The Nashville Statement: A Rebuttal
Regular readers of this site are familiar with my continued confrontation with the unsound and abusive decelerations of “Evangelical Christian” (falsely so-called) Traditionalists towards LGB/T people and particularly as they make reference to trans people. For some of you then, you will have seen before some of the points I intend to make here but for the sake of a comprehensive response, it is necessary. Likewise, you may have seen this preliminary disclaimer but it bears repeating: When I respond to an abusive religious act I do so within the context of assuming the overall theological system for the sake of argument. It would be a futile pursuit and well beyond the scope of my interest to attempt to defeat either the entire Christian worldview, or that particular flavor thereof known as “Evangelical.”
Rather, I make my case within the assumption that the larger theological claims (A creator God for example) and that even within this theology their attacks are unsupported. If you read this from a skeptical, or even atheistic point of view, it’s necessary for you to understand this.
What follows then, are excerpts from today’s “Nashville Statement” issued jointly by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and an outfit called the “Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” made up, as you might suspect, of the usual suspects when it comes to political Phariseeism. This document seeks to be yet ANOTHER manifesto from the Traditionalist position raging against the growing acceptance for the moral free-agency and legal equality of LGB/T persons. A thousand words could easily be written about this crowd’s fixation with this subject above ll others but…I’ve probably written a thousand words about that more than once so I’ll move on to the document at hand this time. Along with each excerpt, a brief rebuttal. I purposely write this before having read anyone elses response so that the thoughts are, insofar as I can make them, my own. Due to the quoting, the article will be considerably longer than usual, about three times as long, I hope you find it worthwhile anyway.
From the preamble:
“As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being.”
No, sirs. Rather Western Culture is increasingly understanding of and accepting of the reality that their are biological exceptions to the general principles of the sexual and gender binary. There is no significant movement towards any philosophy which revises or redefines humanity in general.
“Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female.”
No, sirs. The Biblical witness is not disputed (even by yourselves in other contexts) in that it minimizes God’s concern with our physicality and prioritizes the spiritual inward person. Has not God said “Man looks upon the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart”? Other than Paul’s reference to one’s body as a temple, there’s virtually nothing in the New Testament that can be interpreted as God’s having an overt interest in one’s physical structure. Indeed, later in the Statement you make direct reference (in Article 6) to words of Christ which speak to the exact opposite conclusion.
“The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.”
Here we find the overt telegraphing of the real intent here – to read into Scripture the extra-biblical conclusion that accepting one’s gender identity (or sexual orientation) leads to ruin. The very great many healthy and fulfilled lives of LGB/T persons – many if not most of them Christians themselves – bear witness to the contrary, but because human religious tradition has declared that ruin awaits, it is necessary for the 21st century Pharisees signing this Statement to declare the Bible has said so when it has not.
“This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age?”
How often has the church down through 2,000 years repeated this question to it’s later shame? Especially the SBC? Indeed did not this very question ring from the rafters of churches across the south (and elsewhere) a mere 60 years ago on a different but similar subject? How often will the church repeat the error of assuming that because a concept violates tradition it therefore violates God? Since before the days when Galileo (and others) ran afoul of the Vatican (and others) by saying “and yet, it moves” the church has been repeating this error and still they rush headlong to do so again.
“Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.”
This alludes to the Traditionalist cliche that “God made you (individually) what you are” – this is a persistent bit of pseudo-doctrine that does not stand even a little bit of logical scrutiny. If we assume that every detail of one’s physicality is personally and specifically custom designed for each child by God during pre-natal development, then we are forced to affirm that when a child is stillborn, or born with some horrific developmental defect which causes their death within minutes, that that is precisely the outcome God designed and intended. Do you know ANY one who would agree that this is the case?
Moreover, later in the Statement (Article 6) the writers acknowledge the existence of Disorders of Sexual Development which place some people clearly outside the parameters of a strict sexual binary of the sort the entire statement is designed to defend. Once these conditions are recognized as legitimate and real biological outcomes, then the inescapable logical outcome can only be one of two conclusions:
(a) Either God does NOT custom design every detail of every individual born (with the intent of a strictly binary outcome); OR
(b) God specifically designed these non-binary outcomes which, if true, defeats the entire rational for this Statement.
“We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good.”
I’m just going to leave this right here until I get to Article X. Hold this thought.
From Article 1
“We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.”
So, those of you who got married in any sort of civil ceremony – you’re not really married, according to these folks. In reality, the question of marriage settled by Obergefell is one of CIVIL marriage which is not beholden to or under the authority of any religious authority. These folks are perfectly free to restrict the sacrament of marriage within their individual houses of worship according to any traditions and doctrines they may hold applicable. They are NOT entitled to nor justly empowered to extend their traditions and doctrines to the administration of civil marriage. This is a distinction the Pharisees refuse to recognize.
From Article 2
“We deny that any affections, desires or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage.”
Laying aside the extreme unlikelihood that the signatories of this Statement are uniformly in compliance with this sentence and always have been (there’s a lot of arrogance in the concept of “yes when I was young and foolish I did it too but God forgave me so it’s all good”), If this is a teaching they wish to affirm they are entitled to, but they set up their trap by then denying the person in question a legitimate marriage and ask that person to take on a burden they themselves never have to consider.
From Article 3
“We deny the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth”
Remember what I said about things the church used to teach that they have come to deny now? Yeah, that’s one of them. If they were wrong about this point back then – and they were – why are they so arrogant in their position now?
From Article 4
“The divinely ordained difference between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good…”
Yeah? That’s swell because their is no movement of any significance to mitigate the distinct physical differences between male and female. You are reframing the trans discussion in terms that give you license to oppose it but your terms are a lie. About 1% of the population finds in themselves a gender identity that is incongruent with their outward physical construct, virtually all of those people seek to conform the outward appearance to the inward identity by conforming to the gender binary – simply on the other side of it. A tiny minority of those folks are uncomfortable with either binary classification but even they (with a tiny fringe of exceptions – and if we’re going to talk about a tiny fringe I’ve got a few C”Christian” pastors like Fred Phelps or Kevin Anderson that we need to discuss) are not saying “None of you can be binary, being binary is completely wrong for everyone!” Rather, they are simply asking for your empathy and respect as the deal with the difficulties in their own life.
Also? According to your own creationist dogma, NONE of us perfectly reflect God’s creation design as described in the Eden story because of an event known as The Fall with which I believe you are familiar. Adam and Eve, insofar as the Bible describes, were perfectly healthy without any physical defect. And yet we know that no human exists who can be described thus. The Bible says they were innocent in that they had no need even of clothing – yet there you stand, not only dressed but prepared to be outraged at any sign of nudity. So let us dispense with the deception that just because a state of being existed in Eden it is therefor rigidly incumbent upon all post-Eden humanity.
From Article 5
“We affirm that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self conception as male and female”
Now we’re getting into the meat of it. In the very next Article you acknowledge the existence of people born in a physical state that is an exception to this binary arrangement you here insist upon. IF in point of fact a clearly binary “reproductive structure” is indispensable for one’s self understanding as male or female, then whence comes any gender identity or role for intersex persons? And if in fact you acknowledge the legitimacy of these exceptions to the rigid binary, from whence comes the insistence that trans people cannot possibly represent a different manifestation of “exception”? I’ll tell ya whence – from human tradition. The statement goes on to deny “that physical anomalies…nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception.”
Essentially this fully admits that they know full well what the counter-argument is and the only response they can muster is “is not!” To be clear, no one suggests that the existence of intersex person – or trans persons – proves that the typical congruence between physicality and gender identity is illegitimate or not normative. What it DOES demonstrate, indisputably, is that exceptions exist.
From Article 6
“…those born with disorders of sex development are…acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about ‘eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb'”
And THIS, folks, is how you know that these are not men making an innocent mistake of hermeneutics but people deliberately and with malice aforethought misusing Scripture to serve the purpose of defending a human cultural tradition. The walk right up to the single most crucial passage in all of Scripture for determining God’s view of trans people and selectively quote it while ignoring the rest. That verse (Matt. 19:12) goes on to say that some eunuchs are “made that way by men” and others “made themselves eunuchs.” Now, it is true that a eunuch in the Biblical sense is not entirely a perfect analogue for a modern trans person but it is very close. As noted in the statement, the first group would seem to be intersex person, but the second group – whether made by force or voluntarily – are surgically modified persons who do not play the social and cultural role expected of one of their birth sex. And the third group, while traditionally assumed to be those who’d taken a religious vow – this is only a retroactive assumption. Christ does not make further comment which would clarify that. Jesus goes on to say “accept them” but the 21st Century Pharisees wish to pick and choose which they will accept.
Bonus point – the God these people profess to serve himself ordered an entire people group to enforce upon all males a surgical modification of the “god designed” reproductive organs. Likewise the same God ordained as a prophet and a Scripture writer a man who, by virtue of his position at court, was most certainly a eunuch. Hmmm.
From Article 7
“…that self conception as male or female should be defined by God’s Holy purposes in Creation and Redemption as revealed in Scripture.”
Nothing in Scripture describes any such purpose at odds with sexual transition. The typical tactic is to default to reproduction (which has nothing to do with the doctrine of redemption) but this dodge falls apart when one notes the absence of condemnation for, for example, voluntary sterilization.
From Article 8
“We deny that sexual attraction for the same sex is a part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation…”
And? Neither is divorce. Neither is, say, diabetes or autism. So what? Post fall, remember?
From Article 9
(nevermind – circular reasoning)
From Article 10
“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.”
There are actually 14 articles but I’m going to conclude with this one because I do not want any reader to miss the gravity of this statement. These men have written, and mostly men (and a few women) have attested their name in affirmation, that complete rejection of trans identification and same-sex relationships is AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF SALVATION.
Are you getting this? If you accept an LGB/T person YOU CANNOT BE SAVED.
Laying aside difference of organizational structure there appears to be about 40 different distinct variations of Christian belief. Certainly their are a number of major groups with readily identifiable doctrinal difference which, for the most part, Christians “agree to disagree” about, including numerous behavioral matters.But let me take just one. There are a number of distinct and contradictory doctrines within the body of Christianity about how an individual is redeemed to God.
The Church of Christ, and the Charismatic doctrines, and the Baptist, and the Catholic and the Presbyterian formulation and more – cannot possibly be reconciled collectively into a single unified doctrine of salvation. Yet you guys are not at constant warfare declaring all others to not be legitimate Christians if they do not share your position (some do, but not all of them).
So – and I want to direct this question specifically at the authors – it is your argument that God Almighty in his wisdom communicated in such a manner about the single most important doctrine in Scripture that disagreement about it is tolerable, BUT he communicated so VERY clearly about his view of the penis that to dissent from that doctrine puts one outside the sphere of legitimate Christianity? Remember that quote from the preamble about “God’s way of salvation”? Shouldn’t there be unanimous consensus on what exactly that is before you presume to lecture people on their innate identities?
I have my doubts, sir, that your motivation here is in any sense the desire to honor the revealed will of God as faithfully as possible. With all due respect, one does not have to be a theologian to see the obvious and unmistakable errors in your case. That being the case, one is forced to speculate about your true motives. But I’ll leave that speculation aside for another day.
In conclusion – I’m willing to recognize that the verses related to homosexual activity are open to a variety of interpretations, among them your hardline view; I’m certainly willing to acknowledge the verses supporting the strict marriage confines of sexual activity (to the extent that I acknowledge various other standards which are imperfectly applicable to humanity such as the standards for divorce); and in contrast I’ve yet to see any of you make even a vague and shaky case using sound biblical exegesis for classifying being trans, or transitioning, as sinful. However, the unmitigated arrogance of declaring that those who interpret these passages differently from yourselves are by definition not Christians at all is breathtaking. If there had ever been any doubt that modern American traditionalist Evangelicalism (and their political allies) are firmly committed to the path of the first century Pharisee, rather than Jesus Christ – this Statement firmly removes those doubts.
May God have more mercy on you all then you are willing to extend to those with whom you disagree.
Photo by: Elvert Barnes