Wailing and Nashvilling of Teeth

Enough time has passed now that I hope we can look at the Nashville statement with some sort of integrity and honesty instead of with some of the vitriol that has been spewed about it thus far. IF you are unaware of it, the statement can be found here. Let me begin by saying that yes, I affirm the traditional and historic understanding of scripture on marriage and same sex relationships. Let me also say that I personally will not be signing the statement, though I do not have a huge issue with those who have. They are not, as a Huffpost writer (unsurprising) called a “brood of vipers” or some sort of modern day pharisee, nor is this, as the New York Times (unsurprisingly) claimed, an attack on L.G.B.T. Christians. These sort of things are not terribly helpful and really only increase tension and division. The Nashville statement is a Biblically defensible understanding of human sexuality, even in the places where I disagree with it. If you are not willing to accept that, then this is likely not something you want to read. I am not going to reprint the articles here, rather I am going to make some comments as a whole and trust that you have, or will, use the link above to familiarize yourself with the statement.

The biggest reason that I will not be signing the statement is that is based heavily in complementarianism. Briefly, this view is that men and women have different, but complimentary roles to play in marriage, and life in general. These roles do not diminish them, nor should they be understood to have any bearing on their standing as beloved creations of God, but it does mean that there are specific roles for each to play. The phrase used to express this is ‘Ontologically equal, Functionally different’. This phrase is often attributed to John Piper in his work “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”. Numerous faithful Christians have this understanding. While I do not share it, I also do not find it to be some sort of attack on anyone. It’s a sincerely held belief that I disagree with and will not partake in.  I personally, as do most Wesleyans, have an egalitarian view of marriage and responsibility. Christian egalitarianism is the view that all people are created equally before God and have equal responsibility to use their gifts in God’s service irregardless of race, class, etc. Alan G Pagett outlines much of this in “What is Biblical Equality”. It’s worth the read and fairly easy to find. That alone would be reason enough for me not to sign the document, even though I do agree with much of what it says.

I also am somewhat troubled by how they present marriage in general. From reading it, it seems as if they are referring to all marriage making no distinction between a Christian marriage and civil marriages that are essentially a contract between two people and the state. While a Christian marriage can be a civil one, a civil marriage is not inherently a Christian one. I tend to defer to Luther in this and his ideas that the church should not trouble itself in the affairs of civil marriage, leaving it to the courts. There is a distinct difference in the covenant of marriage before God and a duly appointed representative of the State changing your tax status. If we, as Christians, believe that Christian marriage is the design of God, then we should not cede the power and authority of the church in declaring marriage to a civil authority to either begin or end such a thing. I do not want to further go down this rabbit hole, but I find it troubling that the document seems to be equating marriage under the church and marriage under the state. Yes, I realize this is not a terribly popular view.

I appreciate that the statement affirms the sacred worth of people to focus on the chosen actions of people. This is the proper approach. I wish that the statement had a better creation theology to it. So much of the current dust up is centered on creation and I felt that the statement was, on the whole, inadequate on this point. It alludes to the fall being the cause for improper sexual desire of all types, but really does not go into why. The whole statement is a bit like this. I would have appreciated it more if there was some type of commentary on how they reached the conclusions of the articles that were put forward. A statement of belief that you can not explain and justify with scripture is not terribly useful by my way of thinking. I know why I affirm the traditional understanding of marriage, but it may not be why the signers of the document do. That is not necessarily a problem, there are often many different ways of coming to the same understanding, but in general, I am wary of attaching my name to something that has statements absent explanation.

On the whole, it is a solid statement that should not contain anything terribly shocking. There is a lot of hyperbole filled rhetoric about it that does not help much of anything, but that is the world that we live in. While I do not agree with it in most places, I do appreciate the approach that Nadia Bolz-Weber took to the Nashville statement. In her response, rather than creating some vitriol filled rant, she instead chose to do exactly what the Nashville statement did, simply make a statement of belief. It’s worth looking at as well, even if you do not agree with it. If nothing else, it is a good example of grace in disagreement on the whole. We could all use more of that I reckon. Where ever you are in belief on this sort of stuff, you should be able to appreciate the Nashville statement, as well as the Denver statement in response, as statements of belief by faithful people doing their best to live out God’s will. No, I do not think that both of these statements could exist in one denomination for example, but I can believe that they are both sincere expressions of faith, even where I find them to be lacking or wrong. If you can’t get that, then it is likely time for some soul searching and asking the really tough question of why it is that you think so little of your fellow Christians that you would accuse them of something other than stating sincere belief that can be backed by scripture. Call the beliefs wrong, feel free, but call them sincerely wrong and stop with the vitriol.

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9 Replies to “Wailing and Nashvilling of Teeth”

  1. Scott, may I place a link to this blog entry in Facebook? There are those in my “friends” list who are posting “a lot of [that] hyperbole filled rhetoric” you mention. This would be a good calming, soothing balm to many.

    1. You are free to share anything I write through social media so long as it links to here. I’m flattered you would do so.

  2. I think it is kind of weird you would not sign the statement for the simple reason of you don’t think men and women were created differently and have different roles. I think that is a small reason to reject a big statement clarifying that Christians don’t believe in sexual perversion, and that God is the one who defines what marriage is.
    But that is a small pushback on your stand. What is completely shocking and sad is what you say about Nadia Weber.
    On one hand you are very precise about your definition of complementarianism, and then in the next instant you are acting like a leftist who is pretending to be a Christian, is reasonable and just has a different view than you!
    In American Protestant Churches today, I think that prosperity theology used to be the biggest heresy by amount of people buying into it. But I think at this point the biggest heresy is the sin of syncretism. What percentage of people who claim to be Christians but are adherents to the new religion of political liberalism? Christians are not supposed to have another religion on the side, and they are certainly not supposed to put another religion before their Christian faith. I estimate the percentage to be 20% of those who claim to be Christian in America are also politically liberal. I think this is the biggest problem facing the church today, and it is barely being confronted, and only in piecemeal fashion, as in the Nashville statement. I read Nadia Weber’s article and if you won’t even bow the knee to God in your view of human sexuality, then you have just sprinkled some Christian scented dust on top of your liberalism to make it seem good and right. She is a religious person but her religion is political leftism.

    1. I do not affirm any statement in it’s entirety that includes significant theological differences from what I believe. I find that rather disingenuous. I prefer rather to make what I believe as truth to be known and let that speak for itself. Frankly I find it weird that others would, but to each their own.
      Nadia Weber is not a prosperity preacher. I agree that the prosperity gospel is indeed a huge issue in American Christianity, but that, and Nadia Weber are not related to each other. I also find no issue with one being a Christian and being politically liberal just as I do not find issue with one being a Christian and being politically conservative. I do think that politics and religion are way to often mashed together however, but that is done by both ends of the political spectrum, not only the political left. So again, I am not sure what point you are trying to make. If you would like to claim that all of the ELCA is not Christian, you are free to do so of course, but I am unwilling to. As Nadia Weber’s theology is within the boundaries of the denomination that she serves, I find no reason to think she is anything other than a Christian, albeit one with beliefs that I find to be heterodox. If you find it shocking that I can respect and appreciate principled opposition to my beliefs then you apparently have not read much of what I have written. What I do not have respect for is the vitriol laced rants of those who are set on character assassination instead of making their own principled retorts respectfully and with logic as a basis instead of emotion. As I have no evidence that Nadia Weber has denied the creeds, I will not go so far as to say she is not a Christian, simply that she has heterodox beliefs. I’d say the same of a Calvinist as well. You throw around heresy very casually, and it is to your detriment. Thanks for the comments however.

  3. The Nashville Statement is a list of
    “WE AFFIRM that…”
    “WE DENY that…”
    Based upon the signer’s religious beliefs.

    Considering we ALL believe in freedom of religion, that is, individuals can believe whatever they want, I find the most objectionable aspect of this is the feeling that the left needs to respond in rebuttal format to the Nashville Statement. The Nashville Statement didn’t say “You must affirm what we believe”.

    HuffPost “Woe to You, Signers of the Nashville Statement”

    NY Times “The Nashville Statement Is an Attack on…”

    Weber statement, “The Denver Statement  – a response to the Nashville Statement”.

    Why is a “response” necessary to another group’s statement of religious beliefs?

    The only reason – Politics.

    The left would not dare challenge the religious beliefs of Islam (even though a majority of them do not support gay marriage either).

    The left is simply ticked-off because they think the Fundamentalist Christians are responsible for electing Trump. The left is driven solely by politics, not religion. They would not be satisfied until the Pope is transgender (although there are some rumors that might have occurred in the past), and all the Fundamentalist Christians are progressive Democrats, supporting Pelosi as U.S. President. So much for accepting diversity, if the diversity doesn’t match their politics.

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