Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:41-42
The commentary on this verse in one of SIFC’s study bibles is quite interesting: “Even a speck in the eye is very uncomfortable, making it hard to use that eye. An eye with a plank would be useless, totally blind, so in effect, Jesus is repeating the question, ‘can a blind man guide?’ On the other hand, a plank is so large that one can grab it and remove it without sight. Unfortunately, there are a lot of blind teachers who don’t think they are, and they do untold damage to their students.”
– Dr. Wilbur Pickering, The Sovereign Creator Has Spoken (2013)
What a perfect analogy for the major shortcoming of the Nashville Statement and its sponsors! This document uses a catchall preamble and Articles 1 through 3 to set context and give brief mention to a few other sexual ethics issues, but from there it gets right down to the business of taking dead aim, with the remaining 11 articles, at all of the ever-cascading horrors of homosexualism which seem to worsen with each dizzying new year. Meanwhile, Article 1 is the last mention of any other dimension of the full definition of marriage that Jesus gave in Matthew 19:4-6 / Mark 10:5-9, including any implications from the fact that holy matrimony is not only complementarian, but also that it is indissoluble by any acts of men other than death. To its credit, Article 1 states that the marriage covenant is “lifelong”. Since most remarriage adulterers at least hope for that, this bland statement does not unduly offend that camp, so long as it is not elaborated upon too closely.
Hence, the Nashville Statement declares war on homosexual practice while leaving the far more pervasive abomination of remarriage adultery / consecutive polygamy essentially ungrazed. This comes to a head, in particular, in Article 10, where it quite rightly declares that giving approval to homosexual practice constitutes an “essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness”, and that this is a matter in which there is no room for “moral indifference” or to “agree to disagree”. Notably, this manifesto quite wrongly omits from Article 10 the abomination Jesus spent an enormous portion of His time condemning: the use of man’s courts and immoral laws to secure a purported “dissolution”, and mocking God-joined holy matrimony by “remarrying” while having a living, estranged spouse. Jesus may have addressed homosexual practice in similar terms as He explicitly addressed consecutive polygamy, but there is no canonized record of it, where the record on legalized adultery is repetitive and irrefutable. Naturally, the obvious resulting hypocrisy is not sitting well with several constituencies on both the Left and the Right.
As noted in the blog post a couple of days ago, not many members of the covenant marriage stander community have engaged much in responses to this latest conservative evangelical manifesto on sexual ethics released this past week seeking signers and supporters. However, the activity between various church, parachurch and family policy organizations has been all-consuming on social media even with the backdrop of the flood recovery still underway in Texas. Opposition from Leftist clergy has also been brisk, as one might expect. Judging by the volume of rebuttal, there does seem to be a fair amount of concern from opponents that cultural traction might be gained this time, where several other very similar initiatives got the flurry of initial press, then fizzled out, such as the Manhattan Declaration (2009) and The Marriage Pledge (2014). The social media response to the Nashville Statement is reminiscent of the 40 Questions blog on homosexuality put out by The Gospel Coalition in 2015. Predictably, everybody and their dog is busy drafting their own version of the fourteen Affirm / Deny statements to get their particular “spin” in.
Here is the background on the sponsoring organization, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which states their mission as…”to set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church. ” According to the group’s website, CBMW has been in operation since 1987, when a meeting in Dallas, Texas, brought together a number of evangelical leaders and scholars, including John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Wayne House, Dorothy Patterson, James Borland, Susan Foh, and Ken Sarles. They have partnered with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention for this particular initiative.
Currently on the board of CBMW:
Dr. Daniel L. Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, who also has a pastoral background.
Dr. Jason Duesing, Provost of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, III Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, also with a pastoral background.
Dr. Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary and a founding board member. General editor of the ESV Study Bible.
Jeff Purswell, Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College and leads pastoral and theological training for Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Dr. K. Erik Thoennes, Chair of Biblical and Theological Studies and Professor of Theology at the Talbot School of Theology and a pastor at Grace Evangelical Free Church in La Mirada, California.
Dr. Thomas White, President and Professor of Theology at Cedarville University, holding a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Denny Burk is the current President of CMBW. He also serves as a Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He blogs at DennyBurk.com.
To summarize, all of these board members hail from either Baptist / Calvinist or Reformed backgrounds which adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, whose marriage provisions contain the extrabiblical heresy that divorce and remarriage is permissible for the “biblical grounds” of adultery and abandonment. It would stand to reason that there would be a blind spot, additionally, due to the biblically-unsupported belief that disobeying Christ’s prohibition against marrying a second, third, fourth, etc. spouse while one has a living, estranged original spouse will not actually result in possibly dying in that state and, (as a consequence) going to hell as an unrepented adulterer as 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Gal. 5:19-21 state. Most theologians of this persuasion teach that the worst that can happen is “loss of rewards”, and this does not merit refusing to perform a wedding over the already-married-for-life, nor the “breaking up of another marriage” (selectively applied to heterosexuals, of course). We can likely expect each of these leaders to be firmly of the “repent in your heart” persuasion if there are adulterous remarriages that somehow fall outside the man-made liberal allowances of the WCOF. In other words, all heterosexual “marriages” can be deemed to be “sanctified” even if Jesus did declare them to be continuously adulterous on numerous occasions reflected in scripture.
By contrast, the earlier Manhattan Declaration was a project of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian World View, and a reaction to early legalization of homosexual “marriage” in Iowa and California, as well as the stacking of the Federal courts across the country by former POTUS Barack Obama with LGBT-sympathetic judges. It had the broad strength of some godly input from a Catholic law professor, Dr. Robert George, and hence, a much stronger statement about the permanence of heterosexual marriage. It eventually garnered over half a million signers, but perhaps due to Chuck Colson’s untimely death, and perhaps due to failure to raise significant donations, that initiative faded after a handful of years, during which time, significant political and ecclesiastical ground was lost. The Marriage Pledge was an Anglican effort five years later that garnered about 800 signatures of ecumenical clergy who pledged to cease acting as an agent of the civil state to sign marriage licenses, many of those Pledge signatures coming after the Obergefell U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing homosexual “marriage” in June, 2015. Sadly, what could have been a wonderful opportunity to bolster heterosexual marriage by effectively taking it back into the church (undoing the colossal damage inflicted by Luther and other Reformers) was missed, as this very worthy initiative also sputtered out shortly thereafter. It wound up playing out as a brief ecclesiastical temper tantrum, as sodomous weddings were indeed legalized in every state, but the appetite for actually implementing the Marriage Pledge waned, probably because the purifying implications for heterosexual weddings finally dawned on its promoters. At the present time, the website for the Nashville Statement isn’t disclosing the overall tally of signers, so uptake isn’t able to be monitored.
Because of all of the above, “standerinfamilycourt” reflected for several days before finally deciding to sign, at the same time personally resolving that there would be no money donated until and unless Article 10 is amended to include remarriage after divorce. Despite the apparent futility of such a request in this particular circle of promoters, a letter to this effect will be written to this board, praising what they got right, and explaining the consequences of the portion they’ve gotten wrong. At this time, they are surely hearing from seminarians and activists in the liberal wing of the church. When this initiative fails as the weakest of the three, and as all the prior efforts have failed, it would be a real shame for these liberal-ish seminarians to falsely conclude that their document was not liberal enough! As the grip of homofascism tightens ever harder on the throat of the church, it never hurts to have planted such a truth-seed, and built such a bridge for when the breaking point finally comes. The Lord began the process several years ago of doing whatever it takes to get the attention of His wayward shepherds before exacting final judgment on the land. (A suggested letter text is offered at the end of this blog post for anyone who would like to do join SIFC in the correspondence effort.)
Denny Burk’s August 29 blog concerning Article 10 reads a bit myopically: “Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about. Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.” ( In that case, Dr. Burk, why doesn’t Article 10 also condemn what Christ called ongoing adultery, not once, but five times? Do not both sins send people to hell equally? ) These gentlemen would mostly say “no” to this, because Christ apparently died for our premeditated future sins.
As a practical matter, Article 10 will only be an effective “line in the sand” if the organization can raise the funds to make it so, by paying for media, conferences, political sponsorship, legal defense and the like. Signatures don’t necessarily translate into wherewithal, as the Manhattan Declaration demonstrated. Massive amounts of money pour into the coffers of the LGBT advocacy organizations that the conservative groups have never been able to match. Indeed, in 2009, Dr. George established a political fund-raising organization, American Principles Project, based on that important lesson-learned. At this point, SIFC does not recommend that the marriage permanence community donate to this organization, either, because they currently are hyperfocused on issues like homosexualism and its religious liberty fallout, while remaining completely insensitive to the much more longsuffering, numerous and original religious liberty victims of the Sexual Revolution: “Respondents” to civil unilateral divorce petitions. This organization is an additional one that SIFC would recommend corresponding with and building a similar bridge for the appointed time.
SIFC is not a fan of cut-and-paste advocacy letters, and doesn’t really know the first thing about whether or not they actually work in practice. That said, a “template” can be very helpful as a starting point from which to lay out basic facts then add thoughts from the individual heart. It is in this spirit that I share my intended correspondence with these two groups.
EXAMPLE LETTER TO CMBW :
Dr. Denny Burk & Directors
CBMW Executive Office
2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
– Luke 14:28
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