[Editor’s note: This post is part of a symposium on the one-year anniversary of the Nashville Statement, which was released by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on August 25, 2017 after a meeting in Nashville hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.]
Throughout the history of the Christian church, faithful believers have stated, defined, taught, and defended the faith once for all delivered to the saints through statements of belief, documents of theological and moral clarity, and confessions of faith. In times of special challenge and tumult, these statements are often more numerous and necessary.
In the early centuries of the church, this pattern was especially clear. The church was called to define and defend the central doctrines of Christianity, and so councils were called and creeds were confessed. Our own era is late modernity, an increasingly secular age. In our time, all of the theological challenges continue, and new moral conflicts arise.
The preamble of the Nashville Statement declares this reality clearly: “As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life.”
This crucial statement of theological and moral clarity is nothing more or less than an attempt to define clearly what the Bible teaches on gender, sex, and human sexuality in an age of unprecedented confusion. A year after the statement was released, I am ever more convinced that the statement was necessary, timely, and right.
A year ago, I gladly signed the document, delivered an address defining these urgent issues, and commended these truths publicly. Just a few weeks later, the Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary adopted the Nashville Statement as an official expression of our beliefs and expectations of faculty. A year later, the opposition to the statement has confirmed the need for the statement. We are living in the vortex of vast moral and theological transformation, and biblical Christianity and the Bible’s vision of human dignity, sexuality, and gender are simultaneously rejected and relativized. The Nashville Statement is so important that, looking over the last year, I really can’t imagine what we would have done without it.
Evangelical Christians defined inerrancy at a most crucial moment in 1978 — forty years ago this year — in the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. In 1987, faithful Christians stood against the cultural tide in adopting the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In 2017, the same spirit and concern produced the Nashville Statement.
The commitment is biblical in spirit, the statement reflects biblical truth in substance, and the language speaks directly to the most urgent questions with Christian conviction. A year later, we already confront new questions, but the clarity of the Nashville Statement is demonstrated in the fact that the document has been understood — both when received with agreement and with disagreement.
The last year has also revealed that some who would depart from biblical Christianity and define these questions for evangelical Christians very differently, have cited the Nashville Statement as the obstacle in their path. This same pattern revealed the importance of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In the case of the Nashville Statement, this confirmation has come very, very fast.
I am thankful to have played a part in the historic occasion of releasing the Nashville Statement and then putting it to work in teaching, public witness, and ministry. I pray that Christ’s church will be found faithful as we bear witness to the gospel and biblical truth. By God’s grace, I pray that the Nashville Statement will be used by God to reveal gospel clarity in this age of confusion.
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