Matthew Lee Anderson on the Nashville Statement

Some of our readers may have heard of the Nashville Statement, put out by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The statement advertises itself as a defense of Biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality, yet fails to address some of the most serious threats to the sanctity of marriage, precisely because the Southern Baptists have already surrendered to the spirit of the age on divorce, reproductive technologies, and the like.

In a series of tweets this morning, Ryan Anderson pointed out one of the problems at the heart of the statement: its drafters’ failure to articulate in full what Christianity teaches about the virtue of chastity:

I will be interested to see if Denny Burk and others from the CBMW take the time to respond to Ryan’s question. I will not prejudge their answers, but given the other ways in which the Nashville Statement fails to articulate what the Bible teaches about marriage, it would not surprise me to find that they neither understand what the virtue of chastity is nor are able to articulate what it requires in marriage.

Matthew Lee Anderson (no relation) has a very good, in-depth response to the statement that spells out why he will not sign:

The failure of this document, then, is (again) not merely rhetorical. The omissions are as significant as what it explicitly includes. Nor do I think those omissions are merely a matter of differing prudential judgment about what our times require: I have described the statement as failing to meet the minimum conditions for public judgment, because I think there are actual Bible verses that indicate as much. While evangelicals practice self-loathing more than they ought, a statement from churchmen that asserts that a particular view of sexuality is essential to the faith mustacknowledge our own complicity and entanglement in the very spirit that is being denounced. Otherwise, it fails to bear the authority of the Gospel it proclaims, an authority which stems from the confession of our sins and the proclamation of Christ’s saving work. Such a dual announcement is the necessary and indispensable precondition for our judgment of the world. The absence of such a confession leaves the affirmations and proclamations withering on the vine, without the grace and life of humility which allows us to see that we, the evangelical churches, have helped make this world as well. If the confidence and courage that the statement enjoins sound forced or hollow, this is why.

It’s one of the best essays on how Christians should respond to the sexual revolutions I’ve seen. Please check it out.

13 thoughts on “Matthew Lee Anderson on the Nashville Statement

  1. As good as Anderson’s points are, there is no social momentum in the direction he wants Christians to go. The best case scenario is that evangelicalism becomes even more of an upper middle-class lifestyle choice – just a pleasant suburban family orientated sub-culture that only a certain type of person can really feel at home in.

    Next month I’ll be going to a SSA conference to hear the very sensible Sam Allberry say blandly uplifting stuff about the struggle and… I can’t do it anymore. Evangelicalism is too culturally narrow, tribal and suffocating.

    • Exactly. If the Nashville Statement suggests anything, it suggests that evangelicalism has become a cultural tribe for middle-class white people with kids who have opted for an “Ozzie and Harriet” social narrative. Its leaders have even ceased trying to make intellectually and theologically consistent defenses of the movement’s positions. They just shout them louder, and proclaim that those who disagree with them are heretics.

      Both Andersons are correct, and Carl Trueman made the same point a while ago: You can’t reasonably hold same-sex couples to a marital standard that you long ago stopped applying to opposite-sex couples. Then, again, if you spend any time perusing the blogs of the CBMW crowd, you could easily get the idea that men are saved by properly performing “biblical masculinity” and that women are saved by submitting to them. For the CBMW crowd, gender roles and the Gospel have become synonymous. That’s why the document contains nothing resembling consistent Christian reasoning. It’s a document about gender roles, not a document about Christian marriage.

  2. I have read and reread MLA’s piece. He appears against IVF, contraception, divorce, and the church not necessarily in that order. Actually, I’m not sure what he’s against! I find myself as one of the comments:
    “I ain’t smart enough to follow your reasoning. I think there is a lot of context for your thought that is found elsewhere, and is wired into the walls of your construct. I’m glad you have a deeply held, deeply considered position… but I can’t tell what it is by reading this. I’ll hang back for a few years and will continue reading your posts and your books.”

    • Indeed Rosa, who isn’t against hypocrisy. But we are all hypocrites in one area or another. That’s for another day. Yet, even MLA acknowledges that the Nashville Statement is “a succinct depiction of the theological boundaries on these issues.” He should have just agreed as did many other respectful fathers of the faith.
      By coming out against it MLA he does two things that are disagreeable to me. Firstly, he maligns these men of faith and indirectly lends support to gay lobbyists by lessening the Statement’s relevance methinks.

      • The second issue Rosa is the purpose of this Statement which he misses — the unprecedented CRISIS and its implications for EVERYTHING — namely, this “period of historic transition.” Matthew must wake up to this shocking new thing. Is there anything new under the sun? YES Solomon there is. It is to abolish gender!
        Never in history have we seen such a thing! Never before have we seen a counter creation of mankind. In Canada, where I live, passports, birth certificates etc. are being issued with a category for gender as “other”! Mothers at the birthing clinic where I work are demanding that at the birth of their child the doctor/nurse NOT declare any gender for their baby! A Christian university faces litigation because it won’t accept same sex marriage.
        WHAT? This has NEVER happened before! Matthew Lee Anderson needs to wake up to the direction “the secular spirit of the age” is going. And it isn’t pretty!
        All those other sins of the church which I agree with him are NOT minor and need addressing bluntly from the pulpits are ALL sins of millennia! THIS IS DIFFERENT. Does Matthew not realize that in New York there are presently 31 genders officially recognized! and moreover gender is defined as fluid. One day this and the next day that depending only on emotion.
        Evangelicals need to draw together rather than have a war about words and realize for our children’s future than we are entering a CRISIS and there needs a single voice in this wilderness of today to speak up to this historic revision of what it means to be human.

  3. I understand your despair given the current status of things. But this situation started with the sexual revolution which was also a crisis to many in the church. The point is unless we are completely, utterly honest denouncing all evil within us and outside us, we are not going to change a thing.
    However God has set His limit. A limit we won’t be able to cross.

  4. Oh Rosa, not you too! While we oppose each other with lofty essays dissecting each word that everyone writes as to what caused what ‘Rome burns’! It is too late to denounce divorce, same sex marriage, premarital sex etc. in our societies let alone our churches where entire denominations have succumbed. The horse is out the gate! Laws exist to spell that out. But gender is still not there. There is hope to delay gender abolition because our leaders are still listening. But will we speak with one voice or will we waste our efforts bickering with one another?
    But, you are right. We need revival which only God can bring. And that has been preceded in previous times by prayer and repentance.

    • I don’t think you understand. At this point is not about changing “the culture” or “society”. It is about starting, triggering, a conversion process within the Church. A conversion back to Christ. But how are we suppose to do this unless we are fully honest with ourselves? Unless we forsake all hypocrisy, seeing and saying things as they are, there is no hope, not for society at large but for the very ones that call themselves Christians.

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