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Topics: Nashville Statement and LGBT issues, The Nashville Statement

Symposium: The Nashville Statement and a Measured Hope (Rosaria Butterfield)

August 28, 2018
By Rosaria Butterfield

[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.]

When the original signatories affixed their names to the Nashville Statement one year ago, we did so with a measured hope. We hoped that Biblical clarity would mend and strengthen God’s people. We hoped that fidelity to the truth would deepen ecumenical brotherhood. We sought to honor God, encourage faithful Christians to hold fast to biblical faith in times of trial, and call those who do not yet know the Lord to faith in Christ. Many of us came to the table as refugees from distant lands. Some of us had formerly hated God, trampled the blood of Christ, and mocked God’s people. What amazing grace it was that brought us into the family of God. The Nashville Statement was born out of hope for clarity and collaboration among God’s people.

Quickly after its publication, this no-nonsense statement that five years prior would have garnered ho-hum yawns on the part of onlookers (presuming they would have looked on at all), ignited a lightning storm of angst and accusation. Much of the argument was over Article X:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

Why was this controversial? Why were self-described evangelical Christians offended? We learned that some evangelicals do in fact believe that these matters are issues about which Christians can agree to disagree. We also learned that there was resistance — even in evangelical circles — to identifying homosexuality as sin. And yet, sin is discerned from God’s point of view, known only from His revealed, inspired, and inerrant Word. Sin and grace, like other binarisms, were out of favor. Believing that you can know truth, and communicate it, was now considered bumper-sticker biblical hermeneutics, or even worse, spiritual abuse. After Obergefell in the wider culture, the idea that  homosexuality was a sin was up for grabs. Who’s to say? Who’s to judge? And such uncertainty had made its way into the evangelical movement.

How glad I am that a group gathered and grieved and prayed and drafted, and that the Nashville Statement came into the world. How grateful I am that I signed it. I am grateful for the clarity that this conflict has produced, for the lines that have been drawn, for the prayer and fasting and return to Biblical clarity that has been launched. These are good days, even if they are hard. And conflict reveals what the status quo conceals. The gospel is on a collision course with homosexuality as a category of personhood. But the gospel also offers hope to those who find themselves at the intersection of this conflict. As Article XIV states,

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.

WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.

This is the hope that we have come to know, and it is the hope that we bore witness to in the Nashville Statement. Our hope and prayer are that many more will come to know the Savior as a result of the church’s clear testimony to these truths.

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