A Clenched Fist When We Need Open Hands

A Clenched Fist When We Need Open Hands August 30, 2017

We wish our brothers at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood had refrained from putting forth their ill-timed “Nashville Statement.” We wish they hadn’t felt compelled to draw this line in the sand. The history of the Church reads like a catalog of these kinds of lines, and none of them have ever brought us any closer to the Kingdom. Lines serve one purpose: to divide.

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The question in both our minds, as we talked about this over dinner was, “But why?” We can’t help but wonder what the point is of this grandstanding. It is difficult for us to understand the need for such a statement because, as far as we are concerned, the Apostles’ Creed is as close as we can get to a manifesto of our own—as close as we can get to an ironclad statement of our faith:

We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Even this, we strive to hold with open hands. We pray we never get so caught up in the pride of our convictions that we lose sight of the lessons God may have for us. We’ve come to think of these not so much as truths we are called to defend, but truths in which we’ve entrusted ourselves:

We trust in God; we trust in Jesus Christ; we trust in the Holy Spirit. We know them to exist; we sense them to be One; we are convinced that this trinitarian God is good.

That is the extent of what we could call our “Portland Statement.”

Article 10 in the CBMW’s statement is the opposite of an open hand. It is a fist, clenched and ready to strike:

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.

Without so much as a single reference to scripture, the men who wrote this (and the few women who have since co-signed it) are going beyond what even the Church fathers did with the ancient creeds—they are declaring their own unsupported statements to be the sine qua non of the Christian faith. 

That level of arrogance, coming from followers of the Carpenter who blessed the meek, is astounding. It saddens us to see our siblings’ actions stray so far from Christ’s approach to loving others. It worries us to see them display the hubris of the Pharisees Jesus so often corrected.

Above all, we worry about the damage this statement will do. The fact is the CBMW’s words do not hurt us personally; they have no bearing on our lives, and they will certainly never come between us and the Lord we so love. But not all LGBTQ people have the community we’ve found or the strength in our faith we have attained.

What the authors and signers of this manifesto fail to see is that their bad news—their anti-gospel—will destroy families and bring schism to local churches. It will drive away from God those who are clinging to their faith by a thread. Once a line is drawn, many will see it as a wall raised between them and God.

In a week when America’s fourth largest city is underwater and tens of thousands have seen their lives turned upside down, a month when the possibility of nuclear war has increased tenfold, a year when our country stands perilously divided, a statement such as this boggles the mind. It is outrageous that when the men at CBMW finally loosen their fists, it is only to ask for money:

“In the months and years to come,” they write, “the mission of CBMW will include distributing The Nashville Statement and developing resources to equip pastors and churches to stand firm for the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. One way you can be involved is to join us in prayer for the Lord’s blessing on our efforts, as well as to make a financial gift in support of this very important work.”

It seems to us that in the months and years to come, the work of Christians will need to be focused on godlier calls—on the more difficult tasks of reconciliation and healing, and on helping the poor and downtrodden. It’s easy to draw lines in the sand—it’s far more difficult to wade out into the ocean to help those who are drowning.

 

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