This week a group of evangelical heavyweights met in Nashville and released a document called the “Nashville Statement.” It speaks to the issues of human sexuality rooted in the psalmist’s declaration that it is God “who has made us, and not we ourselves.” Not just the content but the structure of the statement itself was important. Its structural importance was brought home by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s response to it.
As one would expect of evangelicals, the Nashville Statement affirmed the creational goodness of the sexual complementariness of male and female. It affirmed sexual intimacy in the context of marriage.
But the basis for those affirmations was rooted in a keen and fundamental insight contained in the Statement’s preamble:
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.
In other words, if God made us bodily male and female, then that distinction is important and related to human flourishing within God’s created system, His “beautiful plan.” If the difference is simply due to random genetic mutations that could have been otherwise, then we are free to import our own sense of meaning into those distinctions.
It is nothing less than a particular application of what I said last week about history, namely, that “if Genesis is not history, then that . . . changes everything.”
Thus, the Nashville Statement is instructive and worth considering at the profound level of what we believe about origins, one of the foundational philosophical issues with which man has grappled since antiquity.
The Necessity of Denials
But the structure of the Nashville Statement is important, too. In 1987, very similar affirmations were made in something known as the Danvers Statement, but what is different thirty years later is the affirmations made in the Nashville Statement are accompanied by a corresponding set of denials.
In other words, the new Statement not only says we believe X, but that X means we deny and do not believe X’s opposite. In other words, if we believe God made us male and female and what He made is good, then we deny that to disregard God’s design is good. If sexual intimacy was designed by God for expression in the marital context, then we deny that sexual intimacy by other means and in other contexts is good.
Here’s the point: Affirmations and denials are now necessary because we live in a culture that can increasingly hold to contradictory positions. We uncritically say we are against all discrimination, and then discriminate against those who don’t believe that. We urge everyone to be tolerant of others, but we can’t tolerate those who don’t.
The point is that Christians need to increasingly say not just what we believe but make clear that what we believe also means we don’t believe other things. More and more, we don’t like to do that because it feels judgmental and puts other people on the spot. It makes them choose sides.
Mayor Barry’s Response
And that leads me to Mayor Barry’s response to the Nashville Statement. Mayor Barry tweeted that the Statement “does not represent the inclusive values of the city (and) people of Nashville.”
Perhaps it does not. But that Mayor Barry responded is significant. The Statement was theological in nature, not political, so by responding, Mayor Barry, consciously or unconsciously, recognized that the theological always has implications for the political.
And so, with its inclusion of denials, the Nashville Statement left Mayor Barry with no room to accept its affirmations and still politically embrace homosexual marriage and sexual self-identification.
Mayor Barry has clearly taken a side that is consistent with the premise in the Preamble 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.”
That, of course, is her prerogative, but it also means she has taken the side that says we were not created by God or that God’s creational design in making us male and female is not meaningful or important to our human flourishing. Otherwise, as a matter of brotherly love, she would not use the law to encourage confusion in regard to that which she believed would undermine human flourishing.
And that’s what Jesus and the Gospel do when presented rightly; they make us choose a side. So, thank you, sponsors of the Nashville Statement, for leaving us no room for fence-straddling on one of the most pressing issues of our day.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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