Last week a group of 150 pastors published what one of them called a Christian Manifesto, entitled The Nashville Statement, detailing in simple terms what the Bible teaches about marriage, sex, sexuality, and gender. Their purpose in publishing the document was to provide a clear and concise bullet point presentation of the biblical stances concerning those issues, since they have taken such a dominant role in the American culture in the forms of entertainment, politics, and even legislation. As one would expect, the Nashville Statement has been met with a great amount of opposition from this American society that so aggressively touts its tolerance and inclusion of people with all varieties of opinions and worldviews.
While reading some of the responses to the Nashville Statement I have found no shortage of people who do not identify as Christians decrying it as evil and intolerant. However, I don’t think that there is a reason to spend much time responding to their objections because I think it’s expected that they would disagree with biblical stances concerning these topics and many more. If that weren’t the case then they would be Christians, right? However, I do think it’s ironic that so many of them are willing to so quickly label the Nashville Statement as evil and wrong, which are words synonymous with sinful, because they’re angry that the Nashville Statement claims that their views of marriage, sexuality, and gender are sinful according to the Bible. It seems that those particular detractors reserve for themselves the right to make moral judgments about other people’s beliefs while refusing to extend the same right to those who believe contrarily to them.
It seems that those particular detractors reserve for themselves the right to make moral judgments about other people’s beliefs while refusing to extend the same right to those who believe contrarily to them.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this conversation is to be had between the professing Christians who disagree concerning the validity of what was written in the Nashville Statement. While there is clearly a large portion of conservative evangelicals who affirm the Nashville Statement’s biblical stance concerning these issues, there are other self-proclaimed “leaders” within the so-called Christian community, like one Brandan Robertson, who have said things like, “Conservative evangelicals…polute the image of Christianity as one that is exclusive, condemning, and archaic.” It is worth noting that the Nashville Statement was signed by many nationally recognized and respected pastors from within the Christian community, such as John Piper, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Russell Moore, James Dobson, and Paul Nyquist, while the vast majority of the opposing “Christian leaders” who have so vigorously condemned the Nashville Statement remain relatively obscure and unknown within the Christian community.
The fact that people like Brandan Robertson, who is himself described by the Huffington Post as “a pastor and LGBT activist,” would seek to discredit the Nashville Statement because it portrays Christianity as “exclusive, condemning, and archaic,” demonstrates their fundamental misunderstanding of the most basic teachings of Christianity. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That direct quote, recorded in John 14:6 by one of Jesus’ closest friends, made no attempt to hide the fact that Christianity’s message is exclusive. In addition to John 14:6, Matthew 7:21-23 recorded Jesus as having said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus taught that there is an exclusive way, namely himself, that leads to eternal life and a far more inclusive way that leads to eternal damnation.
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus taught that there is an exclusive way, namely himself, that leads to eternal life and a far more inclusive way that leads to eternal damnation. While that might not be what Robertson and those aligned with him want to believe about Jesus, it is imperative that they understand it. They may choose to believe that Jesus was wrong in the exclusive message that he taught, but it is a gross misrepresentation of him to attempt to give his message a more inclusive message than he ever taught. *If you are one who believes that Jesus was simply wrong in what he taught, or that Christianity in itself is false, then I hope you’ll read another blog post that I wrote to tell you how to you can test Christianity to see if it is true.*
The Brandan Robertsons of the world must understand one thing: If Jesus taught an exclusive message of how people can escape an eternal hell and receive eternal life instead, yet they teach an inclusive message that contradicts his, then theirs is the message that is of condemnation – not his. Let me explain. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus preached an exclusive message so that people would know how they might spend eternity with God instead of in a place called Hell. By showing us the only way to eternal life, Jesus also exposed all of the other ways as those that will end in eternal death and devastation, yet his message was not one of condemnation but of hope! His message was this, “You don’t want to spend eternity in Hell! You don’t realize it but you are going the way that leads to an eternity there. STOP! There is only one way to an eternity with God and it is by believing in me. Stop going the way you’re going and go this way instead!” Did you hear the bigotry and hatred inherent in that message? No. You may have heard love and concern, but you most certainly did not hear hatred, bigotry, or condemnation. In contrast to Jesus’ message, any message that would encourage people to continue the road that he so clearly labeled as one that leads to Hell is a message of incredible condemnation, regardless of how good it made its recipients feel in the moment.
“You don’t want to spend eternity in Hell! You don’t realize it but you are going the way that leads to an eternity there. STOP! There is only one way to an eternity with God and it is by believing in me. Stop going the way you’re going and go this way instead!”
In sum, the Nashville Statement merely restated what Christians have believed for thousands of years, based on Jesus’ clear teachings about the one exclusive Way to heaven. Therefore, one or both of the following options must be true of everyone who has found the Nashville Statement so very repulsive: 1) They have not actually read the Nashville Statement and have relied solely on the opinions of other people, or 2) they simply do not understand that Jesus’ exclusive message was one of hope – not condemnation. Those who seek to massage the Christian message into a more inclusive one than was the message that Jesus actually taught serve only to wish for a safe and prosperous journey for those who are traveling the way that Jesus said leads to eternal death and destruction. Those well wishes are the ultimate form of condemnation. In contrast, the pastors who signed the Nashville Statement attempted only to call the attention of those traveling the way that ends at such a dreadful destination to the fact that there is another way, a right way, that leads away from eternal destruction and toward eternal life. I applaud the efforts of those 150 pastors.