I imagine most of my readers have heard by now of the “Nashville Statement,” coming from “A Coalition for Biblical Sexuality,” and signed by such conservative watchdogs as Denny Burk, John Piper, James Dobson, Russell Moore, et al.
I really don’t know why I bothered, but something compelled me to write a point-by-point response to all of their affirmations and denials. I should warn you—I did make some effort to rein in my snarkiness, but it became increasingly difficult as their affirmations became increasingly ridiculous. Anyway, here you go:
Article 1 WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage …
Where does scripture state that God designed marriage? (It doesn’t.)
Genesis 2:24 states that God, after fashioning woman from man, explained how men and women would leave their parents and join to one another.
- This passage is descriptive, not prescriptive.
- It does not refer to this joining as a marriage.
- It makes no reference, good or bad, to those who would choose a different path, such as singleness.
- It makes no reference, good or bad, to those who would choose to join in this manner to multiple partners.
- It makes no reference, good or bad, to those who are neither man nor woman, nor to those who are both male and female.
- And it makes no reference, good or bad, to those who would join man to man or woman to woman or any other gender to any other gender.
- Other passages of scripture specifically condone and at times even command different formats for marriage than the joining here described.
- Given what we know about human evolution, we must acknowledge that this story does not represent literal history. It is a myth from which we may draw some significance, but to mandate it as an archetype would be ridiculous, given that it never happened.
- When Jesus referenced and made application from this myth, he did so in answer to a question on divorce. To apply his words toward any other question would be to twist them from their intended context.
- Jesus responded to the question in a cultural context where divorce existed to the benefit of men and to the detriment of women. Given that divorce in our cultural context is egalitarian, neither inherently privileging nor damaging either partner over the other, we must rethink how Jesus’ words should apply today.
… to be a covenantal, …
Marriage may be a covenant, but such a covenant can apply to many different kinds of relationships, as scripture itself indicates. (I’ve elsewhere surveyed the many different biblical views of marriage.)
… sexual, …
Many marriages are sexual, but many are not. Are we to believe that marriages are therefore invalid if one or multiple partners are unable to engage in sexuality? (No.)
… procreative, …
As with the above, many marriages are procreative, but many are not. Are we to believe that marriages are therefore invalid if one or multiple partners are unable to procreate? (No.) Or are we to believe that marriages are therefore invalid if they simply choose not to procreate? (No.)
… lifelong union …
Again, many marriages last for a lifetime, but many do not. Even if we were to take the hardest line on Jesus’ words regarding divorce (which would be inadvisable for the reasons given earlier), exceptions would still be present. Are we to believe that marriages are therefore retroactively invalid if they terminate before death? (No.)
… of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, …
Once more, the union of one man and one woman is indeed one format for marriage described in scripture, but it is far from the only one. And nothing in scripture suggests that other formats not described would be unacceptable. Are we to believe that marriages are therefore invalid if they do not equate to one man with one woman? (No.)
… and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church. …
This is indeed one picture that marriage signifies. And it’s worth noting that the church is not a single individual, but billions of individuals, made up of every gender. So the pictured marriage of Christ to the church is both polyamorous and pansexual. Granted, this pictured marriage is figurative, not literal, but we certainly can’t use such a picture to delegitimize polyamory or same-sex relationships.
… WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. …
God did not design marriage to be any one specific format. Marriages come in all shapes and sizes. And God has nowhere forbidden same-sex, polygamous, or polyamorous relationships. As for polygamy specifically, scripture actually commands it in certain instances (Deuteronomy 25:5–6, if the oldest surviving brother was already married).
… We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.
This would depend on the nature of the marriage entered into by given individuals. Within a Christian context, it is likely that the individuals would make their covenant before God, but this would not likely be the case for those who do not believe in God. Are we to believe that marriages are therefore invalid if they do not specifically include God in their covenants? (No.)
Article 2 WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage …
Where exactly is this will revealed? Scripture does include a number of atrocious sexual mandates based on the patriarchal idea of males essentially owning their females. Such notions are dehumanizing, and must be rejected. However, nothing in scripture gives a blanket prohibition against consensual sexual encounters outside of marriage. In fact, the Song of Songs describes and celebrates one such non-marital sexual rendezvous.
… and fidelity within marriage. …
Fidelity is a virtue within any kind of relationship. It simply means being faithful to the agreements of that relationship. What those agreements may be will differ from one relationship to another. If a relationship is of a strictly monogamous nature, then sex outside of that relationship may constitute infidelity. However, if a relationship is of a polyamorous nature, then sex outside of that relationship may not constitute infidelity. It just depends on the parameters for fidelity established and agreed to by all involved.
… WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; …
The responses outlined above show this denial to be groundless.
… nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality. …
But what is sexual immorality? Is not immorality of any kind defined by the violation of Jesus’ command to love one another? In as much as any sexual act fails the test of love, it is immoral. In as much as it passes the test of love (which must include such things as consent, mutuality, etc.), then it is perfectly within the bounds of morality.
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. …
On the one hand, given the reality of evolution, we have to acknowledge that God did not create Adam and Eve as the first human beings. Humanity evolved to become what we are. Nonetheless, the idea that all humans bear the image of God is an important theological truth. The image of God is not some quality God created us with; it is rather the declaration that we humans represent God here on earth.
Furthermore, to affirm that male and female equally bear the image of God is to say that God encompasses all gender. The language of Genesis is limited, but we must go beyond it to affirm that male, female, agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, intersex, gender non-conforming, transgender, and every other gender are all equals in bearing God’s image.
But God did not create the supposed distinctions between male and female. The reality of gender is far more fluid, and God surely delights in the diversity our genders represent.
… WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.
There are no divinely ordained differences between male and female. All humans deserve the dignity of their own unique identifications. And all are of unsurpassable worth.
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.
Nope. See above.
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. …
Based on what exactly? Please do show from scripture anywhere that biological sex is linked to gender identity in this way.
… WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.
So this means what, exactly, for those who have no distinguishable biological sex?
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. WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.
This still doesn’t answer the question related to those who have no distinguishable biological sex. They’re just skirting around an issue that their paradigm is incapable of adequately addressing.
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.
We’ve already covered this ground. Such so-called “holy purposes” have no basis in scripture or any other revelation from God. They are, in reality, nothing more than human bigotry that has been projected onto God.
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. …
Well, at least God doesn’t just damn them outright for the way they were born, right?
… 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.
So they deny that the alleged male–female distinction is a result of the Fall. But same-sex attraction (being not a part of the very good creation) is a result of the Fall? Well, that’s awfully convenient for straight folks, isn’t it?
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.
I agree that that all orientations are capable of the same acts of sexual immorality. That is, as discussed earlier, any sexual act can be immoral if it does not pass the test of love. But same-sex activity is no more prone to this than is heterosexual activity.
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.
Wow. Is everyone catching this? So not only is engaging in these things a sin, but even being mistaken in affirming them is a sin. There’s no room for respectful disagreement or differing perspectives here. One view is right. The other view is “an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.” I’m not the only one who sees how utterly ridiculous this is, right?
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 imagebearers as male and female.
Translation: God commands you to be an asshole to your trans neighbors. Never mind “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In this case, God wants you to stomp all over their identities and preferred pronouns and names with the inerrant truth you’ve been granted about who they “really” are.
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.
No complaint with these words, except for the context in which they’re being stated.
Article 13 WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender selfconceptions 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.
They really want to keep beating the same dead horse, don’t they? We’ve covered this already.
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.
No major complaint here, but I just have to comment on some of the language used. Trusting in Christ as “Savior” and “Lord” is standard fare. But where’s this “supreme treasure” phrase coming from? I mean, I agree that Christ is our supreme treasure, but what’s the significance of adding it as a required element for salvation? Just curious.
Additionally, from their last sentence, I have to assume that they hold out hope for universal reconciliation. If no sinner is beyond God’s reach, that must include those in hell, right?