Codifying Arguments

Media is starting to be abuzz as conservative and liberal Christians square off against one another – predictably – over issues of sexuality and gender.  The Nashville Statement was released this week (I presume), as a statement of traditional, conservative Biblical understandings of gender and sexuality and marriage.  In response, The Denver Statement was crafted by a congregation led by ELCA pastor and media sensation Nadia Bolz-Weber.

First off, I question the value of these sorts of statements.  I’d far rather sit down with someone and talk with them about these things instead of just directing them to a website proclamation.  Then again, I’m blessed to be part of a confessional church body.  I don’t have to figure out how to articulate every nuance of theology personally because I’m part of a larger church body that works on this corporately.  Not perfectly, to be sure, but certainly an advantage.  For pastors and congregations without that benefit, I suppose proclamations of this sort become a kind of creedal formulation.

First off, I’m struck by core differences between the two statements.  The Nashville statement appears to be trying to repeat what people see the Bible saying.  The Denver Statement seems to be asserting what people are saying, but not necessarily the Bible.  For instance The Denver Statement claims that “The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for God’s creatures is clearly inclusive of a variety of identities…”  What does clearly inclusive mean?  How is it clearly inclusive, and on what basis?

I’m struck once again by the means by which media and activists strive to paint the various stripes of sexual and gender expression as roughly equal to heterosexuality.  The Denver Statement talks about those who “happen” to be traditionally heterosexual.  However by all accounts, the vast majority of the human population just “happens” to be heterosexual and more or less unconfused by issue of sexual and gender identity.  We’re talking about a very small percentage of people – well under 5% by most accounts.  It’s not just a matter of happening  to be traditionally oriented in terms of sex and gender identity.  It would be far more accurate to speak of the very small group of people who happen to not feel this way for any number of reasons.  And to question whether the assumptions this group has embraced might not be more prone to flawed thinking than the traditional viewpoints.

The Denver Statement denies the Biblical notion of holy sexuality, but on what basis?  Is our personal preference to be the basis for rejection of Scripture (and obviously I’m talking about Christians – I don’t expect non-Christians to accept the Bible as true!)?  Is my personal experience or preference the grounds for rejecting Biblical teaching and insisting on a justification of my experience or preference?  If I gather together with a few other people who share my experience or preference, does that make them any more valid in terms of Biblical revisionism?  Even within my own church polity, the dangers of like-minded people banding together to push their own ideas is always something to be on the watch for!

I think The Nashville Statement does a good job of trying to convey a love for all people without condoning the ideas and practices of all people.  Of course, in a post-rational culture, people aren’t going to be able to discern between the two.  Either you like me and therefore agree with me, or you don’t like me and disagree with me.

I’m all for Bolz-Weber’s insistence on taking the Gospel to those the larger Church is less inclined to reach out to.  I recognize doing so requires some unorthodox approaches.  The trick is always to know what is negotiable and what is not.  What is the Gospel and what isn’t?  How can God’s non-negotiable Word and love be communicated to people without simply deciding that ideas and thoughts and actions and words that contradict God’s Word must be acceptable.  It’s a dangerous tightrope to walk, and it’s one I’m not entirely unfamiliar with.   And it’s a tightrope Bolz-Weber herself seems to recognize, as this sermon from 2015 seems to indicate (follow the link and then click on the sermon entitled A Sermon on the Matrix, the Gospel, and the US Congress).  If politics can experience a repentance, a turning away from sin, why not sexuality and gender?  And why not assume that God the Holy Spirit can and will grant healing and grace and peace in such a decision?

Statements  don’t accomplish this.  Conversations do.  More accurately, the Word of God accomplishes this.  Even when we don’t expect it or don’t even want it.  That’s the glory and grace and power of God at work.


2 Responses to “Codifying Arguments”

  1. Humility in the Wilderness | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] Faith, Culture, Society, Life « Codifying Arguments […]

  2. william b Says:

    “in a post-rational culture,” That right there is a brilliant description of the times we live in.

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