On the Nashville Statement and My Signing of It

I’ve posted some thoughts here.

The Nashville Statement is a reassertion and defence of the creational reality of humanity, of the basic anthropological difference: that humanity is created and divinely blessed with fruitfulness as male and female. It is this reality that is under assault today on various fronts, as the natural order of creation is challenged by those who variously deny this difference, whether they reduce the sexed body to a superficial façade that can be changed, abandon substantive sexed selfhood for radical gender performativity, studiously downplay the ways in which the sexes are naturally physically and psychologically ordered to each other, or detach marriage from any procreative end or form. In standing against these developments, we aren’t expressing some peculiar or eccentric claims of Christian theology, but upholding creational realities that have been generally recognised across human ages and cultures.

Read the whole article.

As I suggest in the article, the Nashville Statement is far from perfect in a number of respects and various critical pieces have been written about it by writers who hold to firmly orthodox positions on sexual ethics (see Matt Lee Anderson’s remarks here, for instance). There are a number of things that I would have liked to have seen in it, including:

  1. A much more robust account of the grounding of sexual ethics in creational reality, making clear that this isn’t just a matter of biblical revelation and that explicit scriptural teaching isn’t the only way to arrive at a basic understanding of marriage or the problems with same-sex relations and transgender ideology.
  2. A clearer admission of the many ways in which evangelicals themselves have been complicit in or compromised by the shifts being challenged. The ways we have participated in a culture of divorce, the normalization of a contraceptive approach to marital relations, our downplaying of the procreative calling of marriage, and widespread use of pornography among Christians are all sins we must openly confess and address if we are to have any real success in dealing with the issues that the Statement highlights. These things are all connected: same-sex marriage was a fairly direct outgrowth of cultural trends that we are all fairly profoundly compromised by.
  3. A much firmer statement about the ways in which relations between men and women have been disordered by the Fall, with the result that natural differences are twisted towards mutual frustration, oppression, and destruction.
  4. A better framing of the seventh article, whose denial seems to push back against groups such as the Spiritual Friendship crowd, but which lacks the clarity it really needs to do this well. In my reading of it, I think it allows—perhaps unwittingly, I don’t know—for the accommodation of some of their concerns and positions as potentially orthodox, while firmly resisting certain of their ways of framing things. I think such challenge is needed, but I fear some signers and framers of the Statement will have dismissed the Spiritual Friendship position without adequately understanding what they are presenting. It is important to recognize that male androphilia and female gynephilia are naturally disordered and that the significance of nature isn’t negated by grace: that naturally, in the good and proper functioning of creation, men are sexually attracted to women and women to men. It is also important, however, to appreciate that the ‘homosexuality’ of gay and lesbian persons is typically merely one aspect of broader experiences of selfhood and lebenswelt that, though perhaps atypical for their sexes (remember, sexuality is a gender difference—men are gynephiles and women are androphiles), can often find legitimate expression in ways that aren’t sexual, and which can be very good and praiseworthy. The Spiritual Friendship crowd, whatever their faults, are actually trying to forge a positive vision of what faithful Christian discipleship looks like for persons in such a position. I fear that, if we aren’t careful, we will be trying to beat something with nothing.
  5. A strong word against the vicious animus against LGBT persons that has far too often infected Christian contexts, rendering an orthodox stance on sexual holiness odious to those who cannot separate it from the personal hatred that they have experienced from Christians on account of their sexuality. The radical loss of the credibility of Christian sexual ethics in society has many causes, but this must be placed near the top. It is great to see the call to present the truth in a loving way, but without a direct condemnation of the hatred for and unhealthy obsession with LGBT persons that exists in many quarters of society and the Church, we won’t really be addressing our own sins.

The credibility of the Statement has also been harmed by many factors, including:

  1. The fact that leading signers of the document have also been leading advocates of profoundly unorthodox understandings of the Trinity (Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware, in particular), which they have developed in close connection with their understanding of gender relations.
  2. The lack of humility and attentiveness in dealing with orthodox critics.
  3. The culture warrior mindset and high reactivity that has been in evidence among various supporters of the statement, producing an attitude dulled to valid criticism and overly driven by fighting cultural enemies, rather than by well-differentiated confession of the truth.
  4. The insensitive timing of the release, during the extreme flooding of Houston.
  5. The compromised nature of CBMW, with its failure adequately to address and repent of Trinitarian error among its leading members, or the ways that its particular forms of ideologizing and prescribing gender roles have been experienced as deeply damaging for many who have lived in communities and marriages shaped by them.
  6. The fact that it emerges from a context with a pronounced good ol’ boy network where much peer pressure, arm-twisting, and other forms of subtle coercion occur behind the scenes to ensure compliance and enforce consensus. The destructiveness of this culture is increasingly recognized, most particularly in the context of church abuse scandals, which have revealed lives destroyed by cover-ups.
  7. The general sense that the network of leaders is detached from and unsensitized to the concerns of the actual people who the articles of the statement will most weigh upon. The fact that they have long been fairly inattentive to the critical voices of conservative Christian women hasn’t helped either.
  8. The fact that some of signers were vocal supporters of President Trump or are otherwise involved with him (Richard Land, James Robison, Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, Wayne Grudem, etc.).
  9. The perception that the signers of the document don’t strongly oppose each other on their obvious points of error, which leads to skepticism about their commitment to speak the truth in love: is there a ‘no enemies on the right’ attitude at play here?
  10. The relative silence of the same conservative evangelicals on important issues where their own sins and compromises and those of their constituencies would have to be faced more directly—racism chief among them.

In signing the Statement, I do not dismiss these concerns or deny these failures. Rather, I stand as a deeply flawed Christian with other deeply flawed Christians in upholding Christian truths of deep consequence. In standing with them at this point, I do not abdicate my duty of loving truthful speech to them as my Christian neighbours. Nor do I believe that co-belligerency should cover over errors and sins. Quite the opposite: it is to our neighbours, to those to whom we stand most closely, that we have the most immediate duty of truth-speaking.

I recently wrote about the importance of ‘responsible engagement in a reactive age.’ I argued for the necessity of engagement without reactivity and the extreme intensification of party spirit that typically entails. The whole context of the gender and sexuality debates, especially in the US is toxic in its reactivity, with parties constantly reacting against each other, rather than overcoming the urge to react in a well-differentiated and non-reactive commitment to the truth. Both sides of the discussion of the Nashville Statement has swiftly been overwhelmed by this poisonous reactive environment, with people’s thinking and positioning driven by personal animus, party spirit, and reaction against others, rather than by non-reactive commitment to the truth. Whether it is people on the left being pushed driven into profound error by the kickback from the shots they reactively fire to their right or people on the right allowing people’s commitment to their side of the culture war to blind them to their damaging and destructive errors, this is deeply saddening to witness.

In signing the statement, like a number of Christians I admire and greatly respect who did the same, I wanted to stand for the truth that I believe it contains. I did this, well aware that it would expose me to attacks and criticisms from both friends and hostile opponents. I wanted to resist my natural urge to play a reactive and partisan game and I wanted to encourage others, to the small degree that I can, to do the same. In our context the offence of the truth has become entangled with the perceived (and sometimes real) unpleasantness of certain parties. People seeking to dissociate themselves from the latter can unintentionally strengthen the cause of those reacting against the truth itself and many will discredit the truth by the shrewd demonization of its advocates.

While I have genuine concerns about and strong criticisms of the positions and behaviour of a number of people who signed with me, I also recognize the godliness and spiritual wisdom that is much in evidence among my fellow signatories, and have been and continue to be greatly blessed by the witness and ministry of no small number of them. I also recognize, for instance, that some of them have been resolute, despite being embattled, in their vocal criticisms of President Trump’s behaviour. Others have strongly opposed the Trinitarian errors that have arisen in complementarian circles.

In signing the statement, I am not committing myself to walk in lockstep with a particular party, but am joining with fellow flawed Christians in bearing witness to what I believe to be essential Christian truth. In signing the statement, I assume a measure of responsibility for the people to whom I am joining myself. This is not the responsibility of complete identification, but a responsibility discharged in faithful Christian neighbourliness, in speaking the truth in love to each other, resisting every temptation to find community in lies, cover-ups, or cowardly silence.

Disengagement, purposeful dissociation, or lack of engagement were all open options for me. I am an Anglican in the UK, largely outside of the politics and intense interpersonal dynamics of the US evangelical scene. In signing the statement, I wanted to pursue the path of responsible and differentiated engagement (read more about the ideas informing my posture here). I am writing a book on the subject of a Christian account of the sexes and I believe that it is particularly important for me to practice and encourage such differentiated engagement in the context of disputes that have so often been profoundly lacking in it. Rather than articulate my own vision in some great isolation that would morally quarantine me from the messiness of the actual politics of the gender debates, I wanted to be firmly engaged in them.

However, it is imperative for me that this engagement is responsible and differentiated, rather than reactive and partisan. I don’t want to see truth effaced by partisanship and will try to take the side of truth, even when I may be uncomfortable about some of my companions, or may have to take stances up against my friends. This same commitment to truth will lead me to firm but loving criticism of close Christian neighbours with whom I differ. My hope is that through this behaviour I will be a faithful servant of and witness to the truth, rather than holding it the prisoner of party spirit. I also hope that I will be an example to others and that, as a non-reactive and loving critic, I will be able to play some small part in moving my Christian neighbours away from reactivity and further towards the truth. Nothing will change if we just dissociate from each other. My intent is to adopt a better way, to be prepared to make the first move, to exhibit the mastery of self that helps to defuse contexts of explosive reactivity.

As I seek to commit myself to such responsible and differentiated engagement, I stand in great need of others’ responsible and differentiated engagement with me. I have been challenged and helped by various people who have thoughtfully criticized the statement over the last few days and by others who have aligned themselves with it. In addition to their counsel, I also value people’s prayers for prudence in such difficult matters. I respect and appreciate the personal friends who have privately and publicly criticized my decision to sign the statement: their concerns are not invalid and it took courage for them to subject the bond of our friendship to the testing of candour. I hope that I will manifest the same courage to speak the truth in love that they have demonstrated with me, especially as, in aligning myself with others in such causes, I have assumed a greater responsibility in this regard.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

77 Responses to On the Nashville Statement and My Signing of It

  1. krakatoa2017 says:

    Alastair, great post. As an Australian I’m slightly removed from the context of the the Nashville thing and the figures who have lined up behind it. I am glad of the introduction/ preamble, but also that ‘article VII’ , has been a catalyst for really helpful responses from celibate gay Christians who are eloquently helping us understand the daily experience of living fully and well alongside their complex desires. I’m not I put that right: but, it seems most of us have failed so far to think about how a gay person can work with desire in a holy and sanctifying way. Spiritual Friendship has been helping with that, but like you I’m slightly uneasy with their proposal solution to a vital question. Do you have further thoughts on this. And what of the chances of a Nashville 2.0?

    Thanks for your valuable work.

  2. Though I’m not going to sign, I respect your decision to sign the Statement, Alastair because you have enunciated your reasons AND your concerns very well.

    The only thing I would like to challenge in your post is your saying that “we have participated in a culture of divorce.” ( I presume you say ‘we’ meaning the evangelical church in general. )

    I do not dispute that some people who profess the evangelical faith have divorced their spouses without biblical grounds — and thus engaged in treacherous divorce. But I know that many professing evangelicals have divorced abusive spouses, and I believe that those divorces are 100% biblical. Alastair, when you say “we have participated in a culture of divorce” it sounds like you are saying that all divorce is sinful. I beg you to consider what I’m saying and to consider revising that bit of your post, to make it clear that not all instances of divorce are wrong or sinful. This is especially important for domestic abuse victims, because whether abuse is grounds for divorce is contested in the church… which exposes the abuse victims to false guilt and unjust stigma.

    • Divorce itself isn’t necessarily sinful, even if it presupposes some sort of sin as its occasion. A culture of divorce is, however, sinful. By a culture of divorce I am referring to a society that takes the bonds of matrimony lightly, that normalizes divorce, and which fosters vices in its members that encourage them to be selfish covenant breakers. None of this denies the appropriateness of divorce in certain situations of abuse.

  3. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    I say Amen to your statement about why you signed the Nashville Statement, to your reservations about signing it and your reasons for those reservations, and to additional points you would like to have seen included in the Nashville Statement.
    My own reservation about the Nashville Statement is that, as far as I know, it was presented as a fait accompli, rather than as a draft statement which was accompanied by an invitation to others to suggest amendments, re-phrasing of some parts of the statement, and so on.
    I hesitated to comment on the Nashville Statement at all at first because I am not a church leader and because I am not an American citizen, but then I thought that, as the content of the Nashville Statement is relevant to all members of the Body of Christ worldwide, it would be appropriate for me to comment on it here, if not directly to those who compiled it.
    Thank you for your thoughtful, thorough and conscientious post.

    • Thanks, Christine. A draft version of the document was extensively discussed by a number of theologians and church leaders before it was published.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thank you for that clarification, Alastair.
        I have also read your comment to krakatoa2017 and was dismayed by these words: ‘I don’t see a Nashville 2.0 anywhere on the near horizon.’ Do you think there might be a possibility of a refined version of the Nashville Statement as it now stands?

      • There may be other statements, but not another Nashville Statement. And whatever statements there are will probably be framed by and treated as signs of evangelicals’ disunity on these matters.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thank you, Alastair. I just thought again about your words: ‘…the perfect should not be the enemy of the good here.’ Even if the Nashville Statement were perfect, there would still be some who would reject it and ridicule it. The same could probably be said for any related statements that may be written in the future. At times like this I long for the Second Coming.

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  6. Geoff says:

    1 Thank you for this further post with some insights into inner workings of the drafters of the Statement. I found those aspects more informative than edifying. But, sadly, in my limited experience, there is as much politicking in the church as outside. It is more damaging as we know it ought not to be that way, and we expect more (mostly from others than we do of ourselves), Give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us, though God’s mirror, scripture, is more than enough can reveal a hideous portrait of fallenness than transformation.
    2 For what it is worth you have shown strength in signing, notwithstanding your reservations stemming from “guilt by association” which may incorrectly categorise you, and lack of fullness in the document. To me, you have not sat on the fence at this significant juncture in the Western civilisation, nailed your colours to the mast (though the choice of the crew may not be to your taste, grasped the nettle.
    3 The Statement may not be complete, but is it sufficient for its purpose? The fact that you signed it suggests you decided it was sufficient. It is not, nor was it intended to be, a Ph.D. level paper, comprehensive in scope, thankfully. There are parts to it I’d look to change, emphasise, add but I don’t have any influence and what do I know?.
    4 Friendship.
    Proverbs 27:6King James Version (KJV)
    “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.
    Part of our calling is to love truth, even the sometimes painful truth about ourselves.
    5 I disagree with your friend at “Mere Fidelity”
    5.1 I think he make a false, unecessary dicotomy an either or separation “Either our witness is counter-cultural, or it is not biblical” which is not there.
    5.2 He strays into supposition and “class” .
    5.3 As far as England is concerned he is plain wrong when he says, “In any suburban evangelical church one is far more likely to encounter people for whom the whole set of issues under consideration simply don’t matter theologically than one is to meet, well, someone like me”. People have left our church over these issues and tried to influence others. It is saturating media , education, public bodies, health, drama, the BBC. This may seem harsh, but who is “someone like..him”? Could I suggest he needs to get out more, open eyes and ears away from the bubble of the internet, academia, the higher echelons of theology? As a former lawyer, we used to joke that the law would be great if it weren’t for clients! A marvellous and satisfying subject to study, but let’s not venture further to deal with people.
    5. 4 It is not up to “biblical standards” he says for “judgment of those who are wrong.” It is a statement, which has been criticised by some opponent as wrong because it amounts to doctrine.
    5.5 The Spirit of the age has already been imbibed by the church, citing divorce – It is therefore too late. I Think Alastair somewhere in all this has said something about drawing a line, this far and no further. I know one Anglican Minister who would not marry divorcees unless divorce was specified in scripture. (For something more about divorce see below.)
    5.6 Some of it comes across to me as something of a polemic, a mini rant, almost a counsel of modern day puritan counsel of perfectionism. I don’t doubt that many of the signatories to the statement would subscribe to list of things the church is not doing, that Anderson brings into play, none of which negates the Statement. By his reckoning no one would be able to preach, disqualified by the sin within. Thank God for “simul justus et peccator”. As Alastair says:
    “In signing the Statement, I do not dismiss these concerns or deny these failures. Rather, I stand as a deeply flawed Christian with other deeply flawed Christians in upholding Christian truths of deep consequence. In standing with them at this point, I do not abdicate my duty of loving truthful speech to them as my Christian neighbours. Nor do I believe that co-belligerency should cover over errors and sins. Quite the opposite: it is to our neighbours, to those to whom we stand most closely, that we have the most immediate duty of truth-speaking.”
    5.7 Is there anything in the statement he’d subscribe to, anthying good about it? Yes, but because it does not set out a “maximal response” , declines to sign while acknowledging, it is a time of crisis. He states, “With the signers and the drafters of the Nashville Statement, I am persuaded that the current controversies over sex, gender, and marriage are of maximal importance. With those individuals, I agree that there are matters here essential to the truthful, beautiful articulation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With those individuals, I agree that the crisis in the evangelical church is real, and that those seeking to alter our institutions so that they affirm gay marriage undermine and distort the faith that all Christians, in all places and times have affirmed.” While commenting that the document does not set out goals or objectives, it is clear from the document that it’s purpose is Not to set out a maximal response, but to stem the flow, anchor the drift. It is a step, a step in the right direction.
    6 The term “evangelical” appears the be redundant, has served it’s purpose, but is now taken to mean whatever you want it to mean . What is “progressive evangelical” ?
    7 This is from a talk by Peter J Williams Principal , Tyndale House, Cambridge , at this year’s Keswick Convention:
    7.1 “To have a proper dialogue with the secular, we need to start from a Christian set of categories” These will come from thinking biblical and there will be contradictions with secularism as there are no agreed neutral categories.
    7.2 The bible recognises 3 categories , male female eunoch. (Andrew Wilson has spoken of this) Eunoch can be by nature, nurture, choice . He cited Matthew 19:4 , 10-12′
    Can be born that way, that they will not be able to marry. Cand be made that way, can chose celibacy.
    In the beginning there was male and female, After fall – male, female, eunoch
    7.2 Marriage is a rare word in the bible, usually an event, rather than a state
    7.3 Marriage is giving self away giving ownership away and will receive in return
    7.4 God owns us , so marriage is a sub-ownership, under God. Abuse in a marriage is not sub-ownership under God. There is only ONE person worthy to own us.
    7.4 In 2000 years the church has.oscillate between marriage and singleness -total devotion to God, which is qualified by marriage. Marriage is honourable. Celibacy is a higher calling
    7.5 Law was because of the hardness of heart, to regulate.
    7.6 As male and female are created in the image of God (we are the Owner’s work) we can appropriately visually appreciate those of the same sex, BUt feasting eyes on desiring to have them, possess them is a sin.
    7.7 Today in having that appreciation classes, identifies a person as gay.
    7.8 Can’t control impulses or dreams
    7.10 God claims to own all, every part, of us.

  7. James says:

    Alistair, would you (or anyone else reading this!) be able to share some resources concerning the unorthodox views held by Grudem and Ware re: the Trinity? Ware is actually coming to speak at my church this fall on the Trinity, so this is especially relevant for me and my brothers and sisters. Thanks in advance.

  8. Geoff says:

    G. K. Chesterton @GKCDaily
    The next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality; and especially sexual morality.

  9. Aaron Siver says:

    Hello Alastair,

    Thank you for publishing this thorough explanation of your thoughts, actions, and intentions. And thank you for pointing out the shortcomings of the Nashville Statement. You identified and clarified every concern that came to my mind on this issue in the past few days.

    I’ve found much delight, comfort, and help in your recent posts and archives as I’ve been reading them in the past year. In you, I found a kindred spirit under many of the same public spiritual influences through whom God has formed me over the past decade.

    Yet, as a faithful orthodox Christian who has experienced the messy complications and fought against the sinful yearnings of same-sex attraction since my childhood, and as someone who has been harmed in various ways during my many years in the conservative church by many of the failing you’ve enumerated here, I was disheartened when I saw that you were a signatory of the Nashville Statement.

    However, the way in which you’ve explained, distinguished, and differentiated yourself (in good Friedman-esque fashion) here has put my mind at ease. I know that you see the concerns in my heart and in the hearts of others in the church like me who have often felt like mismanaged projects rather than people to be known and loved in Christ.

    In his peace,

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  11. Geoff says:

    You will note that Sam Allberry has also signed the Statement, and may be aware that he is an Anglican Minister, who has walked a mile in your shoes. You may, or may not, be aware the he is a contributor to the UK site Living Out which you may find of help:

    He also had a stand out contribution to make here: https://youtu.be/mCLms7J84JY
    where he addressed the Anglican General Synod, standing strong and upright with grace against the fast flow. If the link doesn’t work it is easily found.

    It is pleasing that you have not judged, categorised, Alastair simply for signing the document, not lumped him with all the others, but have based your comment here on what you know of him through his writings, limited as that is.

    • Aaron Siver says:

      Hi Geoff,

      Yes, I’m aware of Sam Allberry and everything you’ve noted about him. I’m thankful for his faithfulness to Christ and his public witness on these matters. I’m also aware of Ed Shaw. And I note that Christopher Yuan, Jackie Hill Perry, and Rosaria Butterfield all signed the Nashville Statement as well. I read and have profitted from the books by Allberry, Shaw, Yuan, and Butterfield on this subject.

      Despite all that, the fact that Rosaria, Sam, Chris, and Jackie are signatories does not alleviate my concerns about the Nashville Statement. Although I sympathize with their concerns and essentially side with their position (that trying to minister within the framework of orientation language from contemporary identity politics isn’t worth the effort for Christians), I’ve grown increasingly disappointed with their attitude that their way of seeing and speaking about sexual orthodoxy is the only way that will be permitted. I first saw it with the forum of the four of them at an ERLC conference [1], and it’s gotten notably worse in Rosaria’s case in the past year as she’s sunk to (what seems to me to be) mockery of Wesley Hill and others at Spiritual Friendship [2]. In light of this, it’s hard for me to see the denial of Article 7 in the Nashville Statement as anything other than a subtle yet conscious attempt at exclusion and denunciations of the folks at Spiritual Friendship and anyone in a similar position.

      In my experience, many of the men from the “good ol’ boys network” who wrote or signed this statement have demonstrated (what to me is) a paper-thin and merely theoretical understanding of contemporary homosexuality and gay identity in places and aspects where the experiences of such persons simply will not overlap with the biblical framework and condemnations. Here, I mean what Alastair referred to as other aspects “of broader experiences of selfhood and lebenswelt that, though perhaps atypical for their sexes, … can often find legitimate expression in ways that aren’t sexual, and which can be very good and praiseworthy.” Those atypicalities have been long-neglected by many in the church. And the idea that those atypicalities are rooted in a sinful sexual disorientation has been the cause of much pastoral malpractice in my experience and observation. Signatory Numero Uno Denny Burk’s 2015 JETS article is a good illustration of this [3].

      For me, that is a significant part of the ethos in the incestuous network that produced the Nashville Statement. And it deserves my brothers in Christ going the extra mile with me and others to address it.


      [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJdEZv_24Uk

      [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_B7SmD1crU&t

      [3] http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/58/58-1/JETS_58-1_95-115_Burk.pdf

  12. lake17 says:

    Thank you very much for this.
    Could you amplify what you mean by No. 1, especially regarding transgender ideology:
    “A much more robust account of the grounding of sexual ethics in creational reality, making clear that this isn’t just a matter of biblical revelation and that explicit scriptural teaching isn’t the only way to arrive at a basic understanding of marriage or the problems with same-sex relations and transgender ideology.”

    • My concern is that the Statement might leave some people with the impression that understanding humanity created as male and female and what that entails is a matter that belongs to biblical revelation. However, these are matters of natural revelation, and almost every single human society has had a fairly good grasp upon the fact that men and women are different, that this difference makes a difference and is ordered to procreation, that sex between men and women is a very different sort of thing from that between persons of the same sex, that marriage is male and female, and that being male or female is an objective state and orientation, not merely subjective ones.

      I’ve written about the transgender issue here.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Hi Alastair, ‘… almost every single human society has had a fairly good grasp upon the fact that men and women are different, that this difference makes a difference and is ordered to procreation…’ – absolutely. For some reason I just remembered when some of my female friends and I (when we in our early teens, I think) used to have a somewhat embarrassed and hushed conversations about instances of the words ‘he went in unto her’ in the OT. Alastair, you will know far better than I do how many instances there are of this in the Bible. I just found this : ‘So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife; and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception and she bore a son.’ I am pretty convinced that there are no instances in the Bible of ‘and he went in unto him and he conceived’, or ‘and she went in unto her and she conceived.’ As I wrote this last sentence I thought how ridiculous it looks and I wonder how anyone – Christian or non-Christian – can claim that SSM is a viable and equivalent alternative to marriage (or even an extra-marital sexual relationship) between a man and a woman.
        I have not put this as well as I would like, but I don’t seem to be able to improve on it just now.
        *(This was back in the days when ‘sex education’ at school consisted of a few lessons about how rabbits reproduced :-))

      • quinnjones2 says:

        One more thought: though I think that, in some ways, the Nashville Statement is lacking and flawed, I hope that educators will be able to use it as a discussion document with pupils/students without being subjected to condemnation from some Christians and non-Christians, and without legal action being taken against them.

  13. Hi Alastair, I appreciate you acknowledging some of the problems with the statement. Can you point me to scripture indicating that a person having a transgender self-conception is always inconsistent with God’s purposes (see article 7)? I don’t see how it is possible for us humans to say with such certainty, as you and the other signers have said, that God never creates a person who properly self-conceives themselves as a male but has female reproductive organs, for example. I take scripture seriously and would like to study the scripture that supported this part of the statement for you and/or others. Thank you.

    • Steve,
      We really shouldn’t have to go to Scripture to recognize this. Most human societies have recognized it from nature itself. Most people in our society still do, recognizing that, when someone thinks of themselves as a man stuck in a woman’s body, for instance, there is something seriously wrong with them.

      Besides, if we were to speak of a ‘male who has female reproductive organs,’ to what is the ‘male’ in this clause referring? Is there some essentialism of gendered subjectivity at play here (male and female brains, perhaps?), or is it merely a claim that the individual is autonomous and free to define themselves as they will, with ‘male’ and ‘female’ being nothing more than free-floating signifiers that we can adopt or reject at will?

      None of this is to deny the reality of transgender conditions, or even of the possibility (not yet scientifically proven, but I would suspect likely in a minority of cases termed ‘transgender’) that some people’s neurological and subsequent psychological development may biologically go awry in a way that represents a sort of ‘intersex’ condition affecting neurological and psychological dimensions of their sexed identity.

      Such cases would be tragic forms of an intersex condition, effects of the Fall, clear departures from the natural order and obvious as such both to science and to the Christian. However, the sex of the body has priority both naturally and in Scripture. The formation of men and women in Genesis 2, for instance, is the formation of bodies and of us as ‘male and female’, not ‘masculine and feminine’ or even merely ‘man and woman’, in a manner that might suggest the primacy of the psychological or social. The person is also identified with the body far more closely than transgender thought would allow. So, even if we were to speak of a confusion of sexed or gendered features, we would have to talk about something like a female (person) with prominent elements of a masculine psyche.

      And sexually reassignment surgery in such a situation is merely mutilation of a female body, not the establishment of a male body. It may establish the illusory appearance of such a body, but this isn’t the same thing as creating a male body.

      A person with such a condition might conceivably be able to recognize themselves as someone who is objectively a woman with a serious intersex condition, which leads their subjectivity to be psychologically dissociated from their more sexually fundamental bodily objectivity. However, such an identity would definitely not be a transgender identity as commonly understood. It would be the identity of a woman whose neurology and psychology developed along a more masculine path due to some natural disorder. Any objective identification as a man would be delusional (albeit biologically grounded) and it would be impossible to become a man through the mutilation of the body.

      The self-conception question is not uncomplicated. For instance, there are certain forms of transgender identity that might be more honest about the reality. If a transperson clearly differentiated between being male and a man from being a ‘transman’, recognizing the latter as a exceptional state arising from a disorder of development that doesn’t actually render one a male, but a female with a severe intersex condition that requires careful management and means that one is neither male, nor simply a man or a woman, we might be getting to a more accurate statement of the reality. The trans identity here might be managed by some in presenting as a man and even pursuing reassignment surgery, but it would be a primarily female disorder, with the resolution of the disorder involving alignment of psyche with the female body (such resolution might not be possible, of course).

      An interesting case that is worth considering in parallel is that of complete androgen insensitivity syndrome persons, who, on account of a disorder of sexual development, while having XY chromosomes, develop according to a female phenotype and have a heterosexual female gender identity. In this case, most of the bodily and psychological factors would lead us (rightly, I believe) to identify such persons as women. However, such an identification would not be one that would be unqualified: there would be a necessary conceptual asterisk next to the designation ‘woman’. On account of their naturally having several female body characteristics, the term ‘woman’ has some degree of an objective grounding, yet we all recognize that something went seriously wrong and that theirs is an exceptional case.

      We do not redraw the rule around such cases, but treat them as related to the rule in exceptional and abnormal ways. The problem with transgender self-conception as generally established is that it is precisely an attempt to deny the rule on account of the exception, an attempt to say that a man is merely someone who identifies as a man, for instance. Even if—for the sake of argument (I do not grant its appropriateness)—we were to say that the person in your example was a ‘man’, that term would have to be used of them only in a extremely highly qualified sense.

      • Hi Alistair,

        Thanks for your response.

        Your Statement says that is a sin, in all cases, for a person to think of themselves as transgendered. Your Statement also says that it is a sin for a doctor, a parent, or anyone to approve of that person’s conception of themselves.

        Your Statement says this is what is “revealed in Christian Scripture,” so your inability to point to any scripture at all that indicates that such self-conception is a sin is troublesome.

        You say, to support declaring something to be a sin: “Most human societies have recognized it from nature itself. Most people in our society still do, recognizing that, when someone thinks of themselves as a man stuck in a woman’s body, for instance, there is something seriously wrong with them.”

        Shall we put what is a sin to a vote, then? A vote of most people? Most people aren’t doctors. Most people do not know the trans person. Most people aren’t their parents. Most people aren’t their friends.

        Yes, perhaps male and female brains. Perhaps male and female souls. Perhaps male and female psyches. Perhaps …

        I do not know. You do not know. Yet, you declare them to be sinners for their thoughts.

        I appreciate that you wrestled at some length with some things in your response.

        You even seem to recognize that there are exceptions to what you have declared the mob to think of as “something seriously wrong with them.”

        Yet, your Statement condemns them ** all ** as sinning with their thoughts, as sinners for how they think of themselves—all of them, those who have “something wrong with them” (your words), those who fall into one of the exceptions you seem to recognize …. every single one of them.

        You say “We do not redraw the rule around such cases, but treat them as related to the rule in exceptional and abnormal ways.”


        The question is how does God view it, not how “we” redraw rules.

        I think this is one of the most disturbing things about the Statement. It reads exactly like what you say, “We” (the signers) drawing rules, rather than counseling some of the most vulnerable people in our society in a loving, Christ-like way.

        You signed the Statement? I encourage you to withdraw your signature. The Statement is harmful to transgendered people and others.

        Thanks, Steve

      • * Alastair (sorry about that ….)

      • Hi Steve,

        I have no intention of removing my name from the Statement.

        The claim that this is ‘revealed in Christian Scripture’ isn’t a claim that there is a proof text. The Trinity is revealed in Scripture, but doesn’t have any adequate proof text. Rather, it a doctrine that can be clearly seen in the Scripture when the whole is brought into relation and the larger picture emerges. Likewise, Scripture has a lot to say to transgender persons, but most of it isn’t in texts such as Deuteronomy 22:5 (‘A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.’).

        The scriptural teaching on transgender issues comes from the broader biblical teaching about the creation of humanity as male and female and about the huge significance of the body in relation to this: our creation as male and female focuses upon the objectivity of the body, not the subjectivity of some self-concept. It comes from the biblical emphasis on the importance of distinguishing men from women in dress and other respects. It comes from the biblical teaching that we are created male and female in relation to the calling to procreate.

        But beyond this still, our position on transgender persons rests upon the reality of nature itself. This point isn’t a claim that this truth depends upon the presence of a human consensus. Rather, it is the claim that nature itself is extremely clear here: male and female are bodily grounded realities, ordered towards procreation. It is so clear that hardly any human society has been able to miss it.

        Cut male and female loose from this purpose and they are swiftly emptied of meaning. Transgender identity seeks to redraw sexual identity as an artifice (we are ‘assigned’ male and female, rather than simply being male and female), but so defined it will vanish in a puff of nonsense as there is nothing real for it to refer to or rest upon.

        The suggestion that there might be male and female brains, male and female souls, or male and female psyches is a pretty significant and controversial suggestion to make. Many feminists would be fairly outraged by it, but I admire your preparedness to go there nonetheless. More realistically, though, these are some fairly tendentious claims to make and they would need to be theologically or scientifically substantiated.

        There probably are male and female brains, but only in the way that there are male and female faces: as features variously distributed on different spectra from most masculine to most feminine taken collectively suffice to identify most persons as either male or female, rather than as any clear dimorphism (there are people who, though clearly male or female in other respects, have faces that could pass for the other sex). The evidence seems to suggest that the brain is sexually differentiated in ways that lead people to identify with their bodily sex and exhibit typical masculine and feminine behaviours, but only with a high probability, not as an absolute rule.

        There is also evidence that this sexual differentiation can go wrong in certain cases. For instance, complete androgen insensitivity leads XY persons to exhibit the behaviours and gender identity of females. On the other hand, CAH girls can be more typically masculine in their play behaviours, for instance. And androphilic men and gynephilic women often exhibit behavioural traits more typical of the other sex.

        This evidence really doesn’t point to the existence of dimorphic brains or psyches (although souls are more complicated, as they are the form and spirit of the body, and thus cannot simply be abstracted from the sexed body). Rather, it points to the existence of male and female, ordered towards procreative relations, and to the existence of various biological and psychological conditions that are disorders of this. There is no Cartesian dualism of the self and the body. Rather, we can have disorders of a unified being. So the ‘man caught in a woman’s body’ is most likely a male whose brain, through some disorder of sexual development, has been subjected to a critical degree of feminizing hormones. This doesn’t make him a woman (as the dualism you are suggesting would make him), but a male with a serious disorder.

        However such a person is treated, it is important that we reject the ideas that a) they can become female by mutilating a male body; b) there is some sort of dualistic conception whereby they can be called a woman in any sort of natural sense of that word.

        What you seem to be failing to recognize here is that, in order to accommodate transgender persons’ self-conceptions, you are entertaining some fairly radical revisions of both Christian anthropology and natural biology. You are also suggesting some positions that have some fairly regressive tendencies in the area of gender stereotyping. If a girl prefers to play with typical boy’s toys, are we to infer that she probably has a ‘male soul’? If we dislodge sex from the objectivity of the body, these are the sorts of areas of confusion that we will get into.

        Now, we obviously need to be sensitive in the way that we speak to and pastor transgender persons. But we should not rewrite our anthropology around them, especially when such an anthropology would be radically incoherent and dualistic. It is important to remember here that these theological conversations, while they impact heavily upon LGBT persons, have never primarily been about LGBT persons, but about some fairly fundamental Christian teachings about anthropology, being male and female, the body, sexual ethics, etc.

        The denial of a dualistic anthropology that would conceive of a self radically divorced from one’s body, the denial that the body can be refashioned to erase the givenness of the embodied self, and the affirmation that the self is defined by the objectivity of the body, and not merely by the subjectivity of its chosen self-conception are not peculiar anti-transgender positions that Christians and others have dreamt up in order to marginalize them. Rather, these are fairly important statements about reality with many significant implications, most of them that don’t involve trans persons. While these statements may disproportionately impact trans people, they were never chiefly about them.

        If we present our anthropology as if it were primarily framed by supposed ‘transphobia’, and redraw it accordingly, it won’t take long to see the incoherence and problems that it introduces elsewhere. For instance, if we state that self-conception is the root of sexed identity, we are making a statement with extremely far-reaching implications for the ways that we address feminist concerns. The problem is that, because they have allowed the conversation to be narrowly framed as if it were about LGBT persons, rather than about reality, people seldom attend to the implications of their positions designed to appease LGBT activists.

        We need sensitive pastoral conversations here, but they must be framed by a broader affirmation of reality and the ways things are; we should not succumb to redrawing our entire picture of reality to palliate people with disordered self-concepts.


      • Hi Alastair,

        1. You say that the doctrine that it is a sin to think of oneself as transgender is “clearly seen in the Scripture” and “Scripture has a lot to say to transgender persons,” but all you point to is Deut 22:5.

        2. If your two statements were true, you would be able to point to more and apply it to the issue.

        3. And the one verse (one!) to which you point is not about transgender. Your statement that Deut 22:5 (about a woman wearing a man’s garment) is about transgender people indicates you do not know very much about transgender people. Transgender is not about what clothes you wear.

        4. Bottom line: Without scriptural basis, the Nashville Statement condemns all transgender people, some of the most vulnerable people in our society, for their thoughts, as well as their doctors, parents, and family for affirming what is a deeply personal and gut-wrenching decision. You have signed on to it. I hope you will change your mind.

        5. The balance of your reply is simply an expression of your opinion, one that you have not, and apparently cannot, connect to scripture, an opinion that you use to declare to the world that a vulnerable human being’s thought is as sin and that their doctor’s aid and support of that thought is a sin, too.

        6. The first part of that reply waves at the Bible, referring to “[a] our creation as male and female focuses upon the objectivity of the body, not the subjectivity of some self-concept. [b] It comes from the biblical emphasis on the importance of distinguishing men from women in dress and other respects. [c] It comes from the biblical teaching that we are created male and female in relation to the calling to procreate.” (my brackets for reference)

        7. On [a]

        (1) As I said last time, you do not know [a]. I do not know this. You cannot say whether God’s creation as “male and female” before the Fall focused on the body, the soul, the mind, the psyche, the self-concept, the …. I cannot say that, either. No one but God can. You have pointed to nothing to support your opinion here. In would indeed take major theological or scientific evidence to make this decision, and you haven’t offered it. In the meantime, Jesus told us what to do.

        (2) Certainly, God created them “male and female.” Your Statement and your reply say that is all about genitalia. People are born with both sets. People are born with neither. So, the statement that God creates “male and female” obviously does not cover the full range of God’s creation under your definition.

        8. On [b]: See above on Deut 22:5.

        9. On [c]: The scriptural teaching against transgenderism comes from God’s statement to humans to be fruitful and multiply?! Is it a sin for a woman not to have a baby if she is capable of doing so? No, of course not. There are lots and lots of people that God tells, through his actions, not to have children, including many transgendered people.

        10. With no scripture to support your condemnation of the thoughts of folks made in God’s image as sin, the second part of your reply, “nature,” rests on this assertion: “Cut male and female loose from this purpose [(procreation)] and they are swiftly emptied of meaning.”

        The maleness of a male who cannot procreate is emptied of meaning? The femaleness of a female who cannot give birth is emptied of meaning?

        Jesus disagrees with you. You should read Matthew 19 (“ … there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. …”). Have their maleness and femaleness been emptied of meaning?

        The Apostle Paul disagrees with you. You should read 1 Corinthians 7 (“… To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. …”). Have their maleness and femaleness been emptied of meaning?

        11. You make a lot of statements about “probably” and “evidence that” and “evidence really doesn’t point to …” on scientific and psychological matters. Are you a scientist? Are you a MD? I am not. I’m pretty sure you are not. You cannot make these conclusions with any confidence.

        In the meantime, we are called by Christ’s new command and his example to love, defend, and comfort people.

        For clergy, (clergy!!!) to state that every single person who thinks that they are transgendered is acting against God with that thought, causing that already vulnerable person to consider themselves a walking abomination, based on Deut. 22:5 and a premise about procreation that is contradicted in scripture is not in the ballpark of appropriate.

        12. You seem like a thoughtful person. I appreciate your reply. I hope you will reconsider your signature on The Nashville Statement. It is a harmful document to people who Christ has asked us to do for.

      • Hi Steve,
        You just don’t seem to be reading my remarks carefully at all and your response almost entirely talks past me, which really is a pity. Rather than take more of either of our time, we should probably abandon this conversation at this point.


      • Hi Alastair,

        I quoted or repeated back to you each of your major propositions (and most of your minor ones) and addressed them in a numbered fashion, which is a rather clear indication that I read your remarks carefully and am talking directly to your points, not past you.

        What remark is it that you think I did not read carefully? And what of your remarks did I not address?

        If you do not want to engage further, that is fine, we can end the conversation, but your assertion above is objectively ridiculous.

        Thanks, Steve

      • Hi Steve,
        I read your comment and it was talking past me or failing to engage to such a degree that I would largely have to restate my entire argument. I don’t think either of us have the time for that. Thanks for the interaction, but I think we are best leaving it here.


      • Hi Alastair,

        I realize that having your argument quoted back to you, as I did in my comment, would cause you to see a need to restate your entire argument.

        Particularly since I quoted your points back to you and addressed them in the order you made them, your “talking past me” and “failing to engage” comments are obvious pretexts. Below you, really.

        But, point taken regardless, you are done responding.

        It is your blog, so if you want the last word or something like that, go ahead and I’ll let it be. If you want to engage again later, shoot a separate message to me. I sincerely hope you will reconsider your signature.

        Thank you for the interaction.

        Thank you, Steve

      • Chris E says:

        “n this case, most of the bodily and psychological factors would lead us (rightly, I believe) to identify such persons as women.”

        I am not sure on what grounds you would privilege the witness of their genitals over the witness of their chromosomes.

      • Because, in exceptional cases when there are such contradictory indicators, we go with the least bodily and psychologically invasive.

      • Chris E says:

        “Because, in exceptional cases when there are such contradictory indicators, we go with the least bodily and psychologically invasive. ”

        Based on what principle? This seems to be largely arbitrary to me – especially given the history of such individuals being subject to surgery as babies by doctors aiming at some form of ‘gender clarity’.

        Presumably you would appeal to creation after the Fall being flawed as the reason for why such indicators can exist with the human body, but your explanation assumes that you can judge how and where these flaws manifest themselves.

      • There is no absolute principle, just prudential judgments in exceptional cases where the rules do not straightforwardly apply.

        I think we can have a pretty good idea of how and where these flaws manifest themselves, not least through our scientific knowledge of the body, its processes of development, and the specific ways they can go awry.

        And the fact that the rules do not straightforwardly apply isn’t proof that they don’t apply at all. For instance, the first thing that the rules reveal is the status of such conditions as exceptional conditions arising from a dysfunction of natural processes of sexual development. They teach us not to normalize the condition, but to treat it precisely as an exception.

        When handling such conditions, we should not presume that the existence of a dysfunction means that surgery is necessary, when that surgery is not required for basic bodily health and functioning. Those ‘born eunuchs’ can remain as such.

        However, we can also recognize that the body of a CAIS XY person, for instance, is largely phenotypically female and that their sense of gender and behavioural profile are fairly consistently feminine too. Treating such a person as a woman for social purposes is a natural response to the objective phenomenology of their physicality and subjectivity. While chromosomes can almost always explain the origins of sexed phenotypes, it is the latter in which our relations with others are grounded. This differs from the case of the transgender person, where both the physical form of the reproductive organs and the broader sexed phenotype are clearly of the sex that they don’t identify with and any change requires a mutilation of the body.

        Yet the fact that we treat CAIS XY persons socially as women doesn’t mean that we must do so in an unqualified sense and never make any discrimination. They are classed as women, but precisely as exceptional cases, not as just another extended case of the rule. Their condition is the sort of thing that would need to be considered in relation to suitability for marriage, for instance.

      • Chris E says:

        “However, we can also recognize that the body of a CAIS XY person, for instance, is largely phenotypically female and that their sense of gender and behavioural profile are fairly consistently feminine too.”

        But in other cases ‘sense of gender and behavioral profile’ are clearly discounted by the statement itself, so what this amounts to is that apparent phenotype (actually a particular gene arrangement) arbitrarily trumps chromosomes (another arrangement of the genes), but wouldn’t if it were a slightly different (MAIS, PAIS etc).

        and societal norms help your argument up to the point where they change.

      • If it were different, we would treat it differently, yes.

        By the nature of the case, there are no hard and fast rules about such cases—they are called exceptions for a reason. Rather, prudential judgments must be made on a case by case basis. These judgments can be subtle in their reasons and in some cases even determined on probabilistic bases without being ‘arbitrary’.

  14. I just linked to this article in the comments section on Psephizo, where Ian Paul has just outlined his reservations about the statement. I hope you do not mind, I had only positive things to say.

    I think your critique here is excellent, and while I am surprised you signed given the intensity of your disagreement with CMBW, I respect you for it and found this personally helpful.

    My concerns of the statement revolve not so much around the theological position it expresses (I agree, in the main), but around the imprecise articulation of certain ideas and definitions. In my comment on Psephizo, I mentioned the word “transgenderism”, as being a largely meaningless label appropriated by people with polar opposite ideals. This could also be said of the term “homosexual immorality” though, as while there might be an agreement among evangelical signatories of what this means, it is open to debate. Is homosexual immorality a physical act, an emotion, a predisposition, a desire??

    Criticisms aside, I am immensely pleased that at least there is another conservative voice out there; for too long the vanguard ‘Milo Yianopollis’s’ of the anti-progressive right have been claiming to speak for us, and while this is still not quite as diplomatic as it could be, it is a bleedin’ good start!


  15. Pingback: Thoughts On What To Do After The Nashville Statement | Next Step with Kyle Davies

  16. Geoff says:

    Hello Aaron,

    Thank you for your response. Though this isn’t our blog Perhaps Alastaire’s forbearance will allow a limited response.
    1 My ignorance is great. I don’t know any of the signatories to the Statement but have books by a number of them, and read and listened to some of their stuff over the internet.
    2 I was not aware of the “Spiritual Friendship” group, being on the UK side of things.
    3 My stickability and capacity have been denuded by vascular disease and a stroke, so please forgive me if I haven’t thoroughly examined all the links you’ve given, having read the opening and conclusion of Burke’s article and the opening contributions of all the participants in the first You tube citing. What I have to say next may cause you to discount anything I may say.
    4 Why? Because I am am what you describe as an “Old boy.”
    5 I am not however part of a network. It is highly unlikely that Alastaire, after his pieces on the Trinity and questioning of Smith’s article on Orthodoxy and Creeds on this blog will be welcome with open arms into what you describe as an “incestuous network.”
    6 Neither am I scripturally inured to some aspects of “broader experiences of selfhood and lebenswelt that, though perhaps atypical for their sexes, … can often find legitimate expression in ways that aren’t sexual, and which can be very good and praiseworthy.” (Point 7 below)
    6 Having been raised in an unbelieving family, I was converted to Christ at the age of 47, some 20 years ago, with largely Arminian influences within the Anglican and then Methodist churches, but through informal self study (more like a wrestling contest with myself) have come to accept the Reformed, so called Calvinist position, but greatly enhanced through the work of Clowney, Keller, Motyer, Carson and others with the emphasis on historical redemptive Christ Centred preaching and teaching. I do not accept that system of biblical theology to be at odds with systematic theology.
    5 At the turn of the century, for two years I worked as an independent advocate for patients, service users in a mental health hospital. I was employed by a charity/voluntary organisation. My boss was lesbian ,who in a lesbian partnership, was the first in my part of the world to adopt two children and had a Masters degree in Gender studies. She appointed me to the position even though she knew I was a Christian, appointed on qualification. I was soon tested: what did I think of a boss of hers, a Christian who wouldn’t share a room with her when on a training course. I couldn’t see any problem with them sharing.
    Other colleagues were lesbian and I’d say the individuals in organisation were supportive of homosexuality, but more so, of sexual immorality, generally.
    But, they were some of the most committed people to mental health issues I’ve come across . The external facilitator of a team building day said we were the most impressive, most highly educated team he’d worked with. Today, they’d be termed social justice warriors. They were highly moral, and judgmental, indignantly so, and self righteous on most things (including big, bad USA) other than sexuality.
    And their whole identity was based on their sexuality, socialising, almost exclusively, within the homosexual community.
    Yet, we got on really well through a common cause and I could see their impressive qualities, even though they knew I didn’t accept they way they lived. I did so by focussing on who they were as people other than their sexuality. Plus, they were more open to hearing what or who made me tick, more open to hearing about Jesus.
    6 It is recognised that this is no longer what you consider is “understanding of contemporary homosexuality and gay identity”
    7 I’m a bit of a dullard when it comes to language, as I fail to correctly understand when abstract terms are used without specifics. What is meant by:
    7.1 “atypicalities”. I know what atypical means, but what are “they.”?
    7.2 I really don;t understand the conclusion you draw from the denial in article 7 of the Statement, without specifics. You are the one making that application, not the words themselves. CS Lewis said something very contemporary about critics who read so much into his work that wasn’t there, reading between the lines, but not the lines themselves. You are attributing a motive and specific target.
    7.3 I’d really need more information , more specifics, to understand more about the points you make about your three linked items. What are your specific concerns?
    7.4 While understanding your words, without specifics I don’t understand what you are getting at when you write, “And the idea that those atypicalities are rooted in a sinful sexual disorientation …”

    8 Again and again we keep coming back to identity.

    9 I wrote this as part of Alastaire’s earlier post Remaking on Smith. It is relevant here.

    You say “…God’s intimate claim on each of . our bodies, manifested in the assurance of future resurrection. This is key. It is orthodoxy. It is thinking biblically. It is “sola scriptura” . It is beyond expansion, scripturally irrefutable.

    It was a pivotal point around which Peter J Williams, Principal, Tyndale House, Cambridge, built his talks at this months Keswick Convention under the overall heading “Answering Moral Objections to the Scriptures.”

    “Isn’t the bible sexist and Homophobic” was one talk.
    In it he set out
    15.1 two different views of men and women (mostly from his handout and my scribbled notes}
    a) Secular materialist view: mere chemicals; value is socially relative, is assigned to you;different only in reproduction
    b) Christian view: equal and of infinite value (in God’s image)divinely created variety
    Then he considered

    15.2“Inventing Sex”
    He displayed slides constructed from a search of Google Books using the Ngram viewer.
    The word “sex is rare
    “Gender “, use of as a category rockets from 1970’s
    “homophobia” there is revealed a huge recent change in language
    a)Sex it a recently socially constructed category, grouping diverse physical actions and separating these actions from relational and social contexts in order to create a commodity,. The sex experience is the key thing. It stands alone, separate and apart from covenant and consequences. It become a self fulfilling function.
    b) Once “sex” (as an activity is invented you can invent sexual identity (according to activity) c)Once “gender” and “sex” (identity) are distinguished you can invent , make-up, imagine, gender identity
    d) Once “sexual identity” and “gender identity” are imagined you can make others recognise them
    The word gender has replaced the grammar male and female.
    The word transgender has replaced the word transexual (Ngram slide)

    Gender studies is a recent social construct. It imposes a lot. “Heteronormative” is being indoctrinated, imposed on other people. no binary male and female
    THEREFORE, THERE IS A NEED TO THINK BIBLICALLY, as there are no agreed neutral categories . To have a proper dialogue with the secular We NEED TO START FROM A SET OF Christian categories, which contradict secularism.

    That is we NEED TO THINK BIBLICALLY. (Is this not “sola scriptura” in application ,that is , Orthodoxy.
    1 God’s Good Character and OWNERSHIP OF US.
    Two main categories of humans
    a) Those who contest or ignore it
    b) Those who want and welcome God’s ownership

    God owns all of us, so it not merely a disagreement on sexual activity, or what our bodies are. He decides how we should use them.
    God the Owner may give an identity (male or female) which it is wrong to change

    Some activities are forbidden by the Owner.
    Attraction and visual appreciation of own sex does not create identity. It may lead to temptation to activity forbidden by owner.

    There is only ONE worthy to own, to posses us. He who gave up everything for us Jesus Christ.

    Finally, you may be aware of this from Ravi Zacharrias, who isn’t part of the open cabal you suggests may exist.

    Yours in our wonderful beautiful, holy, saviour Jesus

    • Aaron Siver says:


      Regarding those atypicalities of personality, they’re not easily described and can be individually unique. They’re also often quite subtle and are best learned by experience in the context of relationships.

      Some of it can be a matter of a person being a statistical outlier for the tendencies of core personalities traits of one’s own gender. For instance, consider a man who sees himself as a man but is a highly emotionally sensitive male (high trait neuroticism) and has dominant interests in people rather than things (where men are typically more interested in things rather than people). Combine that with a love of the arts, a disinterest in sports, and a strongly isolating introversion.

      Some of it seems to be a matter of the disposition and capacity for same-sex sexual desire simply existing as a discreet integrated component in a person’s whole being. Even if it’s being resisted and continuously repented of in good biblical fashion, it’s mere, actively contained presence makes it a formative element in a person. And it’s not because it’s an insidiously causative motivation; it’s an interactive obstruction. The fact that it’s there as an element requiring navigation and resistance colors everything else with which its cross-wired. One Christian man who’s appreciating the beauty of a male figure with no disposition for homosexual desire and another Christian man who’s appreciating the beauty of that same male figure while refraining from homosexual desire (and even sublimating it into creative inspiration) are two men having two distinctly different experiences of themselves as they experience the beauty of the same thing.

      If everything that can possibly provide a pathway to homosexual desire gets included as something produced by crypto-homosexual desire, I can hardly blame people with a disposition to homosexual desire for thinking there would nothing left of them as persons if all of that had to be eradicated because that’s what God supposedly wants.

      Some of it is a matter of having greater interests in the non-sexual attributes of particular members of one’s own sex where the majority of peers only show those sorts of interests in member’s of the opposite sex. Think of a man who is fascinated, even intoxicated, by how charming, and gallant, and forthright, and noble, and kind his friend is. He sees these attributes in his friend and feels something like a gravitational pull to them and wonders what he’s supposed to make of them. I offer one illustration from a thought experiment by Matthew Lee Anderson. He starts by critiquing a post by Owen Strachan (another signatory of the Nashville Statement and former president of CBMW) regarding ‘attractions’ and ‘interests’ that are less than sexual and questionably “proto-sexual” in nature. And he closes with an illustration of a young man sitting in a coffee shop reading David Copperfield when a captivating stranger suddenly walks in.


      Other than that, you seem to indicate that you’re not particularly familiar with the Calvinistic Evangelical parachurch organizational circles who produced the Nashville Statement. Outside of that context, I see how the statement is rather innocuous and straightforward. (And in a ministerial vacuum, I’m not in disagreement with it.) But I’ve been around those circles long enough (and I count myself among the Reformed) to think and believe that they mean something about the “tone”, “family history”, and “baggage” of the statement. And that’s not something I’m willing to ignore. I agree with Matt Anderson; I don’t think it’s proper for Christians to be making judgments on matters where we won’t take the plank out of their own eye (even though we can’t refrain from making prophetic judgments either). If you’re not familiar with the ‘planks’ in those circles, that’s okay.


    • Aaron Siver says:

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the substance of the Nashville Statement in a charitable reading. I’m just against well-intentioned but ignorant and bone-headed ministerial practices that have harmed faithful Christians in difficult situations on matters of marriage, procreation, gender norms, sexual disorientations, and gender dysphoria.

  17. dlk50 says:

    Excellent post.

  18. Geoff says:

    Steve Gardner,
    Are you being disingenous?
    It starts biblically … In the beginning.
    Christians not only believe IN God they BELIEVE GOD.
    He created the natural order and everything that Alastair has elaborated on is extrapolated from that.
    But it not only Christians who have advocated the natural order, (Greeks, Romans) as atheist English philosopher has given voice to in a remarkable talk on the BBC, remarkable because it is on the BBC, got past the programmers and politically correct ethos, not because of it’s content.
    Christians, however, clearly disagree with Scrutton on the source of natural order, and who influenced whom, as does Judaism and Islam.
    It’s worth 10 mins of your time even if you’re not in the UK, bearing in mind the huge influence of Europe on the development of the USA, particularly Christianity, even if it is minuscule today. I’ve been unable to copy the particular recording, but it is to be found on this link, which contains stuff you may find too robust and unvariated for your liking.
    The linked blog also contains this from Butterfield, which fits with Alastair’s earlier writing on the Remark on Smith, Orthodoxy /Creeds and the resurrection of the body.
    “I signed the Nashville Statement because I stand with Biblical orthodoxy, which is inseparable from God’s creation mandate and definition of gendered personhood found in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female, he created them”. The soul is God’s fingerprint on humanity, but the gendered body—essentially and ontologically male or female—will also, for the believer in Jesus Christ, be glorified and resurrected in the New Jerusalem….” She continue with sterner stuff which will greatly trouble Aaron above.

  19. Mike says:

    Alastair –
    I’m impressed by your articulation of such nuanced concerns. As a gay married Catholic, I don’t agree with the evangelical (or even conservative Catholic) interpretation of Christ’s teachings or scriptural literalism, but I also can appreciate my church’s traditional stance on marital/sexual chastity in general and same sex love in particular. If all conservatives were as humble and self-aware as you demonstrate here, that would make for a much more constructive environment in which to learn from each other and spread the Christian message more effectively in a hyper-secular culture. Thanks.

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  23. Geoff says:

    Many thanks. I now have far more understanding and would wish to comment further, but need to martial thoughts before doing so.
    First thoughts are that The Mere Fidelity link has greatly helped me to understand the language and invention of words, which then gets bandied about within its own subculture. Academics are particularly prone while preening themselves that they are adding something new of significance. In the process, they can become as “boneheaded” as the rest of us. I can recall a law lecturer who didn’t think you understood him unless you were in agreement, whereas you weren’t in agreement because you understood. And In the study of Jurisprudence, where laws come from, there was much wrestling with schools of philosophy, particularly the language used, for what could be explained in readily understandable terms, without losing the meaning and without engaging in obscurantist language in the name of modulation. In that regard, there is much over-thinking, salami slicing, and pharisee, additions to scripture, such as Shabbat rules on work without deep understanding of the “spirit of the law.”.
    The sermon by Thomas Chalmers (The Expulsive Power of a New Affection) immediately came to mind, when CS Lewis point about desire was raised.
    While I subscibe to refomed theology, and while I don’t know many I’m not drawn to the people. The far too facile expression “frozen chosen” springs too mind. Someone coined the the idea the that there are “scholars on ice and fools on fire” whereas the need of the church is for scholars on fire. If I were asked to self identify, I’d say, charismatic calvinist, putting myself outside most Christian grouping.
    God has a sense of humour putting us all together.
    Alsataire may permit further thoughts from me. He may think it is an indirect slight on him. Its not meant to be . He has much to offer the church at large and has written on his own self awarenes on language and his own frustration, for example, at how a title to an article can so much affect the number of hits. My fear is that he would love to have lived at a time of the puritans, when a whole thesis could form the title.
    But without this blog, personally, I’d not think so much. A pool without an outlet can become chronically stagnant. And, otherwise, my rock and roll is putting on weight.
    Every blessing in Christ Jesus,

  24. Geoff says:

    If anyone’s interested. Here is a direct link to the Roger Scruton BBC Radio 4 programme I mentioned on a comment above, a link that with my computer system and broadband, I found frustrating:

  25. Mike says:

    As a gay Christian, I must admit it’s slightly surreal to hear strangers debate my status in the church and how sinful my life — the only one I could ever imagine for myself — may or may not be. I’m interested in hearing all the perspectives, but the truth is they have zero impact on my personal faith. My advice is to ignore extremes (“approve gay marriage or dismantle the church!” or “Leviticus says sodomites will go to hell!”) and put your mental energy toward understanding the message of Christ primarily and the nature of the Old Testament God secondarily. Humans are so flawed in so many ways that, for me, the only truth can be found in a deep personal experience with Christ.

    • Geoff says:

      There’s something of a heresy there. Are you unthinkingly a follower of Marcion?
      The God of the Old Testament IS the God of the New.

  26. Mike says:

    No, and no Gnosticism either. How did I know someone would make that comment? : )

  27. Geoff says:

    I’m ever the one to state the obvious as far too often it needs to be stated.
    Perhaps you’re a follower of Brian McLaren and his party then? Perhaps, Alastair will share his views on his writings. It is obvious what Alistair’s view of different God’s is.

  28. Rickwright67 says:

    Thank you. And late congratulations on your doctorate. I was surprised and disappointed that the faculty of a generally respected seminary (one of my favorite professors teaches there) not only criticized the Nashville Statement (not news) but more specifically claimed it expresses a view of sexuality that is completely alien to the ancient world. That caught my attention. My doctorate is in Ancient Near East and I am sensitive to the claim that “we” misunderstand or misrepresent ancient civilizations. Perhaps some people who signed the Statement don’t know better, but surely there are many who do. I do not mean to pick a debate between you and these seminary faculty. Is there a response to that particular critique?

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  30. I am genuinely glad to see your acknowledgements of the issues with the Nashville Statement and with its credibility, and I agree completely. I have one question directly related to the Nashville Statement and one that is more tangential.

    In your point 4, you stated that sexuality is a gender difference, with males naturally being gynephiles and females, androphiles. Male androphilia and female gynephilia are thought to be disordered because they are attracted to sameness rather than difference (please correct me if I have misunderstood here). If our way of thinking about attraction is predicated on sexual difference, in a binary, either/or fashion, how do bisexuals fit into this paradigm? According to most surveys of people who self-identify as LGBT, there are actually more bisexuals than either gays or lesbians. This does not receive much attention in Christian or secular circles so I’m not surprised it was not really discussed in the Nashville Statement or your comments.

    As for the more tangential point, please let me know if this is not the correct place for this discussion. Regarding your point 5 under the credibility of the Statement, I appreciate that you recognize “the ways that its (CBMW’s) particular forms of ideologizing and prescribing gender roles have been experienced as deeply damaging for many who have lived in communities and marriages shaped by them.” However, what is the alternative? I have never seen any evangelical explanation of complementarianism that does not prescribe gender roles (which usually look eerily similar to 1950s American gender roles…).

    When I asked you before (at Davenant House) about your views of complementarianism, your answer honestly seemed to me not much different than what an egalitarian would say. If you go the “gender roles can be expressed in different ways” route, at some point the entire concept becomes meaningless. If male gender roles can be expressed in many different ways, some of which may look very similar to how female gender roles are expressed, is it really a “gender” role at that point?

    It seems to me that for gender roles to be a meaningful concept, it must draw lines that will exclude some members of the gender from feeling that they really fit in, leading to an experience of gender roles as “deeply damaging.” Possibly a very minimalistic idea of gender roles, such as “women can get pregnant, men cannot” might work, but for almost everyone it goes beyond that.

    I would be interested in your thoughts/any resources you can point to on this topic.

    • Angus J says:

      I’m going out on a limb here by recommending a book I haven’t read yet (a copy is on order) but I suspect that Ben Cooper’s book Positive Complementarianism (The Latimer Trust, 2014) might help here. I too have severe misgivings about complementarian gender roles that appear like American 1950s society. My opinion, as a complementarian myself, is that the male ‘headship’ within the family means that the husband has primary responsibility for the spiritual welfare and spiritual leadership of the family. Apart from that, it’s whatever works best for the couple themselves, provided that any children are not neglected in favour of the career(s) of either of the spouses. There’s a lot more that could be said, but I think those are the basic principles.

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  33. evan773 says:

    I question some of your speculation concerning androphilia and gynephilia. The individual experience of attraction and the interpretation of it is a complex subject, and is dependent on any number of factors. People generally feel drawn to an object or a person for a variety of reasons, most of which have some perceived meaning within a social context. It’s not as though we experience a specific desire for sexual intercourse in isolation of other experiences of attraction and a concomitant social context. And it’s not as though there’s some specific combination of factors that lead to that experience. And it’s unclear that one’s perception of that desire is necessarily accurate. After all, we’re often fairly poor judges of what we actually desire.

    For those reasons, I’ve always found the terms heterosexual and homosexual, when used with reference to people, to be fairly useless. I’m not sure that there’s much to be gained from referring instead to androphilia and gynophilia. Whether one desires opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriage, or neither has less to do with one’s alleged sexual orientation than it does with the availability of certain plausibility structures and one’s attraction to carrying out a social performance within those structures. But the availability of certain plausibility structures for marriage is hardly a canonical situation. Nor does Scripture mandate any particular plausibility structure, although it may rule certain such structures out of bounds.

    Thus, the chief problem with the Nashville Statement, and with large swaths of American evangelicalism, is that it fails to account for the fact that our knowledge is more limited than these statements suppose. Moreover, what knowledge we think we have is always sociologically constrained. That doesn’t mean that it’s entirely relative; after all, God still reveals Himself through general revelation, and our interactions with and observations of the world around us necessarily hem us in to a degree. So, we generally have a means of evaluating whether certain averments are more or less true than others, even if we can’t be certain that it’s the true in some absolute sense. Thus, this contingency often prevents us from attaining the kind of certainty and specificity that the Nashville Statement seeks.

    It strikes me that few of the signatories of the Nashville Statement spend any amount of time trying to make sense of the world around us. The men who took the lead in drafting it strike me as fairly lacking in terms of intellectual curiosity. They are the kinds of people who would rather be clear than be right; and, in that sense, they are not unlike the servant who buried his master’s treasure in the ground. We live in a complex world, and there’s plenty that we have yet to discover. Only within the last decade have we begun to gain the beginnings of a cogent molecular understanding of biological phenomena. And our understandings of human cognition and behavior are even far more rudimentary. The Nashville Statement fundamentally errs in that it speaks with a kind of certainty on questions where our knowledge is quite limited. In that sense, it’s a statement that seems to have less to do with speaking the truth and more to do with defending certain political embodiments of Christianity in the United States at this particular juncture of history. And it bespeaks of a certain degree of hubris to believe that Christ’s plan of redemption somehow depends on protecting the sinecures of Messrs. Mohler, Burk, Strachan, Ware, Grudem, Piper, et al.

  34. Geoff says:

    Yes, Aaron, I second that. It’s great to hear.
    I didn’t respond further to all the stuff you referenced, mostly as I’m not in any position to lend a pastoral listening ear, and the internet is not an appropriate venue.
    For what it’s worth, some of the stuff seemed like an attempt to micro-manage individual Christian lives and had illustrations that, unhelpfuly, were wide of the mark. How long should eyes linger, ears listen, is a matter for individuals who know within themselves the tipping point at which temptation tresspasses bounderies into sin.
    That said, for example, there are situations and places I’d not willingly put myself in, and informal conversations that colleagues have, that I’d disengage and walk away from, seek to change the subject or ignore.
    That said, for example, what Kevin DeYoung said about the Game of Thrones, to me, was a statement of the obvious that ought not to be needed. Why indeed would Christians watch it? Why would they want to, where unGodly images can be burned into the mind, imagination and memory.
    Yours in Christ Jesus

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  39. John Carpenter says:

    Grudem’s and Ware’s “eternal subordination of the Son” is not “unorthodox understandings of the Trinity.” It doesn’t contradict any Nicene orthodoxy. Your claim is baseless.

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