The Nashville Statement made national news this week, even though it represents not a scintilla of change from historic Christian orthodoxy. The document, signed by a globe-spanning, denomination-crossing list of Christian theologians, ethicists, and ministry leaders, calls for fidelity to biblical sexuality. This means that one cannot embrace a homosexual or transgender identity as a believer, any more than one can be an “alcoholic Christian” or a “white-lie-telling Christian.”
The secular pushback to the document was altogether expected. But an article in the Washington Post—bearing the gentle title “Why even conservative evangelicals are unhappy with the anti-LGBT Nashville Statement”—argues that “conservative evangelicals” are opposing the statement. Not many are, it turns out; Katelyn Beaty quotes all of five evangelicals, most of whom agree with the document’s core commitments, but object to its tone. Given that more than 170 men and women signed the statement, things seem a bit overblown on this point.
If It Said the Opposite, the Media Would Tout Its Diversity
Let me give a little context. I’m a conservative evangelical who signed the document, and I’ve rarely seen this much agreement on a theological matter, let alone over a culturally electrified area like this one. James Robison, for example, signed the document alongside John Macarthur. For those not riding the good ship evangelical, that’s like Patriots coach Bill Belichick handing over his practice footage to Jets coach Todd Bowles, or Taylor Swift operating a joint Instagram account with Kim Kardashian.
This is not business as usual, in other words; this is a moment of remarkable unanimity of spirit, akin to the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy or the 1934 Barmen Declaration. Anglicans, non-denominationalists, Pentecostals, Baptists, Presbyterians, charismatics, cessationists—all signed the statement. The group is so diverse, it sounds like one of those “how many evangelicals does it take to change a light bulb” jokes.
Beaty reaches still more strenuously, however, when she tries to link the whole group to Trump. We may need a new Godwin’s Law for our time: anytime a journalist wants to set fire to his subject then walk away without looking back at the explosion, he ties it to Trump and lets it smolder in the fever dens of social media.
But this particular instance of such journalistic mischief is flat-out silly. Yes, some signatories of the Nashville Statement supported Trump—Beaty lists ten, a rather humble counting. (All would furnish thoughtful and even judicious cases for their support, it should be said.) Many did not, however.
Those who did not support Trump during the campaign include the presidents of the two organizations that launched the Nashville Statement. Neither Denny Burk of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood nor Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission stood behind Trump in his presidential bid. John Piper, a key contributor to the statement and the major movement leader of modern-day evangelicalism, spoke out against Trump in the election, as did Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the go-to theologian of conservative evangelicalism.
The list of those who critiqued Trump and signed the Nashville Statement goes on and on; I’ll leave the point here. If the three most important framers of the statement sided against Trump, you’re hard-pressed to pin this as an instance of Those Crazy Evangelical Trump Fans Ruining America Again.
Try Running Some Substantive Critiques Next Time
Beaty is a gifted writer and a thoughtful voice, but her two major claims about the Nashville Statement do not hold up. The Nashville Statement speaks clearly against Christian churches embracing homosexual and transgender practices and identities. This is no innovation; the only newsworthy aspect of the whole matter is the truly unusual cross-spectrum evangelical support for the statement.
Yet it’s not hard to see why a stunning number of evangelicals signed it: like biblical figures themselves, it calls sin what the Bible calls sin (see Deuteronomy 22:5, Roman 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 for starters) while holding out the hope of salvation for every sinner of every kind, however far from God they may be.
It may be worth closing with the final article, Article 14, of the document to illustrate this shared concern of every true evangelical: “WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure. WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.”
Amen. This gospel, which delivers even the worst of sinners from hell, is the real scandal of our age, and every age.