Keeping Christianity weird: Why the Nashville Statement matters


There is an apocryphal saying often attributed to Martin Luther that says this:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

And there can be no question that some self-identified evangelicals have been “flinching” in recent years when it comes to Christianity’s 2,000-year old teaching about gender and sexuality.

{mosads}This summer, the Pew Research Center released a survey showing a dramatic change in attitudes among evangelicals concerning gay marriage. The study revealed a widening difference of opinion between older and younger evangelicals. According to Pew, nearly half of white millennial evangelicals now approve of gay marriage.

The Pew survey confirms a trend that many of us leading churches have already observed anecdotally to be true. A rising generation of self-professed Christians no longer believes what the church has always believed about the nature of marriage and about God’s special design of male and female. These issues of sexual morality and personal identity have always been central to the Christian faith, yet now they are being abandoned by some even within the evangelical movement.

This crisis of belief among evangelicals has deep roots that long predate any of our current debates about gay marriage. There has been a softening of marriage norms among evangelicals for many decades now, and this is perhaps seen most clearly in the movement’s long acquiescence of the divorce culture.

We lament rampant pornography, sexual sin, and the lack of church discipline that has afflicted our own ranks. This declension has deep roots in the sexual revolution and modernity’s embrace of autonomous individualism and of the notion that the meaning of life is self-determined rather than God-determined.

In short, we are seeing that cultural trends are eroding evangelical integrity on issues of sexual morality, and it is time for evangelicals to get their own house in order. Instead of “flinching” at these pressure points, it is time for believers to recover and reassert what Christ’s church has always believed.

That is why a group of pastors, theologians, and ministry leaders met in Nashville, Tennessee on August 25 to finalize and endorse The Nashville Statement — an evangelical manifesto of Christian conviction about sexuality and gender. It was not our aim to say anything new but to bear witness to something very ancient. As we declare in the preamble:

“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.”

For us, Christianity is more than a set of rules. It is an all-encompassing view of the world and of our place in it under God. It is the good news that — even though we are all sinners — God loves us and has set upon a rescue mission through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus. We cannot rescue ourselves from fallenness and judgment. We can find rescue only by putting our faith in the rescuer Jesus, who is remaking his people and his world into their primeval perfection.

We understand that such Christian confession sounds strange to modern secular ears. After all, at the heart of all this is the conviction that a once dead Jew is the world’s true King. We are accustomed to being regarded as strange and countercultural. For the orthodox, keeping Christianity weird is what we have always done. It is what we must always do if we are to be the salt and light that Jesus calls us to be.

The Nashville Statement is not a culture-war document. It is a church document. It stakes out no public policy positions. It advocates for no particular piece of legislation or political program. Rather, it was drafted by churchmen from a variety of evangelical traditions who aim to catechize God’s people about their place in the true story of the world. And fundamental to that storyline is our “personal and physical design as male and female.”

The Bible begins in Genesis with a marriage and ends in Revelation with a marriage, and that is why the nature of marriage is fundamental to our story as well.

You may be asking, “If the Nashville Statement is simply a Christian confessional statement, then why has it dominated headlines this past week? What’s so newsworthy about that?” Truthfully, we too have been astonished by the amount of attention this has gotten in the press. It does not seem all that newsworthy to reassert what the church everywhere has confessed for the last 2,000 years.

But we are okay with the attention because we believe that God’s design for his world and his people is not bad news but good news. We all stand in need of grace. This story of sin and repentance, faith and forgiveness is my story too. It is our hope and prayer that everyone who reads The Nashville Statement will find it to be their story as well.

Denny Burk is the president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (, the organization that led the effort to produce The Nashville Statement. He is also a professor at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Christianity Christianity and homosexuality Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Evangelicalism Evangelicalism in the United States Gay Marriage nashville statement
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