Article 14

WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that 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.

This has really already been said a few different ways, but I like that they ended here. Do not, Christian, believe that anyone is outside of the reach of the Lord, Jesus Christ. No one is too far gone.

Peter wrote,

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

God is counting sinners as righteous and leading them to repentance of sins, delivering murderers, thieves, blasphemers, and even the sexually immoral of this world.

I wonder, Christian, if you would be the agent of grace and mercy to bring others to the feet of Jesus. I wonder if you would love like Jesus loved. I wonder if you would give up your time and comfort so that even the sexually immoral of our world might be delivered into the hands of a merciful and loving God.

Would you go into the world to love the sinner by calling them to Jesus? Would you here in the church lovingly call others into repentance? Would you be guided by the truth of scripture, yet characterized by the love of Jesus.

I pray you will.