The Nashville Statement, Procreation, and the Purpose of Marriage

Friends, I hesitated to write this, but I believe what I have to say needs to be said. Please know that the criticisms in this article are not aimed at every person associated with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or all the signers of the Nashville Statement. More to the point, I consider the signers to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, I love them, and I welcome a respectful dialogue between us.

Two days ago, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released the Nashville Statement, a document composed “in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture”. It presents a series of affirmations and denials that touch on such issues as marriage, gender roles, homosexuality, and transgenderism. Having reviewed this document, I would say that those final two issues seem to be creating most of the concern on the part of the authors. Consider this portion of the preamble.

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.

It seems like every day we hear news reports about children sent to the principal’s office for failing to call a classmate by his or her desired gender pronoun, bathroom laws being changed and then changed again, Christian leaders vacillating on the issue of gay marriage, or liberal politicians labeling traditional Christian teachings as hateful bigotry. That is the era in which we live, and it has come at us at a dizzying pace. There is an urgent need for the church to declare the truths of biblical orthodoxy regarding human sexuality. We cannot possibly expect the world to obey God’s commands when it has forsaken the God who gave them, but we must nevertheless refuse to live as the world lives and believe the lies that they believe. If we forsake the Word of God, we forsake God Himself.

Therefore, I should begin by saying that I broadly agree with the content of the Nashville Statement. I am not even opposed to the concept of an ecumenical group of Christian leaders getting together to draft a new confessional document. I am by no means suggesting that we forsake our historic confessions, which are of utmost importance. Nevertheless, every confession was new at some point in history, and every generation of Christians has been forced to rise to new challenges. The Westminster Assembly of 1643-1653 did not address the issue of transgenderism, for it simply wasn’t a real issue at that time. Science had not advanced to the point where one could safely undergo gender reassignment surgery. We live in a different age, and it is vital that we address the challenges of that age.

The question is, has the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (hereafter CBMW) gone about this the right way? Indeed, are they even the best organization to be putting out such a statement? That may seem like an odd question to ask, given that manhood and womanhood are in their very name, but given some of the things this organization has promoted over the years, it is a question that we must ask. Several prominent Christian voices have already been raised in response to the Nashville Statement. They have pointed out the fact that it discusses God-designed gender roles but is ambiguous as to what those include. This has raised suspicions in the minds of some. They have also noted that some of the initial signatories have taught a doctrine of the Trinity that is not in line with the traditional Reformed confessions or even the Nicene Creed. (Here I refer to the doctrine known as the Eternal Subordination of the Son.) I am sure that other authors will develop these issues in greater depth, but I am choosing today to focus on something that might be missed by others who are not as sensitive to the pain it can cause. Continue reading

Baptism and Union with Christ

“Baptism of the Neophytes” by Masaccio, circa 1426-27

This is the latest in a series of essays on baptism. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.

In this series, I have already discussed the baptism of John, the rather unique baptism of Jesus Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I am sure that most people are eager for me to jump ahead and say conclusively whether we should be giving New Covenant baptism to infants. Not yet, my friends! There is a specific reason for my manner of proceeding. Everyone wants to start at that place which is really the end of the theological road. It is better for us to consider other factors before we make a final determination about whether we should dunk or sprinkle…or something else entirely.

There is one place in the Gospel of Luke where Christ talks about baptism in a way that seems rather different from anything else we have discussed. Let’s take a moment to consider His words on that occasion.

I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Luke 12:49-53 (emphasis added)

What did Jesus mean when He said that he had a “baptism to undergo”? He made this comment in the middle of His earthly ministry. That allows us to rule out the possibility that He was talking about the water baptism of John, which He had already received. It also allows us to rule out the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit had already descended on Him visibly in the form of a dove. We can furthermore rule out the possibility that Jesus is talking about a water baptism identical to what Christians receive today, for He never had one. No, I believe that the baptism Christ is describing here is more metaphorical: it is a baptism of suffering. Continue reading

My Good, Bad, Ugly Year

Friends,

I wanted to take a moment to update you on what has been going on in my life this year and to explain why you may not see so much of my writing in the near future. Beginning last September, I was frequently hit with various infections, none of which seemed particularly serious. This made life frustrating, but it would always pass. Then around the beginning of March, I woke up one night in terrible pain. It seemed to be an intestinal virus of some sort. Unfortunately, I have never fully recovered.

As the months have worn on, my symptoms have become more and less severe depending on the day or week. The one thing that has been nearly constant is aches and pains. Other symptoms presented themselves as well. Early on, I was tested for a wide variety of typical viruses, all of which came back negative. I have now had examinations or consultations with eight different doctors: my primary care physician, two osteopathic doctors, two immunologists/allergists, two rheumatologists, and one neurologist. I am currently being referred to yet another neurologist.

My condition has severely limited my functioning at times. I was forced to cancel three planned trips last spring. I have backed out of all my volunteer duties at church. I have only occasionally been able to make it to Bible studies. I attend Sunday services whenever it seems physically possible. I normally spend much of the summer outside gardening, but not this year. I normally take a lengthy walk every day, but not this year.

I am thankful to God that I have often been able to continue writing through all of this, but I have only done so with great difficulty. Anything you have read by me this year was most likely written when I was feeling unwell. Even as I long to study theology more deeply, I am often prevented from doing so because it is just so hard to maintain the necessary energy and concentration. Continue reading

Theology Gals Podcast

I was recently honored to appear on an episode of the Theology Gals podcast, which is on the awesomely named Bible Thumping Wingnut network. We discussed my recent articles about Tim Keller. You can listen to the podcast here. I really enjoyed speaking with Coleen and Ashley about these important issues, and I would encourage my readers to take a listen to some of the other episodes of this podcast as well. They have a Facebook page specifically for women, but the things they have to say are useful for all Christians to hear. Keep it up, ladies!

The articles about Keller can be found here and here.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: What It Means For Us

An original Gutenberg Bible photographed by Kevin Eng

This is the latest in a series of essays on the topic of baptism. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.

Thank you for returning to what I hope will be my last essay on the topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Yikes, this has taken a long time! Somewhat contrary to my original plan, I have decided to focus on what exactly the Spirit does in the life of the believer and then use that information to determine exactly who receives the Spirit. Let me restate that in my opinion, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is simply the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a regenerate believer. I also hold that while the Spirit has been equally active in both the Old and New Testament periods, there have been some differences in how He operates, namely that things are now more internal and less external. The Old Testament saints therefore experienced some of the benefits that we enjoy today, but not all of them. They certainly received all that was necessary for salvation, and the biggest difference we see in this regard is not between the Old Testament saints and the New Testaments ones, but between those who are made regenerate by the Spirit and those who are not. Having reviewed all those points, let us continue. Continue reading

New Series of Articles on Family Worship at “Meet the Puritans”

A depiction of the Puritan writer Oliver Heywood from an 1827 edition of his works

Hello friends! I have not been writing as much for my blog these past few weeks. Part of that is due to ill health. It is also partly because I have been contributing articles to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. You will find two of my essays over at Place for Truth: one on Trinitarian errors and the other on B.B. Warfield’s understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture. Over at Meet the Puritans, you can read a series of four articles I have written about Oliver Heywood’s The Family Altar, which outlines several Puritan principles regarding family worship. These are important topics, and I was so glad to have the chance to address them. If you have some time, head on over and check them out.