For some years I have been convinced of the need for a Church-wide theological statement on sexuality. In fact, I actually wrote one that never saw the light of day. I was glad, therefore, to be invited to a day-long analysis of the proposed Nashville Statement, which appeared in public a few days later.
Though some of us urged the inclusion of biblical references, this statement faithfully reflects the Scriptural teaching on human sexuality. This basic statement of biblical truth is crucial in our day of biblical ignorance. Since many evangelicals now use egalitarianism (no difference between males and females) as the basis of their normalization of homosexuality), this text is a necessary follow-up to the Danvers Statement on male and female roles. Christians must state with clarity and simplicity, as this text does: the essential nature and dignity of human beings made by God as male and female; the goodness of marriage between one man and one women for human flourishing; and the essence of the Gospel in the love of Christ, the bridegroom, for his bride, the Church (stated so powerfully in 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.
The Preamble states clearly why this statement is needed. It correctly speaks of a massive revision of what it means to be a human being…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.
The immediate outpouring of negative reactions from those both outside and inside the Church, shows how right the Preamble is in contrasting a biblical worldview with the current cultural thinking.
The Rev. James Martin, a well-known Jesuit Catholic priest, and adviser to the Vatican on communications, wholly embraces this lifestyle as pleasing to God. He states: “I affirm that the Father loves LGBT people, the Son calls them and the Holy Spirit guides them. I deny nothing about God’s love for them.” We certainly affirm the availability of God’s redeeming love for homosexuals, but we cannot affirm that their lifestyle is led by the Holy Spirit.
One Evangelical, John Pavlovitz (who has clearly adopted the principles of the progressivist culture described in the Preamble), thinks the statement proves that Evangelical Christians know they are at the precipice of extinction—and, in panic, by this statement, are trying to regain mastery over the culture they once controlled. “We’ve chosen to wage cheap war on innocent and vulnerable people [homosexuals] in order to feel mighty again.”
Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, in an essay for The Huffington Post, stated: “Their public audience shrinking, their public presence waning, and their credibility shot to hell, the Christian right needs attention.”
Though such reactions generally come from a radical element within the Church, they reveal the divisive context of contemporary culture. Such statements as those of Martin and Pavlovitz will doubtless be received by the culture at large, and by the LGBT movement in particular, which will lead to untold accusations of bigotry and hatred as qualities of any who endorse the Nashville Statement.
No statement is perfect and, while I signed it with full and heartfelt acceptance as a fair statement of biblical truth, the Nashville Statement could have been strengthened by affirmations that speak directly to the volatile cultural situation mentioned above. By that I mean statements that root the biblical view of sexuality firmly in the Bible’s cosmology—what I call Twoism. God structured the cosmos on a principle of distinctions within unity, reflecting the very nature of the Trinity. The Bible presents a heterocosmology, not a homocosmology—a created universe based on “otherness,” not “sameness.” That primary “otherness” is between God and His creation. Within the creation there are many distinctions that witness to that ultimate distinction – between animals and humans, for example, and (supremely) between male and female persons. This cosmic fact is true for everyone.
In that sense, the Bible’s view of sexuality is not motivated by small-mindedness, unloving moralism, discrimination, violence, and bullying, as its critics claim. Biblical sexuality comes from a theistic understanding of the universe, deeply rooted in the being of God Himself, which is the ground zero of existence. We are made in His image, male and female, to reflect His image of unity in distinctions, as ultimately expressed in the Trinity. Homosexuality is not only “sinful,” but, as Paul says in Romans 1:26, “unnatural.” It is not “unnatural” just because most people don’t understand it or don’t identify as homosexuals. It is unnatural because it is out of order with the physical cosmos as God made it. It is thus both a rejection of the natural world and of God himself, who is both moral judge and intelligent Creator of all things.
As an example of possible changes, I would have added to article 3, which states: 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:
“reflecting the Trinitarian being of God in unity and distinction.” I would have made this article 1 rather than the present article 1 which begins with Christian marriage.
In article, 7 which states: WE DENY that approval of homosexual or transgender identities is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption,
I would have added:
“On the contrary, the approval of such identities glorifies the embodiment of an unholy notion of god; homosexuality and transgenderism are a kind of physical picture, an image, of a god indistinct from creation—the god of pagan pantheism—and thus constitute a sinful refusal of God’s revelation of Himself in creation and redemption as the God who is other.”
The Nashville Statement clearly places in public view the biblical teaching on sexuality in a time of enormous sexual experimentation and ideological confusion. To be specific, we are now seeing two areas of human life merging, namely sexuality and spirituality. On the one hand, the West is adopting ancient Eastern paganism, which is full of Oneist (All-Is-One) notions of spirituality that reject the Creator and find the god within. On the other hand, the West is embracing the ageless practices of pagan sexual license, by which people define and practice at will their own sexual identities—again, in rejection of God the Creator. The church must understand how deeply these two practices are related, both in the past and in the present, in order to show how biblical heterosexuality witnesses to Scripture’s revelation of the transcendent God, the Creator and Redeemer of Twoist reality. Those who believe we are reacting in panic only show their failure to understand the spiritual shift in our culture. The stakes are enormous and the times are desperate, but God is on His throne. Thanks to the Cross of Christ, neither His creation nor His Church will fail.