The Nashville Statement is a Powerful Defense of Marriage and Human Nature
Those of us committed to the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality realize the tide changed quickly. According to the Pew Research Center, affirmation for same-sex marriage has grown from 35% in 2001 to 62% in 2017. Among young adults it’s even higher.
The Growing Split Among Christians
But those stats are for the public at large. What about Christians? Let’s first look at where we agree. There has been a growing consensus on two fronts.
One, that some people experience same-sex attraction, but it’s not something they chose. It wasn’t the result — as far as we know — of anything defective in their immediate environment. It was a manifestation of our living in a fallen world — not unlike the way some people are born with missing limbs. These people can still be Christ-followers.
The second area of emerging consensus is that some Christians will live their entire lives experiencing same-sex attraction. There are Christians — and non-Christians — whose same-sex attraction disappears over time. Not every Christian will have this experience.
But Christians disagree on how Christ-followers who experience same-sex attraction should handle that attraction. Some call for lifetime celibacy. A growing number of “mainline” denominations now affirm same-sex marriage. These include the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. While the Roman Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, Gallup has reported that some 65% of Catholics support it.
Then there’s the question of how Christians who oppose same-sex relations should respond to those who affirm them. And how should Christians treat those who identify as transgender? While we affirm their equal dignity and worth as image-bearers of God, should we use their preferred pronouns?
It’s into this messy context that The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has released The Nashville Statement. It’s a brief document with a Preamble of a few paragraphs followed by 14 affirmations and denials.
The Nashville Statement
Each of the affirmations and denials maintains a careful balance. For example, the first affirms one-man, one-woman marriage, but denies that marriage is a mere human contract. The latter is important, considering that more people seek easy divorce than seek same-sex marriage.
You’ll hear people talk about “gay Christians.” The problem with this label is that it sounds like “gay Christians” are affirming their same-sex attraction. The Nashville statement denies that “adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
So if you have same-sex attraction, don’t let it define you. Don’t embrace or pursue those desires because they won’t make you happier or more fulfilled as a person. Moreover, as affirmation 8 states, “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.” Neither sexual intimacy nor marriage are prerequisites for having a great life. Jesus never had either.
Some of the affirmations and denials speak to the transgender issue. The fifth affirms “that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.” So if you’re biologically female, you should consider yourself as female.
But the sixth affirmation states that a physical disorder of sex development doesn’t detract from a person’s dignity and worth. All should embrace their biological sex “insofar as it may be known.” And Denial 11 tells us that the use of a personal pronoun that doesn’t cohere with a person’s biological identity is dishonoring “God’s design of his image bearers as male and female.”
The Nashville statement thinks disagreements about same-sex relations among professing Christians are a big deal. The statement denies “that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
The Nashville Statement affirms the biblical message on sexuality, marriage and gender. And it does so in a life-affirming way. We live in a fallen world — a world where many have disordered sexual desires. Some even have physical abnormalities. But God’s design in sexuality and gender promotes human flourishing. Human identity as male and female is part of God’s beautiful plan. We were created by God, and we were created as male or female. We do not create ourselves. Nor do we choose whether we are male or female. If we treat our sex as a matter of preference, in the long run we’ll “ruin human life and dishonor God.”
Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter @chediak.