The Nashville Statement, a document affirming traditional church teaching on gender and sexuality, has been stirring up some controversy among the intersection of religious and political spheres. In our modern Western outrage culture, it seems that Christians become targets when they believe the same things they’ve believed for millennia.
But the focus of this article is not going to be on the theology of the statement itself (I have written on homosexuality itself here and here). I encourage you to read The Nashville Statement for yourself, but it affirms what are pretty clearly scriptural principles. Instead, I want to focus on the efficacy of the document. Is the statement reinforcing what Christians are already teaching a helpful thing?
Not everyone thinks so – including some who agree with the content of the statement itself. For instance, there are concerns that it will create something of a mob mentality within the Church, treating people who don’t sign, regardless of their theology, as outsiders. Others have said Christians need to focus on more than just sexuality.
Me? I think those critics are misguided. If anything, I think that individual signers of the document could be guilty of a conservative brand of virtue signaling, but even that isn’t inherent in the document itself. Instead, I think that The Nashville Statement is a helpful measure in clearly delineating church teaching on a subject of great theological importance.
There are a few reasons for this. The first is that creeds serve an important purpose – making clear the teachings of Scripture, particularly from the ministry leaders to congregations. Even Scripture itself contains an early creed (1 Cor. 15:3-4), and even today the creeds can still serve an important purpose.
But perhaps more to the point, The Nashville Statement is a graceful expression of scriptural truth not only on the sin of sexually alternative lifestyles, but the dignity of those people before God. Consider, for example, these quotes:
“We deny that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.”
“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 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.”
This is where I want to place the focus of my attention. It is true, on one level, that this document is not going to change anyone’s mind. Those who sign it are going to be those who hold strong convictions already that this is the truth, and nobody’s mind is going to be changed by seeing a list of signatures behind a set of propositions. But there are good reasons for writing The Nashville Statement that have nothing whatsoever to do with persuasion. It serves as a roadmap of how these scriptural principles express themselves in our actual attitudes. Yes, sin is to be taken seriously, but image bearers, which includes all people, must also be treated with dignity and compassion.
In this way, the document serves an important role. If we aren’t careful, Christians may come to believe that the ilk of the Westboro Baptists is representative of us all, or that it’s either that side or those that take a liberal theology and insists that sexual sin isn’t sin at all. That’s largely because these two groups are the only ones that get any significant amount of media coverage, and thus form the basis for the broader culture’s perception.
In his interview on the A Clear Lens Podcast, Sean McDowell told the story of when he was interviewed by a media outlet on this very subject. When the interview was concluded, however, he was told that he just wasn’t angry enough for them to use the interview. Instead, they looked for someone who would be more hateful and bitter.
But enough Christians read this document, and take it to heart, then a graceful approach to true, biblical theology will become apparent. If Christians are engaging in virtue signaling with regards to the document, they need to stop; all of our grandstanding for truth means nothing if it is not lived out in our daily lives. But if Christians truly approach the document thoughtfully, maybe we’ll be able to correct some of the misconceptions about ourselves, what we teach, and how we aspire to treat everyone.
Are there more things for Christians to focus on than sexuality? Sure. But this isn’t the only issue Christians are talking about, and it never has been. If you pay attention, you’ll also see Christians sending disaster relief to Houston, combatting sex trafficking, engaged in thoughtful apologetics, and, as always, preaching the gospel. It seems that Christians are supposedly obsessed with an issue if they address it all, and this certainly is a subject that needs addressed.
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author with a Batman complex. At A Clear Lens, he focuses on worldview analysis and pop culture. In addition to his work on the ACL website and podcast, he is also the founder of Christian Entertainment Reviews, and the author of three novels. He tweets @loganrjudy about writing, apologetics, entertainment, parenting, and Batman.