The Battle of Nashville


Why not sign?
Joel Belz

Everyone: Why I did/didn't sign the Nashville Statement 

Me: Why I didn't even read it
Valerie Hobbs

The Civil War Battle of Nashville took place December 15 and 16, 1864. Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, after his defeat by U.S. General William T. Sherman in the Battle of Atlanta, headed for Nashville, occupied since February, 1862 by northern forces, in an effort to disrupt Gen. Sherman's supply line and to change the course of the War. The battle proved a turning point. It was a decisive Union victory. It rendered the Confederate Army of Tennessee ineffective as a fighting force. It effectively ended the War in the west. It destroyed the military career and reputation of the brave and aggressive Gen. Hood.

Presently there is a new battle of Nashville being fought by evangelical-reformed against evangelical-reformed. And as often is the case with fights, it is about women and sex. We mean the "Nashville Statement" of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. 

For those who have not read it, here is the entire statement:
Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life. Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God. This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin? 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 gladhearted 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. We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials. 
Article 1 WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church. WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God. Article 
2 WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage. WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality. Article 
3 WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female. WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth. 
Article 4 WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing. WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome. 
Article 5 WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female. WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female. 
Article 6 WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known. WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ. 
Article 7 WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture. WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption. 
Article 8 WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life. WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel. 
Article 9 WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality — a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality. WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior. 
Article 10 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. 
Article 11 WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female. WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his image-bearers as male and female. 
Article 12 WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin. 
Article 13 WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female. WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will. 
Article 14 WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure. WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach. 

Our purpose is not to analyze the statement, noting agreement, disagreement, and suggested modifications.

It is rather to do two things:

First, we note that the church is no longer the church but the para-church is. This statement was not rendered by an ecclesial body but by a non-ecclesial body, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, acting as though it were an ecclesial body. This has been pointed out by persons such as Darryl Hart, Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd. The statement has no ecclesial authority to bind the conscience of any Christian. No one must affirm the statement to be a minister, lay ruler, or member in good standing of any Christian church for the simple reason that no Christian church has adopted it.

The truth is that in the West we have passed the point where any theological statement could be produced by Protestantism. Protestantism has no way of producing anything like the catholic creeds - Nicene, Apostles', Chalcedonian Definition, and Athansian, which state the universal faith of all Christians. To produce such there must be "one true, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" which does not exist in the West and has not since the Reformation. It would be impossible today even to produce a statement binding on a family of churches - no Augsburg Confession, no Second Helvetic Confession, no Belgic Confession or Heidelbeg Catechism, no Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, no Westminster Confession and Catechisms. 

In the West we have no universal Church, no church that can can say "he who would be saved must acknowledge...". In the West, Jesus prayer "that they may all be one as we are one" has gone unanswered. In the West, every man, and now every woman, is his/her own Pope determining what he/she will believe and practice. In the west there is no binding consensus of what the Christian faith is or requires. 

Even if you could get, say the PCA or the OPC, to make a statement about the subjects covered in the CBMW statement, it would be nothing more than a statement to be considered. It would be binding on no one save their ministers and elders, and perhaps, given that a statement of one of their Assemblies is nothing more that a statement of a particular Assembly, binding on no one at all.

Some, especially Americans, for whom the right to believe what you want to believe and do what you want to do, is the most sacred of all rights, will celebrate diversity of belief and practice and rejoice in this reality. Others, who believe the church should have authority to declare universal Christian faith and practice, can only grieve and ask, "What, if anything at all, will be the church and its authority in the future?" It is difficult to see how anything short of the Second Coming of our Lord can save the Western church from itself.

The sad truth is that in the West the closest we can get to any declaration of faith on contemporary issues (and it is disingenuous to think that the Westminster or other confessions address these matters, given that the matters regarding the role relations of men and women, homosexual practice, and transgederism were self-evident to them) is statements such as those of the CBMW statement. And, even then, every man and woman will do what is right in his/her eyes.

Second we ask this perennial question: What do the ladies want?

Aimee Byrd expresses her concerns:

She wishes that the CBMW would agree with her on the doctrine of the Trinity and would distance itself from those who do no share that view:
I made a plea to CBMW, asking them to take a firm stance on the Trinity. Here we are a year later with a new statement from CBMW, signed by many of the proponents of ESS/ERAS/EFS, and those who formerly supported this teaching but have now backed away from it. Looking back a year later, I would have loved to see CBMW lead the way in retracting the unorthodox, harmful teaching from their own movement and leaders. I would have loved to see some apologies for leading people in such error and for calling some of us names who pointed it out. I would have loved to see men and women invited to sign off on orthodox teaching that doesn't reduce men and women to stereotypes. But this was not the case.
I agree with Ms. Byrd that the eternal relation of the Persons of the Trinity is co-eternality and co-equality. But, the history of  the doctrine of the relationships of the Persons of the Trinity is not so simple as she supposes. When I served on a committee dealing with the doctrine of the Creation, I asked, "Do we want a church from which from which B.B. Warfield is excluded?" Similarly I would ask Ms. Byrd, "Do we really want an evangelicalism from which J.I. Packer is excluded?" Speaking for myself, the answer to both questions is, "No."

But Ms. Byrd has other issues:
And now we have this new statement, which makes me ask more questions: 
What do they mean by “divinely ordained differences between male and female” in Article 4? I agree with the words themselves. But CBMW hasn’t retracted their teaching on eternal subordination of women by God’s design. Just last year, sessions from their conference “The Beauty of Complementarity” connected ESS/EFS to complementarianism in an ontological context of authority and submission. Just last year they promoted the release of Owen Strachen and Gavin Peacock’s book, The Grand Design, which taught this very connection (and is endorsed by others also signing the Nashville Statement).
She goes on:
And if this is not the case, then I have to wonder why include CBMW proponents of ESS who used this teaching in conjunction with masculinity and femininity such as Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and Owen Strachen, as signatories? I looks to me like this is still the accepted teaching. How else should I read it? 
CBMW also hasn’t retracted any of the hyper-authoritarian, hyper-machismo teaching about manhood and their hyper-submissive and stereotypical teaching about womanhood. (Ed: talk about "hyper" - this is a hyper way of describing a position)  Instead, I have seen much more of the same by some of their popular leaders. So once again, I wonder if this is what applies to their “divinely ordained differences”? 
Are these divinely ordained differences ultimately expressed in sex and marriage and authority and submission? The statement says nothing about friendship. God didn't design the two sexes only for marriage. What about how we were designed for the new heavens and the new earth? Where's the brother/sister language? This is an important part of our sexuality that carries over into our eternal bodies when we will not marry. The church needs to speak more into how we were created for communion with the Triune God and with one another in platonic---intimate but non-erotic---relationships. This too is a faithful witness against the sexual revolution and for promoting one another’s holiness. And a great hope for those who suffer with same sex attraction.

Ms. Byrd's concerns are shared by Rachel Miller who adds other concerns:

...there has also been a significant amount of pushback by some who share the concerns addressed in the Nashville Statement but who disagree with various aspects of the statement. Some are concerned about what CBMW means by "divinely ordained differences between male and female." Considering what CBMW has taught since its inception regarding male and female roles of authority and submission and the connection they have made with authority and submission in the Trinity, it's a reasonable concern to have. 
After the Trinity debate last summer, the official answer from CBMW was that to be a complementarian one only needed to uphold the Danvers Statement and that it was not necessary to hold to the Nicene teaching on the Trinity. Such a position appears to make the Danvers Statement more essential for complementarianism than Nicene orthodoxy. That is a very rocky foundation and a legitimate concern for many who have not signed the Nashville Statement.
Another concern has been raised over the use of "procreative" describing marriage in the Nashville Statement. Again, because of the well-known teachings of CBMW and its authors on the topic of marriage and procreation, it's reasonable to ask exactly what they meant.
Others have expressed concern over the timing and usefulness of the new statement. They are concerned about the pastoral implications of such a statement. Will the Nashville Statement help or hinder efforts to reach and share the gospel with those in the LGBT+ community? Certainly it's true that the Bible's teachings on sexuality will be challenging and even offensive to many, but does the Nashville Statement add clarity or generate more heat than light? These are valid questions.
I don't desire further to complicate the issues the ladies have raised but I do have just a few questions of them:

(1) What do they think about about the meaning of and present day significance of Genesis 1:28 and its repetition in Genesis 9:7 for the role of procreation in marriage?
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” 

(2) What do they think is the original and present day significance of 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 for the God-ordained relations of man and woman in the church?
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 
Similarly of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35:
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 
And of 1 Timothy 2:9-15:
...likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,  but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.  Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve;  and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 
(3) What do they believe is the original meaning and and present day significance for the relationship of husband and wife in marriage of St. Paul's teaching in Ephesians 5:22-24, and 33:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands...However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 

What does the Apostle mean by "the husband is head of the wife" or "wives should submit in everything to their husbands" or "let the wife see that she respects her husband"?

And what of St.Peter's teaching in 1 Peter 3:1-6 for wives married to unbelievers who do not live with them in "an understanding way"?
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable abeauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
What does the Apostle mean by "be subject to your own husbands," "respectful and pure conduct," "gentle and quiet spirit," "holy women...submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord"?

For that matter what do they think of the language "and obey" promised by the wife in the traditional marriage service?

Are we talking about a God-ordained, permanent this-worldly arrangement or about something else?

These are honest questions. What did the Apostles mean? How was this teaching understood by the original readers? What is the timeless teaching of the Apostles for us today?

We understand why Valarie Hobbs would not bother to read the the Nashville statement. She is a feminist scholar. But we would like more than what evangelical-reformed women object to about Nashville. What do they think in the Scriptures is binding regarding marriage and procreation, men and women in church, husbands and wives in marriage?

If Tim Bayly were to visit my home and ask me questions, he would conclude that I am in rebellion against God because of what he would judge to be the egalitarian nature of my marriage. If he took the time to learn about my denomination, he would find that women serve on vestries, as delegates to our synods, and as deputies to our General Council. He would find my views and practice quite "liberal." Moreover, I have not and don't plan to sign the Nashville statement.

But that leaves me with the question. What are the specific disagreements of evangelical-reformed women with the actual language of the Nashville statement? And how do they understand the Scriptures?



  1. Not clear where you're going with this. Was Mrs. Byrd out of line in asking for clarification on the document? Was this something best left to the gentlemen?

    1. Where I am going with this is where I went with it. I want to know what evangelical-reformed women think the Scriptures teach re procreation, male-female roles in church, husband-wife roles in marriage. I quote the passages, asking what is timeless, binding teaching. I could also ask,What is not timeless and binding, and how do we know? Re Ms. Byrd, she is free to ask any questions she wishes, though I am not sure whom she expects to answer.

  2. Do you want them to write a book and/or blog article specifically for your benefit? They have answered your questions numerous times in numerous ways. It remains for you to make the effort to find them. They both affirm male headship in the home and church.


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