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A Battle for Truth and Holiness
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, September 08, 2017
Alf Cengia

From its inception the church has been in a Battle for Truth and Holiness. I'm no historian but I haven't found too many accounts where the church coasted along smoothly. Most of the great Puritan works were born under tribulations. Often these adversities came from other professing Christians dividing over doctrines.  

It's tempting to think that today is no different; that what has gone on before is just a continuation of the past. In many ways it's true. Yet something seems to have changed. I suspect we're living in prophetically significant times. Like never before (as far as I can tell) the church is facing a convergence of challenges from within.

The integrity of the Bible is under siege. The meaning of inerrancy has been redefined to accommodate scientific dogmas and cultural trends. Christian Scholars challenge the literal reading of Genesis. The doctrine of Justification is under scrutiny, along with the consequence of sin. Planned Parenthood has professing Christian advocates, as do LGBTQ+ communities.

Recently, the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW) released what is known as the Nashville Statement (NS). CBMW drafted Articles in support for biblically derived positions on marriage and sexuality. Following are some examples:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.

WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God's original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.

Signatories to the NS include Russell Moore, John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Ligon Duncan, R. C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, D. A. Carson etc. Predictably, the NS attracted opposition. Christians United - In Support for LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church has formulated a Counter-Statement and a long list of its own signatories.

Opposition to the NS has come from progressive professing Christians like Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, Social Justice Warrior Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Merritt and ELCA Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber etc. There are no shocks here. These people have a low view of Scripture and are open supporters for LGBT+.

The ELCA has long championed homosexual practices. Its ministers and members seem to worship sex (Rev 2:20). ELCA Scholar Barbara Rossing has referred to the "Hermeneutics of Diversity" in an essay. She argues that Scripture should be understood within the context of multi-cultural needs. This means embracing LGBT+.

Rachel Held Evans once suggested that evangelicals are turning the Bible into an idol. In other words they take it too literally. She wrote glowingly of Theistic Evolutionist Peter Enns' polemical book The Bible Tells Me So. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that Enns mocks the NS in his Lansdale Statement. He writes:

Really? Another public here-I-stand “statement” that claims to set the record straight once and for all on a sensitive and complex issue our planet is dealing with? What is it with American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists?

The situation may be sensitive, but if one takes the Bible seriously the issue becomes less complex. Either you obey God's word or you reject it.

Nashville Statement dissenters have accused the signers of a number of things including callousness, exclusionism and lack of love for LGBT people. They've been called homophobes and transphobes. Some questioned the timing of the NS given that it coincided with Hurricane Harvey. Others accused the signatories of undue focus on sexuality.

Yet it is secular society which constantly focuses on LGBT+ issues. And the Hurricane Harvey comments conveniently appeal to emotion. For more input on this subject, see John Haller's commentary on YouTube, beginning at the 21:37 mark.

Then there are Christians who say they agree in principle with the NS, yet refuse to sign it. I was sent a link to one such person's reasons. To be honest, the convoluted article left me scratching my head.  For example, he writes that the NS should have included a confession:

...a statement from churchmen that asserts that a particular view of sexuality is essential to the faith must acknowledge our own complicity and entanglement in the very spirit that is being denounced...The addition of such confessions would not have materially changed most of the document. It is just because they are so easy to include that this statement disappoints me so much.

Subjectively speaking, the statement may not have been perfect for everyone. But the issue is vitally important if one cares about the authority of God's word on sin and holiness. He should have signed the statement and recommended further clarifications. As it stands I suspect he was prevaricating.

I don't want to bog this column down further on this point. Instead, I recommend reading two articles addressing some of these excuses over at Triablogue: See The Nashville Statement and Pious naval-gazing.

Three of the signatories of the NS were Sam Allberry, Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield (The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert). Each of these people renounced their former lesbian/homosexual lifestyles once they became Christians. They now identify in Jesus Christ.

Here's part of Butterfield's statement:

The issue is not primarily homosexuality; it’s Scripture.

The issue is not primarily gay marriage; it’s whether “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The issue is not whether people are good-intentioned and sincere in desiring things that God forbids...

... I signed the Nashville Statement because the wolves are prowling, and the lions are roaring, and because they are bold and proud of their heresy, and because you must be warned.

As Charles H. Spurgeon noted:

The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure as they hoist the wrong light. It is our responsibility to set the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin and tell what it leads to...

John MacArthur once said the greatest danger to the church was from within. He and Rosaria Butterfield are right. Be warned.

Maranatha!

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Pilgrims in a Foreign World



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