Yesterday the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood issued “The Nashville Statement“. I’m sympathetic with many concerns of The Nashville Statement and I believe many of the statements in the document are well-crafted and fundamentally correct.
Unfortunately, I also have significant concerns with the document and they start at the beginning. In this article I’m going to raise three concerns in response to some excerpts from the Preamble:
As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon 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.
Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?
So what are my concerns with the Preamble based on these excerpts?
First, it fails to distinguish between sex (a genetic and physiological reality) and gender (a socially constructed role). But these are very different (albeit related) topics. Consider: is it part of “God’s beautiful plan” that boys wear blue and girls wear pink? Did God plan for boys to play with toy cars and girls with toy dolls? Are boys supposed to grow up to be policemen and firemen while girls grow up to be secretaries and homemakers?
The last I checked, no Christian creed or statement of belief addressed these topics. And so it seems to me that it is perfectly reasonable for Christians to question various aspects of the social formation of gender roles. Consider one concrete example: if a boy says he wants to wear pink, are his parents capitulating to a “massive revision of what it means to be a human being” by acceding to his request? Perhaps, but it sure ain’t obvious that it’s so.
Second, note in particular how the Preamble associates the “massive revision” with the individual’s voluntaristic will. To be sure, there are some people who conform to that description, most perspicuously those who define themselves as “pansexual”. (E.g. many self-described pansexuals see their own will as determinative of their sex and gender expression at any given moment.)
But many other people (e.g. many gays and transgenders) insist that their sex and/or gender expression is not a matter of their will. On the contrary, from the youngest age they have always experienced a seemingly unalterable attraction to the same gender (or, in the case of a transgender person, a dysphoria with their birth sex).
The case is even more striking with intersex people who exist on a spectrum (genetic and/or physiological) between male and female. Intersex people have a congenital condition according to which they do not conform to “God’s beautiful plan” of being male or female: this condition has nothing to do with the will.
(The document does allude to intersex people; I’ll return to that in a later part of my review of this document. For now, we can just note that their condition is not a matter of the will.)
Consequently, one fails to grapple with the unique ethical and social issues faced by many people in the LGBTQIA community when one attempts to reduce all individuals within this broad coalition to a matter of voluntaristic will.
Third, the Preamble presents the signers of The Nashville Statement as being on the side of the angels in opposition to the “massive revision” of a “world that seems bent on ruin”. As they soberly ask,
“Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age?”
That’s a great question. But before we turn to consider various outgroups, we might begin closer to home.
Let’s consider, for example, the case of individuals who divorce and remarry for any reason other than porneia, an act that Jesus explicitly denounced as tantamount to adultery. Given that standard, the pews of evangelical churches are full of couples that are engaged in adulterous relationships.
As The Nashville Statement speaks boldly against “the spirit of the age,” it’s silence on this topic is nothing short of deafening. Needless to say, the Statement would be far more credible on the issue of “biblical conviction, clarity, and courage,” if it had addressed the problem of divorce and remarriage.