Why the Nashville Statement Doesn't Work

If conservative male evangelical leaders (à la Denny Burk, Al Mohler, John Piper, the Gospel Coalition boys) spent as much time and as much effort in combating and constructing doctrinal Statements against sexual assault and sexual abuse in evangelical churches as they do in proverbially beating up LGBTQ+ people, inside and outside the church, with five (count them: not seven but five) hermeneutically-interpreted passages of the scriptures then male evangelical leaders might just regain some respectability, both in the Church and in the State. Alas, we wish in vain, tragically. Jesus uttered not one word about homosexuality; but He certainly did preach about the precious value of children (whom some evangelical men in evangelical churches have abused -- some have even covered up the sexual abuse) and male lust and objectification (and sexual assault) of women. (cf. Matt. 18:1-6, 10; 19:13-15; 18:8-9; 5:27-30)

Regardless, the "issue" of our day, say these men, is the cultural capitulation toward affirming image-bearing LGBTQ+ people, so much so that, not only do these evangelical leaders blog and preach against "the sin of homosexuality," but they find constructing a formal statement -- the Nashville Statement -- a "biblical" must! Because, until the formation of this anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda, we had not one clue that evangelicals view homosexuality as an abomination.

I have only barely begun to address the Nashville Statement. But I want to briefly engage a conclusion written by Dr. Warren Throckmorton regarding Article 12 and the explication of the article from its primary founder, Denny Burk. Article 12 reads (read emphases carefully):
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God [a presumptuous ambivalent term] in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin. (emphases added)
What is "the grace of God"? The authors assume that everyone understands what this phrase is communicating. Is this "grace" an enabling power of God that effects change? Such seems to be an inferential understanding of God's grace given the nature of "pardon" in the text, which effects our right-standing with God, in Christ; and, evidently, grants us an enabling power to put to death sinful desires. Now, I do not dispute the putting to death (the "mortification" of the body, or flesh, cf. Rom. 8:13 KJV) of sinful desires, only the nature of this action in the text.

For example, if "the grace of God" automatically gives or efficaciously grants every believer "the power ... to put to death sinful desires" then why do we still desire to sin in any capacity at all? Moreover, why do straight Christian men still desire to lust after women and fornicate or commit adultery? What is the difference between attraction and lust? We know lust is sinful. Is mere attraction sinful? Furthermore, if this grace is not automatic, and is merely provisional, then why is one aspect of God's grace automatic (forgiveness), while another aspect of God's grace (transforming power to put to death sinful desires) not automatic? But the primary question about dissecting God's grace in this manner is, Where is this taught in Scripture?



The assumption in the text, since the context regards homo- and bisexuals, is that even same-gendered attraction is a sin and can be overcome by "the grace of God." (Can heterosexual attraction be overcome, theoretically, and if not then why not?) I suppose this "grace of God" might include failed methods of the junk science of reparative drive theory of the thinning and dubious "ex-gay" variety. Dr. Throckmorton, quoted at length here, comments:
Whether one affirms same-sex orientation or not, Article 12 is problematic on empirical grounds. First, efforts to eliminate same-sex desires, religious or not, haven't been effective. [So much for the "grace of God."] Burk wrote in his blog post that the Nashville Statement "offers hope" for same-sex attracted people. Based on nearly 20 years of research and clinical experience with [gay, lesbian, and bisexual] people, I believe the statement offers false hope based on wishful thinking. It is the rare person who credibly reports that their same-sex attractions are "put to death." This experience, if it can be believed at all, is the infrequent exception rather than the rule. The Nashville Statement promises much more than is true for the majority of Christians I've encountered who have tried to follow these teachings. For many, the result is discouragement, depression, suicidal wishes, and a rejection of the faith. There is no reason to sugarcoat this. It is a denial of reality to do so. (link) (emphases added)
How long was I expected to wait for this "grace of God" to kick-in before I was no longer attracted to men? At 17 years I finally gave up and embraced reality. How many desperately lonely nights was I supposed to cry myself to sleep, doubting my worth, wishing I were dead? Just when was the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit, by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, going to enable me to no longer be attracted to men, no longer wanting to love and to be loved, irrespective of a sexual context? 27 years? 47 years? The rest of my life? Where's the grace?

Dr. Throckmorton's conclusion is spot on. The reason why Article 12 of the Nashville Statement doesn't work is primarily because it offers a false hope and an unrealistic expectation, disguised as "biblical" under the "grace of God," that it can't deliver. That is deceptive. But I wonder just how easily these heterosexual conservative evangelical leaders sat down to construct this anti-LGBTQ+ statement without the slightest curiosity of how it might affect the LGBTQ+ community. Are they not, though, too busy "defending the word of God" to care how offensive and how hurtful their Pharisaical machinations are to a community of people that has been emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually abused for centuries by their ilk?

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.