Last week I called the Nashville Statement a “disaster.” Even if one affirms the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, this statement seems unusually divisive. (I thought Al Mohler’s defense of the Nashville Statement in this weekend’s Washington Post took a less strident tone). Over at Facebook I compared the Nashville Statement to other attempts by conservative evangelicals to define who is an evangelical and who is not. I am thinking here of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Evangelical Affirmations meeting of 1989. I was an observer at the latter meeting while I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and I saw fierce debates over whether or not an affirmation of biblical inerrancy was a marker of evangelical identity. I also watched an attempt to keep John Stott from the evangelical fold because he believed in annihilationism. Many of the signers of the Nashville Statement were also in the Arnold T. Olson Chapel in Deerfield, Illinois on that Spring day in 1989.
Last week at the Pietist Schoolman, Chris Gerhz described the Nashville Statement as “theology for the age of Trump.” I affirmed his decision to describe the statement in this way. Many people who signed the statement or who were sympathetic to the signers, took offense to this. They argued that a significant number of signers did not vote for Trump in 2016. Fair enough. But as Gerhz’s recent post suggests, such a response misses his point. Here is a taste of that post:
It’s clear that the title of the post (“The Nashville Statement: Theology for the Age of Trump”) has been a stumbling block for some. Lamentably but understandably, they don’t necessarily want to read two thousand words’ worth of my musings. Incorrectly but understandably, they read the title and nothing else, assuming that I’ll simply dismiss the signers as Trump apologists, or John Fea’s “court evangelicals.”
I did try to head this off in the post. While noting that one prominent signer is Trump supporter James Dobson, I added that the list also includes Trump critics like Moore and Piper. (In retrospect, I should have added Burk to that list.). But if I wanted to bring more light than heat to the discussion, I should have stated that point even more forcefully before trying to place the Nashville Statement in the context of an “Age of Trump.”
So let me try to sum it up this way:
The Nashville Statement is meant to stand up against “the spirit of our age” on matters of sexuality and gender. But the way it is written actually evokes the angry, merciless, divisive discourse of our age — whose problems don’t start or stop with Donald Trump, but certainly are exemplified by him.
Bart thinks that some of us critics of the statement raised “mincing and squeamish complaints” about it. Recognizing that I am naturally averse to confrontation and conflict and perhaps too quick to cry “Peace, peace,” I nonetheless stand by my conviction that Christians should always write as winsomely and irenically as possible. Even when it’s absolutely essential to draw a doctrinal “line in the sand,” it should be with the intention of persuading people to join us on our side of that boundary, not of keeping them separated.
So no, the signers are not all Trump backers. (I don’t think most have made their politics clear, either way.) But in their attempt to present an evangelical witness in the year of our Lord 2017, I think it would have behooved the authors of the Nashville Statement — like any of us writing for a public that is inevitably bigger than the intended audience — to have gone out of their way to communicate in as un-Trump-like a manner as possible.
Read the entire post here.