What does the Nashville Statement mean? And to whom should we look to help us understand? Conservative evangelicals have been gripped by such questions since the CBMW released the statement two weeks ago. Yet while its advocates and defenders have touted its importance and its benefits, I fear the ensuing discussion has left conservative evangelicals as bereft of sound guidance on questions of gender identity and sexual orientation as we were prior to its release. My reflections here are variations on that theme.

Statements, Counterstatements, and Conservative Evangelical Critics

The self-parody of the progressive ‘Christian’ response to the Nashville Statement is the place to start. While more sober criticisms contained enough truth to sound respectable, they were soon overwhelmed by farcical counterstatements that reaffirmed the progressive sexual ethic is not recognizably Christian. Their pseudo-theological dressings mean you have to squint to see what they really want: polyamory. Which is mildly disappointing, I must say. A paganism undefiled by the trappings of evangelical formalism would be more fun than the lukewarm, ‘respectable’ version on offer. Progressive Christians should put down their Enneagram charts and make paganism great again. After all, I can think more enjoyable ways of fighting to make polyamory permissible than releasing a statement.

Such a sad spectacle, though, merely confirmed the Nashville Statement’s defenders in the righteousness of their cause. As Albert Mohler told the Washington Post, “the vitriol in response to our document showed why such clarification is necessary.” Denny Burk claimed to be “astonished” by the attention, but suggested that it was a sign the world had heard the good news. Owen Strachan claimed the mantle of John the Baptist.

And then there was the small band of conservative critics who tried to raise concerns about the statement’s presuppositions, meaning and purpose. Though such criticisms were relatively widely read, prominent advocates acted as though conservative evangelical critics simply did not exist. Strachan reduced critics to two categories: progressive pagans and weak-kneed evangelicals. Mohler’s typology of critics had four categories, none of which fit Preston Sprinkle or Carl Trueman. And then there was Alastair Roberts, who signed it, defended it and then critiqued it. But you wouldn’t know about the last if you followed the statement’s leading advocates: they only touted Alastair’s endorsement. After the existence of conservative critics was confirmed in the Washington Post, Strachan switched tactics, arguing the statement’s 170 signatories outnumber the five critics who were named.[1]

The effort to publicly downplay and dismiss conservative critics has gone hand-in-hand with exaggerated claims of the statement’s importance and the breadth of its signatories, in order to convey that it represents all of conservative evangelicalism. Burk had the audacity to put the statement in the same ‘tradition’ as the creeds. Strachan described it (apparently without irony) as a “landmark in theological history” from a “globe-spanning” coalition—thus shrinking the world to the U.S. and U.K. and demonstrating the very parochialism progressives are often charged with. Strachan is of course right that the 170 signatories is more than the five critics. And yet—only 170? Play the “who’s missing from the signatories” game. It’s a long and not uninfluential list. I was not surprised Rod Dreher met conservative evangelical pastors unhappy with it, none of whom apparently wanted to be named. I suspect conservative evangelical discontent about this statement runs deep, even if it is mostly silent.

My aim in describing this landscape is not to match Strachan’s hyperbole with an overinflated account of the scope of dissent. It is just the silence of such conservative individuals and institutions that makes Strachan’s claim this document speaks for evangelicals seem reasonable. Yet while people remain silent for many reasons, these days everyone assumes that silence means consent. And exaggerating the quality, importance, and scope of this statement also intrinsically raises the stakes for public disagreement—which is, I suspect, partially the point of such rhetoric. As the defenders’s unwillingness to publicly engage conservative evangelical critics indicates, the payoff for doing so is also quite low. Until conservative evangelicals with influence publicly demur, then, this statement sets the framework by which conservative evangelicals are known and judged.

Culture War or Catechesis?

The preoccupation with progressives by the statement’s lead defenders also calls into question the accuracy of its stated purpose. Denny Burk, President of CBMW, has suggested that “one of the most important things to understand about The Nashville Statement is that it was not primarily aimed at the outside world,” but at the “evangelical Christian world where so much confusion on these questions seems to remain.” It is emphatically not a “culture-war document,” he writes, but meant to “catechize God’s people.”

While forming God’s people is a thoroughly laudable aim, I wonder: why then the website, the press release, and the signatories? The means of communication are not neutral, after all. They deliberately invite attention not just from evangelicals, but the world. If the form of such statements is part of catechesis, then why were Bible verses left off? And why were reasons for each of the affirmations and denials not given, or definitions of terms not supplied? Such additions would dramatically expand the statement’s length. But what does that matter, if the purpose is catechism and not the culture war?

And why is there not more attention to the pastoral dynamics of how these affirmations and denials are to be worked out in the context of local communities? For a statement signed by a heavy concentration of Baptists, its form and substance have little to do with congregational life. It is a “statement” by an evangelicalism that has left ecclesial communities behind in favor of trans-denominational, parachurch partnerships.

And if catechism is the aim, why has the public defense barely registered (at best) conservative critics like Wendy Alsup? Why does “catechesis” require maintaining the public appearance of unity? A real catechetical process is meant not to force a person into doctrinal conformity, but to elicit questions and objections for the aim of understanding. The disparity between the stated aim of this document and the actions of its defenders make it plausible to infer that conservative critics also no longer count as “God’s people.” Is this too part of the document’s purpose?

And if the aim is the formation of Christians, doesn’t that mean confessing our complicity in the spirit of the age becomes—non-negotiable? Mohler obliquely alludes to Ron Belgau’s version of this critique, assuring us that evangelicals really know our shortcomings. But if the statement’s purpose is catechesis—shouldn’t it then express something of the atmosphere of repentance, especially if evangelicalism’s leadership already agrees such a response is justified? Confession is the first act of Christian witness, the grounds on which we name our own status as forgiven by God and subsequently as authorized to pass judgment. It is the presupposition of speaking Christianly, rather than merely affirming Christian doctrines. There is no such thing as Christian pedagogy that fails to include it when passing moral censure, as this statement does. Any judgment that lacks confession cannot be the judgment of grace—or of God.

In short: the Nashville Statement is more apt for catechesis in our endless culture war than the confident, faithful affirmation of the Gospel within our churches. We know it is more apt for such a purpose partly because that is how its defenders have used it, contrary to their claim that it is not a “culture war document.” The statement’s affirmations and silences, its form and its presentation are consciously designed to reach as broad an audience as our media allow. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But it is literally unbelievable that the drafters are “astounded” by the attention they have received. How precisely does one write a statement announcing a crisis, and then claim to be surprised when controversy ensues? When Owen Strachan touts the statement made “national news” for purportedly non-controversial beliefs, it’s hard to not wonder: Is it possible they have had their reward in full? 

Idealism and Intentions

Beneath the various defenses of the Nashville Statement lies a subtle but pernicious idealism that appeals to the intentions of the authors as the definitive answer for what the statement is and means. For the drafters, the statement’s social positioning, origins, and context have no bearing on how we are to interpret its significance. Their intentions are the only criteria that matter. We are asked to see this statement not as a reflection of a movement of Christians invested in a narrow understanding of gender roles but as an inclusive document that makes room for all evangelicals. We are asked to ignore the fact that its form and content are designed to generate public attention, and simply accept on testimony that this is not a culture-war document. We are asked to forget that the preamble passes a sweeping judgment on the spirit of our age, but the affirmation and denials only name manifestations that are easy to distance ourselves from. We are asked to accept that this statement is important enough that it belongs in the same sentence as the creeds, but told not to make the “perfect the enemy of the good.”

The appeal to such intentions would be more persuasive if its signers agreed on what it means. But the statement is no model of clarity where it counts for conservative critics. Burk claims it’s purpose is the churches, but John Piper claims the audience is both the church and the world. Mohler reads the statement and says nothing about it acknowledging complicity. Burk’s inventive reading discovers such an acknowledgment in the preamble.[2]

Or consider Article 7. The ‘plain sense’ obviously writes out Wes Hill and Spiritual Friendship. They are the only group known publicly to whom such an article would uniquely apply. Because those who are affirming are ruled out on the other statements, the only reason to add the boundary in Article 7 is if one thinks Wes Hill is outside of it. But Tom Schreiner signed the statement, and he says it doesn’t apply to Spiritual Friendship. Alastair Roberts says it does. Are we supposed to wait for an authoritative pronouncement on the statement’s scope, as Burk did on Article 10? Are we even supposed to take that ‘clarification’ as definitive?

The appeal to intentions in order to settle matters of dispute is a shibboleth in evangelical circles, but there are (at least) two deep, relevant problems with it. First, it is ironically a close cousin of the ‘spirit of the age’ that the Nashville Statement so forcefully denounces. One person ignores the social and material conditions of their bodies and angelically asserts they have a different gender; another ignores the social and material conditions of their words and angelically asserts that they have meant something different than what we heard. Such a principle is self-exonerating; it means no one can be wrong about what they have done, because their private, inaccessible intentions are the final arbiter of what they’ve done. It is a principle that subsequently breeds deep self-deception and insularity, as it is a trump card that ends disagreement and dissent.

Second, such an idealistic criterion is also a double-standard that defenders of this statement have not been willing to grant to their interlocutors. Burk’s claim that this was not a new moment in our culture wars turns entirely on whether we accept his testimony about this statement’s purpose. But Burk has also developed a trajectory that helps people interpret the meaning and significance of statements within the broader social currents, which empowered much of the recent conservative critique of James K.A. Smith’s comment on the limits of orthodoxy. But the social conditions of our public actions do not only matter when convenient. They set the framework for responsible speech and action, and entail that we are not the exclusive or even best interpreters of our own words.

The Flight 93 Statement

The Nashville Statement is the Flight 93 statement. It is striking how similar its defenses have been to arguments that evangelicals should vote for Trump. The sense of crisis the preamble announces is so pervasive that it justifies not just any statement, but this one. Anything else makes the perfect the enemy of the good. One signer told me Article 10 alone should impel me to sign, because the urgency of the hour demands it. ‘Choose ye this day’, the statement announces, and voting third party is clearly a waste. The impulse to close ranks and reassert evangelicalism’s identity publicly and the eagerness to indulge in the rhetorical excess of the statement’s importance have the same roots in the despair that governs our politics. Those Nashville pastors were right to detect an elusive commonality between evangelical support for Trump and the dynamics surrounding this statement, even if the vast majority of its signers were strong and faithful critics of Trump’s campaign.

Only time will tell, but I fear the Nashville Statement will be no more a win for conservative evangelicals than the election of Donald Trump. While it has exposed the silliness of progressive foes, it has also galvanized them and dangerously inflated our confidence in our own rightness and strength. The statement draws some of the right boundaries, but in the wrong way. And at least one boundary ought not to be drawn, or needs to be clarified. It comes to many right conclusions, but reflects principles and ideas that have born bad fruit within evangelicalism.

It is not my perfectionism that animates my resistance to this statement. Rather, it is my abiding concern that the church of Jesus Christ not pursue short-term “wins” like the Nashville Statement at the expense of sowing seeds for the long-term renewal of our own sexual ethics. My concern for the Nashville Statement is thus pastoral; my critique is that the document is not pastoral enough. It is not perfection I am seeking, but the humility to name our sin. The only way forward for an evangelicalism broken by the sexual revolution begins not with the announcement of the truth, but by confessing all those things we have both done and left undone.

A Coda

The first time I ever considered becoming a theologian was at a youth conference my freshman year of high school. My dad had pastored a small church for several years. When a pastor from an affiliated church realized I was his son as I argued with him, he told me I would probably become a theologian. He was almost right. I do not claim the title. But he also told me something about my dad that I have never forgotten: “I like your dad. He’s a straight shooter—he’ll tell you exactly what he thinks.” In this, I am my father’s son, and proudly so.

We have been reminded this week that the work of charity is a truth-telling one. It is also more than that, as I have again learned while struggling to reach an equitable assessment of the significance of the Nashville Statement and its public discussion surrounding for conservative evangelicalism. My own failures of charity are manifold; they are doubtlessly present in this essay.

But with those signers, I think charity demands that we at least honestly confess the truth. So will I try to do: The deliberate overlooking of conservative evangelical critics of this statement, the double standards at work in its defenses, and the extraordinary pressure to affirm it because of the hour’s urgency suggest that we evangelicals are more interested in proclaiming our virtues than practicing them.

[1] Burk has now responded to Ron Belgau’s critique. This is the first such response, and it is notable because Belgau is…Roman Catholic.

[1] To Burk: Doesn’t the statement answer its own rhetorical question by announcing who has held firm, namely, those who signed it? Is the question of evangelical’s future the equivalent of an admission of responsibility for its present by the signers? Or are they themselves, by signing the statement, showing that they are not the problem?

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

  • hoosier_bob

    For too long, so-called thoughtful evangelicals were all too happy to abide carnival barkers like the folks at CBMW. I feel no pity for these thoughtful evangelicals. At times when it may have been costly to take a strong public stand against CBMW, they cowered. Now they’re unhappy that the public won’t differentiate them from the patriarchalists and that the patriarchalists won’t even address their concerns. But why should one expect any other result?

    I was recently reading Thomas Friedman’s recent book. In it, Friedman documents the reality that cultural changes now occur in a timescale of about 10-15 years. In the 1980s, that timeframe was probably double or triple what it is today. Like it or not, evangelicalism has unwittingly enshrined many of the values of bourgeois values of mid-20th-century middle-class white people and passed them off as biblical. But thoughtful evangelicals have been too cowardly in attacking these things and extirpating them from our churches. If progressive evangelicals have made some modest gains in recent years, it is because they are the only ones making cogent criticisms of the evangelical movement. I have no interest in the broader agenda of the progressive evangelical movement. Even so, I find traditional evangelicalism to lack any kind of intellectual vitality. It’s become little more than a lazy (and often tacitly bigoted) defense of 1950s America, or maybe 1980s America. And too many thoughtful evangelicals refused to take the kinds of risks that are involved in breaking American evangelicals away from this kind of toxic nostalgia. The blithe embrace of Donald Trump by an overwhelming majority of average evangelicals is evidence that nostalgia drives what we’ve been doing far more than a love of Christian orthodoxy.

    One of the most appalling aspects of the Nashville Statement is its effort to cut out the Spiritual Friendship narrative from its definition of orthodoxy. That’s sad, but it’s unsurprising. Not once did any of the Protestant SF writers take direct aim at the CBMW crowd. They’ve left that to Ron Belgau, a Roman Catholic. Moreover, the SF crowd has taken no effort to embody their movement in any kind of institutional way. They have no conferences, no meet-ups, and no practical advice to offer to non-heterosexual evangelicals who struggle with churches that are afraid to challenge CBMW. I’m an asexual, and have suffered much the same exclusion from evangelical life as sexually active gay Christians. Reading SF was a nice respite from traditional evangelical life, but such a movement is worthless if it won’t take the effort to effect actual institutional change. If people have adopted the Vines-Lee take on things, it is likely because SF offered them nothing to take hold of. It refused to accept the unfortunate reality that 99% of evangelical churches are terrible places for anyone who’s not heterosexual (or at least not willing to pretend to be). That’s just one example, but it’s emblematic of a broader problem. There are very few options available for younger, educated non-progressive evangelicals.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I think it involves something besides church. For decades, wealthy older evangelicals have had their own para-church organizations that allow them to connect with other people more like them. In my locale, this group primarily revolves around a particular country club. For most such evangelicals, these groups were their de facto church. In fact, many of them attended mainline churches on Sundays, as they didn’t like the contemporary worship at most evangelical churches. It’s been clear to me for some time that thoughtful younger evangelicals also need such organizations. I have no interest in going to a country club and hanging out with old white guys. I don’t even enjoy golf. But I have no interest in sorting my way through the sea of “deplorables” at a typical evangelical church.

    The rapid pace of cultural change cuts against big institutions. Take perfumery as an example. There’s been more significant innovation in perfumery in the last decade than in the prior 100 years. This didn’t occur because Chanel and Dior started launching more interesting formulations. No. It happened because individuals launched their own brands, developed products that could garner a niche following, and used good data analytics to develop a targeted market. The hottest fragrances on the club scene right now are made by companies that didn’t exist a decade ago. Last week, I was in the Berlin store of one of these companies. The sales clerk was an Israeli guy who spoke almost no German. I asked him about that fact. He noted that they aren’t looking for customers among people who aren’t fluent in English. Younger Germans like the experience of walking into a store in Germany and feeling like they’re in London or New York. He said that they tried using German-speaking sales clerks, but that sales were lower and non-buyers lingered too long in the store. By using English only in the store, they get a sale out of 78% of people who stay in the store more than 60 seconds. That also means that customers gather and create a sense of excitement around the brand. I even ended up going on a date with someone I met in the store and who liked the same fragrances that I did.

    Evangelicals need to learn from this. With the rapid pace of cultural change, niche is going to be the norm moving forward. Thoughtful evangelicals need to go niche, and stop trying to feed from the gravy train of the Trump-loving masses.

  • Ben Finger

    So for the note on Ron Belgau being Catholic,he was for was formerly an evangelical protestant, so he is pretty good at intersecting with our thoughts.

  • Larry28

    I’ll share a couple of thoughts. First of all, one issue that seems to be getting overlooked concerns one of the Nashville Statement’s signatories, C.J. Mahaney. What business does he have signing a document on sexuality when he was at the center of one of the biggest child sex abuse coverup scandals in the history of American Protestant Christianity? I would also question the signatures of Mahaney’s enablers, including Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler.

    Second, I noticed lots of attention focused on many American evangelicals’ support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in light of his history of sexual misbehavior. Fair enough. Don’t forget, however, that his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, is seen by many as an enabler of her husband’s serial adultery and abusive behavior toward women. So in that regard, it’s six of one and a half dozen of the other, so to speak. I don’t want to say much more as I don’t want to turn this into a political discussion, but neither major political party distinguished itself last year with their choice of nominees.

    • I still don’t understand the false equivalence used by evangelicals when comparing a married Methodist Sunday School teacher finding it in her heart to forgive her husband’s infidelity to maintain her marriage as suggested by Jesus to a thrice divorced, including one divorce as a result of his adultery, self-describe sexual predator, who is the favorite of evangelicals only because of his judicial appointments despite is his clear lack of christianity.

      I suggest that one reason lies in the idea that when a man strays it is at least partially because his wife is not “meeting” his needs. This patrician ideology is demonstrated though out the bible. This is why conservative evangelicals supporting Trump have lost all moral high ground that character matters when voting for a politician.

      • Brian Roden

        The danger of losing the moral high ground is one reason I voted third-party (Constitution Party) for President for the first time in my voting life.

    • Krychek_2

      Larry, there are a couple of fairly significant differences you are overlooking.

      First, the Clintons acted in a such a way that demonstrated that they at least understood that Bill’s conduct was shameful, as opposed to Trump’s bragging about his sexual misbehavior. That’s enough to destroy any moral equivalence all by itself.

      Second, even if Hillary Clinton did enable him, which I’m not at all sure is clear, an enabler is less blameworthy than an actual wrongdoer. And at the end of the day, as between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, she’s the one who has stayed married (and, as far as we know, faithful) to the same person for 40 years.

      And one more thing. The practical consequence of evangelical support for Trump is the widespread perception that evangelicals are hypocrites whose views on sexual mores deserve no attention. Whatever evangelicals may have gained politically from Trump’s win is more than offset by the reputational loss they have suffered in the world by being seen as unprincipled political hacks.

      • Larry28

        Perhaps you have a point on Mrs. Clinton remaining married to the same man for all these years. Still, I recall plenty of criticism for her being an enabler going back to her husband’s first presidential campaign in 1992.

        As for evangelicals’ alleged reputation loss, I didn’t see evangelical votes for President Trump as necessarily being an endorsement of him personally. I suspect that many, if not the majority, of evangelicals simply viewed him as the “lesser of the evils,” so to speak, and voted for him simply because they couldn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton and found the third-party alternatives untenable or unacceptable.

        My apologies to the author; I didn’t intend for my comment to spark a political discussion.

        • hoosier_bob

          Recent polls undercut the lesser-of-two-evils argument. As if just two months ago, nearly 80% of white evangelicals approved of the job that the President was doing, and about 60% strongly approved. Those numbers fell a bit after Charlottesville, but only by a small amount. Like it or not, an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals embrace Trump.

          Notably, approval of Trump among every other surveyed demographic group was well below 50% and often below 35%.

  • BWF

    Good and thoughtful points. I’m mostly in agreement, but I have one quibble… it may be more than a quibble.

    Your paragraph in the beginning that tries to link progressive criticism of the NS with polyamory is just needless extrapolation, and whether or not you are serious or tongue-in-cheek, I think it fell flat. If you had meant to say that they didn’t put forth very strong arguments, I’d actually agree; given the rapid response to the statement, many people responded with poorly reasoned rebuttals, and others took a different path and went with humor instead. That kind of stuff happens; and in fact, while I have a good long list of tentative faults that I find with the Nashville Statement, I still haven’t been able to get it down to a good “elevator speech” rebuttal.

    And yet, the polyamory argument, based on one single blogger, is puzzling. As I was hinting at, I don’t know for sure whether you truly believe this or if you are going along with the same whimsical tone of the Denver Statement… I’m guessing it’s the latter?

    • hoosier_bob

      I agree too. I found the whole reference to progressive evangelicals to undercut the credibility of the piece, not to mention that there’s no evidence to support the notion that progressive evangelicals broadly embrace polyamory.

      I also think that conservatives evangelicals make too much of progressive evangelicals. I know plenty of former evangelicals in my social circle, and few left conservative evangelicalism because it failed to embrace what progressive evangelicalism is selling. Instead, they left conservative evangelicalism because it proffered little more than useless nostalgia for a bygone era.

      • Joe S

        “there’s no evidence to support the notion that progressive evangelicals broadly embrace polyamory”

        True but a defense of polyamory will eventually emerge from the same set of conditions that gave rise to the support for same-sex marriage. Try and get an affirming Christian to say what (consensual) behaviors are prohibited by a progressive sexual ethic and they will dodge the question. Their commitment to an underlying paganism is strangely lukewarm.

        Gay Christians in particular risk looking “foolish” in the eyes of the wider LGBT community if they present this lukewarm version of paganism as more respectable or better in some (undefined) way. Mainstream LGBT support for gay “evangelicals” like Matthew Vines would evaporate overnight if he ever said that gay couples *should* get married.

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  • “The only way forward for an evangelicalism broken by the sexual revolution begins not with the announcement of the truth, but by confessing all those things we have both done and left undone.” seems to elevate the sins on a few over the forgiveness of all. Forgets that ‘confessing’ should indeed be confessing truth. Pits the implicitly formal “truth” against the explicitly embodied and informal “confession of what we’ve done”. It need not be this way.

    This problem is not so much a problem with the Nashville statement as the ability to let any statement exist as a proposition, living and dying, true or false, subject to scrutiny outside of any individual owner’s mouth. Long had this been a critique of Protestantism but I didn’t expect this kind of slouch from this outlet or writer.

    Yes, they could have done without the preamble.

    • Larry28

      I have to respectfully disagree. I think the author made a good point with that statement. The evangelical church long ago forfeited its moral authority on sexuality and related matters.

  • Google User

    Thanks for writing this. This is great. As an interested observer, I just have one comment:

    In my opinion, the most credible speakers for the orthodox, traditional side will be those people who experience same-sex attraction, and are at the same time committed to living in obedience to the word of God.

    It’s much harder to dismiss such people as speaking from “heterosexual privilege.”

    Similarly, I believe that women are the most effective and credible speakers for the pro-life cause. Unfortunately, many hearers will dismiss male speakers out of hand.

    Just a two cents. Thanks.

    • Joe S

      Which is why criticism from the Spiritual Friendship team rankles Burk.

  • hoosier_bob

    I will add a further note concerning Matt’s observation of the dishonest tactics employed by Mohler, Burk, and Strachan in dealing with their conservative evangelical critics. This is a correct observation. But it’s not as though this is some kind of radical departure for these gentleman. Mohler, Burk, and Strachan have long shown themselves to be men who don’t mind lying when it suits their purposes. They may believe that these are “noble lies,” in the Platonic sense. But they are lies no less.

    In reading Mohler, Burk, and Strachan over the years, I’ve noticed one word that pops up again and again: “clear,” or some variation of it. These are men who are obsessed with reducing morality down to simple bright-line rules, and who seem to come to Scripture with an expectation that a good God will give them such bright-line rules on ethical issues. This is what Pete Enns has called the “sin of certainty.” Many conservative evangelicals have made a god out of certainty, and have read their own cultural preferences into Scripture on a variety of issues on which Scripture says little or nothing. And while such chicanery may serve practical ends within certain ministry contexts, it’s no less post-modern than the moral relativism that they often criticize. Guys like Mohler, Burk, and Strachan no longer measure truth by whether an averment makes sense of the available information; rather, they measure truth by whether the averment is politically useful and can attract people who want to believe it. These guys have been at the “fake news” game for a while.

    That said, evangelicals of greater conviction have often remained silent because such lies were typically directed to conservative evangelicalism’s perceived enemies. But Jesus told us to love our enemies, which presumes that we don’t engage them in ways that distort and misrepresent what they say. The silence of thoughtful evangelicals on these matters has now come back to haunt them.

    As I noted in a comment below, I didn’t leave conservative evangelicalism because I thought that the Protestant mainline or progressive evangelicals had a better take on Christian orthodoxy. Rather, I left because guys like Mohler, Burk, and Strachan have created a culture within evangelicalism that’s become increasingly mired in its own kind of political correctness, and in which open and honest discussion are all but impossible. Meanwhile, leaders who know better (e.g., Tim Keller, Mark Noll, etc.) have been slow to criticize this development, probably out of fear of losing standing within the broader evangelical movement.

    While I don’t entirely agree with Pete Enns, I respect the fact that he broke from the Maoist group-think that pervades evangelicalism and opened up needed discussion on a number of topics, and showed that the truth is often not as clear and straightforward as our pragmatic needs may demand. But isn’t that what faith is all about? In short, I left evangelicalism because I wanted to renew my faith in and love for Jesus Christ. Evangelicalism had ceased to draw me closer to the Savior, so I did what any right-thinking Christian should do. I got out.

  • Physiocrat

    I’m not as familiar as the author with the actions of self described evangelical parachurch movements from the 80s onwards but I fail to see why self-flagellation in public of actions which you didn’t commit (unless of course you did) is necessary in forwarding a theological statement. That said the main problems with these sorts of statements is exactly what the purpose and the audience is supposed to be which is clearly at issue here

  • Sometimes people who are into theology or ideology overthink things. And I think that is the case here. Too much time is spent trying to read as much into the Nashville Statement as possible as if one was on an Easter Egg hunt.

    What I see in the Nashville Statement is an urgency to address a sexual morality shift in the Church. The reason for the morality shift is because we lost a culture war and opposition is now occupying, in a military way, our cultural outlets. Their occupation is exerting pressure on Christians to compromise either their sexual practices or views on sex, sexual orientation, and/or gender identification. The urgency seen in the Nashville Statement means that the statement, as important as it sees itself, is not put in a way as to have the authority of a creed or set of confessions.

    When one compares the Nashville Statement with the Denver Statement, yes, Denver has a statement (see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2017/08/the-denver-statement/ ), the basic difference between the two views of sex and mankind is that while both acknowledge that people sin, the former sees human nature as having fallen and thus it needs God’s revelation to direct it and the latter sees human nature as not having fallen and thus people’s new discoveries and creations should be celebrated.

    The weakness of the Nashville Statement is Article 10 itself. For it somewhat suggests, not implies, that Christians must oppose full equality for the LGBT community in society–to do otherwise would be to support homosexual immorality. Thus, there is this association of a biblical teaching on sex with attempts to marginalize the LGBT community by denying them full equality in society. This puts Millennial believers in a bind seeing that they view attempts to marginalize others as serious sin. So they are made to choose between biblical teachings on sex or supporting the marginalization of others. With the latter raising their post modern red flags, Article 10 might just provide an immediate cause for some Millennial Christians to compromise clear biblical teachings on sex. Should note that some already have.