The Nashville Statement and Sterling K. Brown: Is This Us?

Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown brilliantly plays Randall Pearson in the NBC drama This Is Us. According to his Twitter account, he is also “a childSterlingKBrown of God.” In a 2016 Facebook posting just after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Brown expanded on that by saying that he grew up in St. Louis as a Christian. He also said that he has three family members who are gay and he believes #gaylivesmatter. You can read the whole post below or at his Facebook page but for the sake of discussion, here is a quote about Christianity and affirmation of gay people:

I’m tired, y’all. I’m tired of folks using The Bible, or any religious text to justify the withholding of love. To justify the promotion of intolerance. And ultimately, the death and destruction of what God made. My heart aches for the innocent, and I can no longer play the role of Switzerland. If you have a problem with loving gay people, then you have a problem with love, and thus you have a problem with God. Because what is God, if not love? The conditions which many Christians place on “how best to love” someone who is different than themselves has got to stop.


Brown gives every indication of growing up in a tradition which is consistent with the Nashville Statement (see these prior posts for background on that statement). Brown’s Facebook posting is quite inconsistent with the Nashville Statement. And then there is the matter of Article 10 which reads:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

Nashville logoAlthough he doesn’t specify his personal beliefs, Brown’s statement of support for LGBT people is remarkable. It sounds like there is some conflict in his family about the matter and yet he has come forward with a strong statement of support.
Dear Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is Sterling K. Brown one of us?

The Nashville Statement and God's Design

Nashville logoAs they say in journalism, the Nashville Statement has legs.  Mark Galli has a critical editorial about the NS in November’s Christianity Today. The President of NS sponsor Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Denny Burk answered that a couple of days ago. Downstream, I am now responding to Burk.
Because it is behind a paywall, I can’t read all of Galli’s op-ed. However, my main focus is what Burk has to say in reply. In particular, I want to briefly discuss God’s design and sexual orientation and gender identity.

God’s Design

Article 7 of the NS says:

We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

In his CT op-ed, Mark Galli criticized Article 7 of the NS for this position which stigmatize some Christians who consider themselves gay even though they refrain from gay sex.* Burk isn’t having it:

In response to this, I would simply point out that Galli’s criticism is not that Article 7 of the Nashville Statement is false or unsupported in scripture. His argument is simply that those who embrace a gay identity might disagree with it. He may be right that some who embrace a gay identity will not wish to support the statement, but that fact should not be confused with a substantive critique of Article 7 on the merits. Nor should it obscure the fact that Christians who experience same-sex attraction can and do endorse the statement (e.g., Sam Allberry, Rosaria Butterfield, Christopher Yuan).

Burk says Galli doesn’t use the Bible to criticize the NS, then Burk resorts to a defense which relies less on the Bible and more on natural law. As I will demonstrate below, Galli and Burk both look to nature but see different things. Burk continues:

Notice that Article 7 focuses on God’s purpose in his creation design and in his redemptive work through Christ. The careful reader will recognize that this article is concerned with the revelation of God’s design in both nature and scripture. In what sense does Galli think it consistent with God’s design to embrace a transgender self-concept? In what sense is it consistent with God’s design to embrace a gay self-concept? Does Galli think that adopting such self-concepts are a part of God’s original design in creation? Does Galli believe that people will embrace a gay or transgender self-concept in the new heavens and the new earth?
Galli offers us no guidance on these questions, but they are precisely the kinds of questions that ordinary Christians are asking and that Article 7 of the Nashville Statement answers. And I believe the statement does so in a way that is consistent with both natural law and scriptural revelation.

Burk looks at nature, sees the typical arrangement, calls it God’s design and asks Galli questions. He wants Galli to answer that embracing a transgender or gay self-concept isn’t consistent with God’s design. Burk wants him to say that such self-conceptions were not part of the original plan nor will they be part of the eventual eternal state. Therefore, we shouldn’t affirm them now.
Let me now speak for Galli and ask some questions of my own. Mr. Burk, what about the exceptions? Do they not exist? Are they not valuable? In what sense do you think it is consistent with God’s design to pretend that LGBT people don’t exist now? Do you think straight and cisgender people become undesigned if we acknowledge that non-straight and transgender people exist? If those people who exist in exception honestly acknowledge it, will anyone be excluded from the new heavens and the new earth? Can’t the typical and the atypical coexist in your world? They do in mine.
Galli points to one part of nature and says the NS doesn’t fully capture it. Burk comes along, points to a more orderly part of nature and says everybody is supposed to be straight and cisgender even if they aren’t.

Exceptions Happen

In fact, there are many exceptions to “design” in nature.  Among humans, some people have extra bones or teeth, some have webbed toes, some are missing limbs. Some couples are unable to have children. Among sheep, some rams attempt to mate with other rams. This does not alter the behavior of the straight rams. Arguing against LGBT people from God’s design is a weak argument because LGBT people also exist in God’s world. I don’t believe they are a surprise or have thwarted His plans. The basic means of furthering the species is intact even if a small percentage of people aren’t going to find love and attachment in the usual way.
 
Oppose same-sex sexual behavior if that is your conviction, but don’t tell LGBT people that their very existence is an attack on God’s created order and then tell them in the next breath that your statement to that effect is “an expression of love” for them.
Read my other posts about the Nashville Statement here.
*The issues are similar for transgender persons but for simplicity, I will focus on sexual orientation.

Church of South India Pulls Out of State Council of Churches Over Admission of Believers' Church

The Church of South India was a charter member of the Kerala Council of Churches in India. However, according to a news report in The Hindu, CSI has pulled out of the KCC in response to the admission of K.P. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church into the KCC.
The background of the move involves the insistence by the CSI that Yohannan (also the CEO of Gospel for Asia) was not consecrated officially as a bishop and has no authority as such.

The latest development has to be viewed in the backdrop of the controversy over the episcopacy claims of the Believers Church that its head, K.P. Yohannan, was consecrated by the CSI Church.
However, the CSI has outrightly rejected this claim of the Believers Church, saying that the former has never done such a thing at any point of time.
The CSI Moderator, Bishop Thomas K. Oommen, told The Hindu that the regional forum of the CSI Synod members had unanimously decided to disassociate with the KCC and its programmes.

Admirer kissing the hand of K.P. Yohannan. From his 2017 birthday video.
Admirer kissing the hand of K.P. Yohannan. From his 2017 birthday video.

Yohannan and several bishops created the Believers’ Church due to the need to have a church in India to receive donations from abroad. However Yohannan claimed recognition from CSI when in fact the relationship is nonexistent according to CSI. The leaders of that denomination felt so strongly about it that they pulled out of the KCC to protest the recognition of Believers’ Church. To CSI, Yohannan is a lay person pretending to be a Bishop.

Did the American Founders Want the Bible in Schools?

Tim Barton, son of self-styled historian David Barton, wants you to believe the founding fathers wanted the Bible taught in schools.

Tim Barton, son of self-styled historian David Barton, wants you to believe the founding fathers wanted the Bible taught in schools. Watch:

In the video, Barton focused on Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Barton said,

But what’s cool about him is when we became a nation, he wrote a series of essays to help guide and shape America, and what we thought and how we did it, and one of the essays he wrote was on education. It’s this essay right here and it was on the defense of the use of the Bible in schools. He’s arguing that we need the Bible in every school in America. Benjamin Rush believed that if we were going to make it as a nation, the way we had to do it was use the Bible in schools.

The caption for the video on Facebook is:

Who was the Father of Education in America? Here is the proof that our founders wanted the Bible in schools. Watch. Like. Share.

Is Rush’s letter proof the founders wanted the Bible in schools?
In 1791, Rush wrote a letter on education to Jeremiah Belknap which was republished by the American Tract Society in 1830. In the letter, Rush Benjamin_Rushdefended the use of the Bible in schools. However, Rush’s defense should raise a question. If the Bible was in such wide use, then why would Rush need to argue for its inclusion?
In fact, Rush said in his letter that the Bible in schools was out of fashion, so to speak.

To the arguments I have mentioned in favour of the use of the bible as a school book, I shall add a few reflexions.
The present fashionable practice of rejecting the bible from our schools, I suspect has originated with the deists. They discover great ingenuity in this new mode of attacking Christianity. If they proceed in it,.they will do more in half a century, in extirpating our religion, than Bolingbroke or Voltaire could have effected in a thousand years. I am not writing to this class of people. I despair of changing the opinions of any of them. I wish only to alter the opinions and conduct of those lukewarm, or superstitious Christians, who have been misted by the deists upon this subject. On the ground of the good old custom, of using the bible as a school book, it becomes us to entrench our religion. It is the last bulwark the deists have left it ; for they have rendered instruction in the principles of Christianity by the pulpit and the press, so unfashionable, that little good for many years seems to have been done by either of them. (emphasis added)

What? The Bible was rejected from schools during the 1790s? Eliminating the Bible was a fashionable practice?
Rush calls using the Bible in school a “good old custom” and blames another problem on their disuse:

The effects of the disuse of the bible, as a school book have appeared of late in the neglect and even contempt with which scripture names are treated by many people. It is because parents have not been early taught to know or respect the characters and exploits of the old and new testament worthies, that their names are exchanged for those of the modern kings of Europe, or of the principal characters in novels and romances.

Rush apparently viewed a lack of biblical naming to be a problem which would be addressed by returning Bibles to education. Since Rush complained that parents didn’t get Bible instruction in school, the use of the Bible in school must have dropped off long before the 1790s, at least according to Rush.
With his letter, Rush was going against the trend not setting the pace.

One Founder Doesn’t Mean All Founders

Another problem is that Barton generalizes from Rush to all founders. This, of course, is not appropriate method. At least one other founder spoke against using the Bible with young children — Thomas Jefferson. On that subject in his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson wrote:

Instead therefore of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children, at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious enquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European and American history.

No doubt some founders were fine with the Bible as a text and other were not. The problem here is the generalization to the point of misinformation. There was no national policy on the subject and some schools required Bible training while others did not. By the 1880s, many schools had stopped using the Bible (see the Cincinnati Bible Wars) at all.
If Wallbuilders would like to feature another essay by Rush as an example for current practice, I have a suggestion below:
rush bloodletting
 

I Will Be on Moody Radio's Up for Debate Program at Noon to Discuss Repeal of the Johnson Amendment

At noon, I will be on the Moody Radio Network program Up for Debate with Julie Roy to discuss the repeal of the Johnson Amendment. Repeal would allow churches to endorse political candidates. I don’t believe this is a good idea.
 
Opposing me will be Erik Stanley of Alliance Defending Freedom. You can listen online here: https://www.moodyradio.org/upfordebate
As background, see my post opposing church endorsements of political candidates.

Southern Baptist Ethics Commission Stands Behind Russell Moore

I just saw this tweeted a bit ago. There is commentary from the Executive Committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and from Dr. Russell Moore.
The summary from the Executive Committee is as follows:

In many respects, it was the trustee system that allowed for the Conservative Resurgence in our denomination. As committed Southern Baptists with a great appreciation for our Convention, we take our fiduciary responsibility as trustees of the ERLC as a sober and serious stewardship. As an Executive Committee, we believe that Dr. Moore has taken appropriate measures to address this situation. We realize that divisions do not heal overnight, and as needs arise our Board will be happy to address them. But in terms of leadership and support, Dr. Moore is the man to whom it has been entrusted to lead this entity—speaking prophetically both to our culture and to our Convention. He will continue doing so with the confidence of our support.

Moore has been the subject of controversy due to his opposition to Donald Trump during the election season. Moore came out strongly against Trump’s morals and alienated Trump supporting Southern Baptists. Some had called for Moore’s resignation and threatened to withdraw financial support unless Moore is replaced. We will see what happens.

This Just In: CPAC Rescinds Speaking Invitation to Milo Yiannopoulos, Publisher Pulls Book (UPDATED)

You knew this was coming:


After vocal reactions from a wide range of conservatives, CPAC rescinds the invitation.
For background on this matter, see posts from yesterday (here and here).
One wonders what took so long and what tipped the scale toward disinviting Yiannopoulos. Last night at 8:17pm, ACU chairman Matt Schlapp was still defending Milo as a speaker.


This was long after the video interviews had been widely available and distributed via Twitter.
UPDATE: Just in:

Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren to Speak at the National Prayer Breakfast

So he says. He may be the keynote speaker but then again that isn’t supposed to be disclosed until the day of the breakfast which is tomorrow. There are many opportunities to speak at the many meetings going on this week in Washington, D.C.
The National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by Congress and conducted by the Fellowship Foundation. I attended as a guest of the Fellowship in 2010 when the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill was under consideration.
President Trump will most likely speak as has every president since Eisenhower.
Founder Doug Coe’s presence is uncertain but may show up if he feels up to it.
 

Robert Morris: Donald Trump is the Right Guy Who Won Because the Church Came Together

Yesterday, I noted that Dallas area mega-church Gateway Church co-sponsored an inaugural ball in Washington, D.C. At the same time, Gateway Church can afford to sponsor the pricey affair, the church charges youth group kids for pizza at the weekly youth gatherings. A source at Gateway has informed me that the cost is a part of measures designed to address a drop in income at the church.
One of the benefits of sponsorship was the opportunity to address the crowd at the event. Below is Robert Morris’ words on behalf of the effort to elect Donald Trump. Watch:

Transcript of Morris’ remarks:

What brought us to this day was all the hard work.  All the giving.  All the things that we did in the natural.  But really what brought us to this day was that the Church for the first time in a long time came together and prayed for our nation.  But here’s the problem.  Many times it’s the candidate that we don’t like gets elected, then we don’t pray for him.  We don’t like him.  And then if the one that we like gets elected, we don’t pray because we think we got the right guy and he’ll do the right thing.  And I believe Donald Trump is the right guy, but he won’t do the right thing without our help and without God’s help.  And so what we do when we pray is we reach out with one hand and he grab hold of God and we reach out with the other hand in the spiritual and we grab hold of Donald J Trump and we intersect him with God every single day.  Every day.  And this is actually what it means when it says Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.  I don’t wanna burst your bubble but He’s not up there, as Chonda was saying ‘in Jesus’ name’, to his father praying for us, he actually has the Father with one hand and us with the other hand and he brings us into an encounter with His holy Father.  And so I want us to pray and I just wanna give you a charge that we need to continue to pray for our president, our vice president, for our congressmen and women, for our elected officials.  First Timothy says I wish men everywhere would pray and I want them to pray for the governing authorities so will you join me in prayer as we intersect God and our government.
Lord we wanna tell you we are so grateful for today.  Lord, we sensed in our spirits that something has changed in the heavenlies today.  Not just something on earth, but something in the heavenlies changed today.  And so Lord, we ask you to anoint our president with your Holy Spirit.  Lord, to guide his mind and his heart.  Lord we ask you to give him wisdom as you gave Solomon wisdom.  And Lord we ask you that you would bring about a spiritual revival in our nation.  And that the church that came together in this election would continue to come together and be light and salt to America and then to the world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Morris believes Trump’s win represents a unity in the Christian church. I don’t agree. I think Trump is a divisive figure in that many Christians oppose him and his vision for the nation. However, the spin from his supporters is that Trump’s victory represents a deliverance or at the least a pause in the path toward social destruction. Others at the Faith, Freedom and Future Ball sounded similar themes (e.g., Tony Perkins said now we at least have a future.).