Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 4

Spiritual Warfare Is Serious Business

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. “Come, it’s pleased so far,” thought Alice, and she went on. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
—Lewis Caroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12; 16:25

[B]ecause of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
—the apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:2

 

Key point: Article 2 and many other elements of the Nashville Statement not only affirm God’s plan for humanity but also expose the stark contrast between God’s way and man’s way. The conflict between these two perspectives constitutes the great cosmic battle of the universe.

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

In several recent posts we have been considering various elements of the Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality. This declaration not only seeks to uphold God’s plan; it also exposes just how distant man’s way is from the Creator’s. We see this divergence in many places in the statement, including Article 2.

WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

Note the phrases that describe the two opposing sides in this spiritual fight-to-the-finish:

“God’s revealed will” versus individual “affections, desires [and] commitments.”

The Cosmic Battle

The collision of these two ideas represents what Christian leader and educator Del Tackett calls the great cosmic battle. Did you think the cosmic battle was between God and Satan only? Not so. Members of the human race have the opportunity to choose whether they will follow God’s way or their own—and their own prideful way mirrors Satan’s. An individual is on one side or the other; no one can escape or opt out of the cosmic battle.

Note carefully: Not all sexual activity is sinful. As Article 2 states, “God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.” With this in mind, ask yourself this: What else are “affections, desires, and commitments” but “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”? (See 1 John 2:16 in the context of vv. 15-17.)


Affections, desires, and  commitments that attempt to justify sexual immorality are what the apostle John calls “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” in 1 John 2:15-17.


The divergence between these two opposing sides brings to mind an overlapping conflict—the one between relativism and absolute truth, We have explored this contest frequently in weeks past.

  • Relativism is the idea that everyone can make up and live according to his or her own truth, which, relativism says, is no more or less valid than the “truth” created by anyone else. According to this perspective, truth is subjective; it is inside each person and therefore conforms to individual preferences and whims.
  • Contrast that to absolute truth, which has truth as its object. In other words, absolutes are objective, or outside individual preferences, feelings, opinions, and inclinations. Moreover, absolute truth is based on God’s character and will. As such, it involves principles that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances. Absolutes represent “God’s revealed will,” as Article 2 puts it.

God’s Way or My Way

Best-selling author Frank Peretti also is a riveting speaker who actually performs when he talks. His vocal gymnastics are mesmerizing! Peretti exposes the folly of relativism in this minute-and-a-half clip from his classic message, “God’s Way or My Way.”


With what does relativism ultimately leave you? Just feelings!
—Frank Peretti—


Mr. Peretti has nailed it! Thankfully, he has the courage to point this out forthrightly and without apology. Do we have the courage to openly agree with him? Read on to find out why we must join Mr. Peretti in his affirmations.

Pervasive Misinformation

We find relativism promoted everywhere in popular culture. Not only that, but it has been promoted for decades. Consider this pivotal scene from the 1977 blockbuster Star Wars. Because the term Star Wars became the name for the entire series, this movie later was renamed Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope. Keep in mind the Star Wars movies promote Eastern religious ideas as well as the relativistic concept of “getting in touch with one’s feelings.” In this first Star Wars installment, we vividly see the overlap between these in more than one scene. This clip depicts Luke’s lightsaber training abroad the Millennium Falcon.

So, what about “stretching out with one’s feelings”? Frank Peretti warns against this specifically in his presentation.

Going “with the fuzzies” ultimately will exact a high price, but apparently not in Luke Skywalker’s world. Remember that we don’t live in Luke’s world! Moreover, Luke doesn’t even exist!

Even so, despite the obvious stupidity of essentially blindfolding oneself and fighting according to instincts and feelings, Luke not only successfully fought the remote satellite during his training but also dealt a deathblow to the Empire’s Death Star at the end of the movie. Do you remember what happened? Luke ditched his targeting computer to rely on his feelings and “the Force flowing within him.” You can watch the scene here.

Don’t be taken in! If reality had been allowed to play out, this episode in the Star Wars saga would have been named A Dashed Hope rather than A New Hope. It is, after all, science fiction!


Had reality been allowed to play out, this episode in the Star Wars saga would have been named A Dashed Hope rather than A New Hope.


Human feelings are not reliable guides for life! This isn’t what we hear in our culture, though! Follow your feelings! Only you can determine what’s best for you! If it feels right it must be right. These ideas, as compelling as they are, simply are not true!

Relativism’s Enticement

Despite its gaping flaws, relativism remains popular and widely accepted. We explored numerous reasons why when we began our series on this subject. We do well to revisit that discussion here. The following is a summary. Go here for a more complete presentation.

Why is relativism so attractive?

  • First, it appeals to people’s emotions. The notion that everyone can be right in what he or she believes sounds good and noble.
  • Second, relativism appeals to people’s imaginations. As a philosophy, it offers people the opportunity to create their own world of “reality.” Here’s the harsh truth, though: Visiting Fantasyland with an intention of exiting is one thing, but relativism invites people to live there. Fantasies can’t survive long-term in the real world.
  • Third, social pressure to espouse relativism is extremely intense. This factor has at least two aspects. First, to reject relativism is to reject a belief held by “everyone else.” Who wants to be different from the crowd?
  • Fourth, add to the loneliness of being in the minority the difficulty of taking an unpopular stand. Who among us doesn’t want to be viewed as magnanimous? Moreover, the person who says absolute truth exists has taken a position that makes him or her a target of vicious criticism. It’s ironic, though, that the very people who say no one ought to judge will, in a heartbeat, judge advocates of absolute truth!
  • Fifth, believing in absolutes not only puts a person at risk for vitriol and strong criticism; it also requires a person to think through his or her position and to defend it intellectually, at least in his or her own mind. Put another way, believing truth to be relative is the “PLR”—the “path of least resistance.”
  • Sixth, relativism appeals to human pride. Let’s face it. Anyone making up his or her own truth and following it actually is playing god, even if he or she doesn’t realize it. Either way, it has tremendous appeal!

The Bottom Line

So, Article 2, like just about everything else in the Nashville Statement, places God’s way right beside man’s way and exposes the stark contrast between the two.

Dr. Michael Brown is very much on target in his assessment of the situation. He cites numerous vehement objections to the Nashville Statement from non-Christians; then he says,

The problem [these people are having] is not with the Nashville Statement. It is with the Bible, since the statement only reaffirms what the Bible clearly teaches, namely that: 1) God made humans male and female; 2) marriage, as intended by God, is the lifelong union of a man and a woman; 3) homosexual practice is always sinful in God’s sight; 4) God offers forgiveness for all human beings through the cross of Jesus; and 5) those who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion can be welcomed into the Body of Christ like any other struggling individual, as long as they do not celebrate or affirm that which is wrong.

The way of man is deeply flawed. Some weaknesses are so glaring that, as we have seen, they’re easy to point out.

Are we willing to try to point them out? Are we willing to exercise love and compassion as we do? Are we willing to uphold God’s way over man’s?

If we are, we truly will give our neighbors, family members, and friends in this country and in the world a new hope!

Let these words from Frank Peretti inspire you and encourage you as you take your stand.


When you know the Lord—when you know the transcendent, personal, loving God—you’ve got something that you can carry with you and pass on to your children. Something they can be sure of, solid ground that they can walk on. You’ve got something that is true!
—Frank Peretti—


 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

top image: www.lightstock.com

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 1

Taking a Stand

Anyone who has pored over the arguments for homosexuality…knows they’re rubbish. When the dust settles, the case for accepting and “celebrating” same-sex relationships has never and will never be a rational one. It is emotional, built of beaming stock photos, upbeat music, and a glib disregard for the consequences for children growing up with two parents of the same sex, and the grim reality of the gay lifestyle.
G. Shane Morris

 

Key point: The Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality was signed by scores of Christian leaders and released in late August to restate and affirm what the Bible teaches about human sexuality, being created by God in His image as male and female human beings, and the meaning of marriage. In a day of cultural confusion and ambiguity over what is right and proper with regard to these important issues, it is a much needed statement.

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

At Stand to Reason’s reTHINK Apologetics Conference held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama on April 21-22, 2017, speaker and author Brett Kunkle likened subjective truth to ice cream preferences and objective truth to medicine. These analogies are quite appropriate. Ask five people to name their favorite flavors of ice cream and you may very well get five different answers—but a doctor diagnoses a disease or condition according to what he or she thinks it is, not according to desires or preferences. When surgery is needed, the patient’s well-being, and possibly even his or her life, depend on a doctor who is understanding, yet well-informed about what the problem really is. The doctor, especially, must not shy away from reality!

Jack Benny

This humorous exchange from the Jack Benny radio program airing October 18, 1953, illustrates the problem. The clip features Benny, voice talent Mel Blanc, and actress Veola Vonn.

Unfortunately, Christians often are squeamish—or at least less than confident—with regard to the truth about a great many critical issues today, including sexuality, homosexuality, and the meaning of marriage.

We must be compassionate and loving—absolutely. No one ever has an excuse for hatred or gay-bashing. We must realize that we who never have experienced same-sex attraction are in no less need of a Savior than the most militant homosexual activist. Yet we also need to see that it’s impossible to love authentically without upholding the truth. To uphold it effectively, we must know it and understand it.

Affirming Scriptural Teaching

For these and many other reasons, it’s encouraging that on Tuesday, August 29, a group of evangelical leaders released a statement upholding biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage. The Nashville Statement comes officially from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) also was involved. Like many other confessions and statements in church history, The Nashville Statement bears the name of the city in which it was forged and refined.

Denny Burk

CBMW President Denny Burk cited the following as examples. In early church history, “The Nicene Creed (325), the Constantinopolitan Creed (381), [and] the Chalcedonian Creed (451)” were drafted and released. Burk added, “Even more recently, there was the Barmen Declaration (1934), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), The Danvers Statement (1987), and the Manhattan Declaration (2009).…In each case, the name simply indicates where the statements were drawn up.” (Hyperlinks have been added.)

Established in 1987, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a  mission of setting “forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.”

The Nashville Statement’s Preamble says in part,

[The] secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. 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?

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.


It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.
—Preamble to the Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality—


Pushback

The entire Preamble is available here. It is followed by fourteen articles, each offering an affirmation and a denial. We will consider several of these in future posts, but for now, we should recognize that the drafters and signatories of The Nashville Statement didn’t affirm it for acclaim or popularity. Reaction was both harsh and swift.

    • A headline in the New York Daily News declared, “Evangelical council’s manifesto about ‘biblical sexuality’ and same-sex sin is straight out of the 1980s.”
    • “The Huffington Post” carried this article: “Evangelical Leaders Release Anti-LGBTQ Statement On Human Sexuality.”
    • At salon.com, this article carried news about the Nashville Statement. Here is the headline: “Evangelicals’ bigotry-filled Nashville Statement is denounced for its anti-LGBT message.” The last sentence reads, “The statement was denounced on social media as ‘un-American toilet paper’ written by hypocrites.”
    • Nashville Mayor Megan Barry tweeted, “The @CBMWorg‘s so-called “Nashville Statement” is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry
    • Offended by the name of their city in the name of the CBMW statement, a group of Nashville residents issued what they called the “Accurate Nashville Statement.” The headline of an article about the counter-statement states that it “Embraces LGBTQ With Love to Counter Bigoted Hate.”
    • In an article appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Rex Huppke drew up his own “Chicago Statement.” It declares that while the Nashville Statement says being gay, lesbian, or transgendered offends God, failing to affirm the wide range of differences existing within the human family is what really offends Him. Also offensive to Him, according to Ruppke’s “Chicago Statement,” is overlooking the fact that it is “wildly and dangerously damaging” to tell “LBGT people that they’re sinners, that their identity is wrong, [and] that they’re somehow imperfect.” Moreover, this is “a sin in and of itself.”
    • A group at the House for all Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, issued a counter-statement that sought to refute  CBMW’s declaration point-by-point.
    • A group calling itself “Christians United” issued a statement “In Support of LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church.”
    • Jen Hatmaker, an “evangelical” speaker, author, and HGTV television personality, came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2016. Her beliefs prompted LifeWay Christian Stores in October to stop selling her books. After the Nashville Statement was released, Hatmaker tweeted, “The fruit of the “Nashville Statement” is suffering, rejection, shame, and despair. The timing is callous beyond words.”
    • In response to the Nashville Statement, in a series of tweets, Jesuit priest James Martin issued his own series of articles of affirmation and denial, including this one: “I affirm: That LGBT people are some of the holiest people I know. I deny: That Jesus wants us to judge others, when he clearly forbade it.”

One certainly would expect strong opposition from those who don’t claim to be Christians, but here we see several people describing themselves as both evangelical and Christian expressing their disagreement in the strongest of terms. It’s interesting they so harshly condemn judging others, yet their condemnations against judging also are judgments. In other words, these people are doing exactly what they are accusing the drafters and signers of the Nashville Statement of doing. One wonders if this insight has totally slipped by these individuals.


In condemning the practice of judging others, critics of those who support the Nashville Statement are themselves judging others.


Widespread, Diverse Support

According to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor Owen Strachan,

Owen Strachan

The secular pushback to the document was altogether expected. But an article in the Washington Post—bearing the gentle title “Why even conservative evangelicals are unhappy with the anti-LGBT Nashville Statement”—argues that “conservative evangelicals” are opposing the statement. Not many are, it turns out; Katelyn Beaty quotes all of five evangelicals, most of whom agree with the document’s core commitments, but object to its tone. Given that more than 170 men and women signed the statement, things seem a bit overblown on this point.…

[Actually,]  it’s not hard to see why a stunning number of evangelicals signed it: like biblical figures themselves, it calls sin what the Bible calls sin (see Deuteronomy 22:5, Roman 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 for starters) while holding out the hope of salvation for every sinner of every kind, however far from God they may be.

Brandon Showalter

Writing for The Christian Post, Brandon Showalter authored an article carrying the headline, “Broad Coalition of Evangelicals Releases ‘Nashville Statement’ on Human Sexuality, Identity.” Mr. Showalter points out that the signers are diverse in terms of age, race, sex, and denominational representation. Can Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, leaders from non-denominational churches and ministries, and leaders from “almost every other historic Orthodox Protestant tradition” agree on what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality? The Nashville Statement offers strong evidence in the affirmative, because signers come from all of these groups. The professions represented are diverse as well; they include “theologians, Bible scholars, church pastors and ministry leaders, seminary presidents, college professors, Christian public policy thinkers, and writers.” Moreover, the number of signers continues to grow.

Even though support is broad, the strong opposition to the Nashville Statement, especially from inside evangelical circles—even from a few—underscores one of many reasons the declaration was and is so desperately needed.

Satan is a very cunning deceiver. He doesn’t just mislead people who mean harm, but also people who mean well.

Next time, we’ll explore just how effective a misleader he really is.

Part 2 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.Ownn

Unless otherwise marked, Scriptures have been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

One Scripture, which is marked NLT,  was taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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