In response to the “Nashville Statement,” a declaration signed by a group of theologians, pastors, professors, and scholars affirming several well-known biblical truths concerning sexuality, one group has issued a statement of their own.
Christians United (CU), which seems to have been created out of whole cloth in order to combat the Nashville Statement, published a lengthy rebuttal.
Following a 605-word preamble, in which CU states that there are “those who resist the Spirit’s leading in various ways and cling to the dogmas and traditions that God is calling us to rethink and reform,” and that despite those who would hold back progress, “all Christians are being called to step out boldly and unapologetically in affirmation and celebration of our LGBT+ siblings as equal participants in the Kingdom of God,” ten “articles” are listed.
We will examine seven of the ten articles. Sections four and five, which will be omitted, specifically deal with transgender individuals. I’ve chosen to omit these and focus instead on the articles dealing with homosexual conduct because my beliefs regarding transgenderism were recently documented here. Section 9 is also omitted because it deals with “gay therapy” for children, which is another essay entirely.
Article 1: WE AFFIRM that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God’s creative work.
WE DENY any teaching that suggests God’s creative intent is limited to a gender binary or that God’s desire for human romantic relationships is only to be expressed in heterosexual relationships between one man and one woman.
Right out of the gate, CU is contradicting scripture. For the sake of argument, we will set aside Old Testament scripture as a resource, and limit ourselves to passages from the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 states: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
In Mark 10: 6-9, Jesus states: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
There are a great deal of LGBT scriptural apologists who have, with stunning effectiveness, twisted biblical condemnations against homosexual conduct into cultural and contextual issues, allegedly superseded by modern understanding.
It’s common to hear verses dismissed as “needing context” or “only relevant to the time period,” but many scholars, Christian and non-Christian alike, have affirmed that the verses dealing with homosexual conduct are not cultural, but eternal.
One of the most thorough analyses of homosexuality in the Bible comes from scholar Robert J. Gagnon, who received his MTS from Harvard Divinity School and his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. His nearly 500-page book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, is a lot to digest. However, in his conclusion, after an exhaustive and even-handed approach to examining scripture, Gagnon writes in part:
Same-sex intercourse is strongly and unequivocally rejected by the revelation of Scripture. Arguments put forth by advocates of homosexuality to undermine the contemporary relevance of Scripture are weak. Scripture does not reject same sex intercourse because of some alleged ignorance of non-exploitative forms of homosexual behavior or genetic causation factors. It does not reject homosexual intercourse because of some misperception that only idolaters in the strict sense could engage in such behavior because of some superstition about defilement and purity. It does not reject homosexual practice, at least not primarily, out of some need to assert the rule of men over women. Rather, Scripture rejects homosexual behavior because it is a violation of the gendered existence of male and female ordained by God and creation.
Many other scholars have come to the same conclusion.
Article 2: WE AFFIRM that God designed marriage to be a covenantal bond between human beings who have committed to love, serve, and live a life faithfully committed to one another over the course of a lifetime.
WE DENY that God intended human romantic relationships to be limited to one man and one woman and declare that any attempts to limit the sacred or civil rights of humans to covenant and commit to love and serve one another is an affront to God’s created design.
Again, this is contrary to scripture. See Mark 10: 6-9, as well as several other verses from the New Testament that specifically speak to marriage as a relationship between a single man and a single woman.
Additionally, by omission, this article implies that not only polygamy, but consensual adult incest are acceptable practices so long as those engaging in such behavior are “faithfully committed to one another over the course of a lifetime.”
Article 3: WE AFFIRM that relationships between fallen humans have suffered great distortions resulting in various forms of infidelity and unhealthy behaviors that contribute to the suffering of humanity. We also affirm that God’s desire is for all humans to enter into loving, sacrificial relationships with one another, whether romantic, platonic, or social, regardless of gender or sexual identity.
WE DENY that the fallenness of human relationships resulted in the multiplicity of sexual orientations and gender identities. Rather, fallenness manifests in the human capacity to function out of hedonistic self-interest instead of the self-giving love in whose image we are created.
This article acts as a permutation of the “cultural context” argument, that the Bible only condemns homosexual relationships that are exploitative or involve pederasty. As mentioned above, many scholars, Gagnon included, have studied this theory deeply, and come to the conclusion that exploitation and pederasty aren’t the drivers of the biblical condemnation of homosexual behavior.
Article 6: WE AFFIRM that LGBT+ Christians are called to live holy and fulfilling lives that are pleasing to God through living in congruence with God’s creative intent for them, and, like all Christians, are called to walk in a rhythm of life that reflects the example of Jesus Christ our Lord.
WE DENY that heterosexuality or binary gender identities are the only legitimate sexuality and gender identities that reflect the natural goodness of God’s creation.
Article 7: WE AFFIRM that one may live proudly and openly as an LGBT+ individual and as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and that LGBT+ individuals must be fully embraced and included in every level of Christian leadership, life, and ministry without exception in order for the Church to fully embrace its call to be the body of Christ. We also affirm Christ’s call for the Church to be one, united in the midst of our diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities, relationships, and beliefs about the same.
WE DENY that teachings on the Biblical interpretation of sexuality and gender identity constitute a matter of orthodoxy and should be a cause for division among Christians.
Like article 5, articles 6 and 7 rely on gymnastic interpretations of scripture that run contrary to mainstream theological understanding.
Article 8: WE AFFIRM that non-inclusive teaching causes significant psychological and spiritual harm to LGBT+ individuals in Christian churches around the world. We likewise affirm that the Church of Jesus Christ is guilty of preaching a harmful message that has caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to face bullying, abuse, and exclusion from their families and communities, and must publicly repent and seek reconciliation with the LGBT+ community for the harm that has been done to them in the name of Christ.
WE DENY that any Christian who perpetuates harmful teachings and refuses to openly dialogue with LGBT+ people is living a life modeled after the faithful example of Jesus.
It’s true that many Christians have treated those in the LGBT community with cruelty. Rather than seek to understand and guide, some Christians would rather condemn and shun without further explanation. This is wrong. However, there are many Christians who preach the word of God as it relates to homosexual conduct with compassion. These people are not perpetuating “a harmful message,” they are preaching a truthful message that is being interpreted as harmful. There is a significant distinction between the two.
Article 10: WE AFFIRM that Jesus Christ has come into the world to bring salvation to all people and through his life, teachings, death, and resurrection, all are invited into redemption through Christ.
WE DENY that Christ rejects anyone from his loving embrace because of their sexuality or gender identity. We likewise deny that homosexuality, bisexuality, queer sexuality, trans* identity, asexuality, or any other queer identity is sinful, distorted, or outside of God’s created intent.
Through scripture, God has revealed a set of guidelines around which a Christian life is to be built. Christians are not perfect, and frequently fall short of the glory of God. However, those who wantonly stray, and are unrepentant in their disregard for God’s law, cannot claim the mantle of Christ. It’s that simple.
One cannot squirm one’s way into Christianity by bending and twisting the meaning of scripture. It’s misguided and inappropriate. The Nashville Statement simply reaffirmed what scriptural Christians have believed for thousands of years — that homosexual conduct is sinful (which is well-explained in the Bible). To act as though it’s a surprise or an attack on the LGBT community is disingenuous.
Lastly, it’s a matter of honest theological record that Christianity and homosexual conduct are mutually exclusive. To don the identity of a Christian while openly practicing sinful behavior is to live a lie.
A note to Christians must be made. We are all sinners, and if we fail to treat each other with respect, regardless of sexual identity, we have failed. Christians must preach the undiluted word of God with compassion and understanding. Condemning homosexual conduct is not synonymous with cruelty toward LGBT individuals.
Having been raised in the church, I have seen both sides of the coin — the cold condemnation of homosexual people, and the clear but empathetic condemnation of homosexual conduct. Christians must strive for the latter, and denounce the former.