Eight Cedarville University professors sign Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality
by Zach Krauss
Eight Cedarville University professors, including President Dr. Thomas White, reiterated their beliefs on sexuality by signing the Nashville Statement after it was drafted in August.
Other Cedarville affiliated signatories included White’s wife, Joy, assistant professor of women’s studies; Dr. Dan DeWitt, professor of applied theology and apologetics; Dr. Jason Lee, dean of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies; Sam Allberry, visiting professor and speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; Dr. Timothy Tuinstra, professor of electrical engineering; Erin Shaw, instructor of women’s ministry; and Jason French, assistant professor of worship.
The Nashville Statement is a Christian statement of faith regarding biblical human sexuality. The document was written by several people closely associated with the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood with a co-sponsorship with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The finalization of the text of the Nashville Statement took place at the ERLC national conference in August. This national meeting occurred in Nashville, which is the reason behind the document’s name.
The Nashville Statement was written in response to the revision of cultural morality. The statement’s preamble states that “Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian” and that “it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being.” The statement comes years after the Danvers Statement, a 1988 statement similar in nature that focused primarily on gender roles.
The new statement discusses gender roles but also talks about transgenderism, homosexuality, biblical marriage, and the biblical difference between men and women. It also stresses the powerful grace of God to save those who chase after Him, iterating that even those struggling with the lifestyles denied in the statement can receive grace and sanctification through Jesus Christ.
The document is a reiteration of beliefs that are reflected in the doctrinal statement at Cedarville, which means it reflects the beliefs of many professors at Cedarville.
DeWitt was one of the initial signers. As a member of the ERLC, Dewitt was able to provide feedback and input on the document before it was published.
DeWitt said he doesn’t believe the document will drastically affect the way he teaches or interacts with others, but that it already reflects his current mindset.
“It’s our prayer that as followers of Jesus that we speak the truth in love,” DeWitt said. “This means that we speak the truth, without compromise, but that we also speak in love.”
White was also one of the initial signers. He first learned of the document through his involvement with the CBMW and the ERLC. White said he believes that it was important for the evangelical community to come together to say that the statement is what we believe the Bible teaches.
“When you look at all the people all across the country who signed it, you start asking the question ‘Why not sign it?’” he said. “It becomes ‘why is my name not on the list?’ rather than ‘why is my name on the list?’”
The Nashville Statement caused a stir in certain evangelical news circles. Some who read the document were crying out about the document being a statement of homophobic and transphobic ideas with hateful theology.
When asked about these accusations, Tuinstra pointed toward the second half of the document, which focuses on the redeeming power of Christ’s love toward those who trust in Him. He said marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, and if we let it go, it takes significance away from our personal relationship with Jesus. Tuinstra said the articles state the truth, which should be said.
“There’s a problem in the wider church in regard to standing for boldness,” he said. “It’s good for other Christians to know that we’re standing with them in solidarity and that we won’t back down.”
Tuinstra emphasized everyone has sin issues that are just as serious as the ones outlined in the statement, and that we should never make it an “us versus them” situation. Rather we should make an effort to help each other in our struggle against our sin nature.
“We want to say homosexuality is wrong and that transgender identification is wrong, but we want to help people to see that Christ changes things and that Christ changes people,” he said. “That’s the good news, and I don’t see it as being full of hate, I see it as being full of hope.”
White said that part of the reason so much debate was caused over the document is the fact that many don’t realize that the statement itself is meant to be a Christian document of faith, one to reiterate beliefs we should all share as Christians, not one that extends into the lives of those who don’t believe.
“We fully expect that those who don’t hold the biblical viewpoint would hold themselves to a different standard,” White said. “It isn’t an apologetic to the lost world, and it isn’t a full statement; it doesn’t say everything that needs to be said. It needed to combine grace and love, and it needed to have hope for those who have lived with same-sex attraction.”
While the Nashville Statement made a bold declaration for the truth, the signers recognized that this is only the first step in a longer process.
“Nobody that signed this document thinks this is the end of the matter,” White said.
White said that what is written in the document is the truth, but there is a love component to the article as well. That part of love is loving someone enough to tell them the truth.
“You can tell someone the truth without loving them, but I don’t know that you can love someone without telling them the truth,” he said.
That sort of loving change is what the document seeks to encourage, White said, but that the form of love demonstrated in publishing the document isn’t complete.
“If all it is is signing a document to say ‘here you go,’ I don’t think that’s the complete picture we need to present,” he said. “We shouldn’t shy away from speaking truth, but we can’t leave it there.”
White said that what matters is the relationships we have with people who struggle with same-sex attraction or transgender self-conceptions. He said it’s about getting to know people, having a cup of coffee and having conversations while talking through issues and praying for one another.
“There are much deeper conversations that need to be had about how we walk together with others with love, humility, and truth, living life together,” he said. “[We need to recognize] that we all have sin issues and sin temptations that we all struggle with, and it’s through that identity of a sin nature and through the grace of the Cross and the power of the Holy Spirit that we find unity.”
Zach Krauss is a junior pharmacy/music double major from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community, and meeting new people.