John Piper Responds to Concerns That Nashville Statement Is Driving Liberals Away
Reformed theologian and author John Piper has tackled a question on whether the Nashville Statement on sexuality is too divisive for society and is driving liberals further away by explaining that biblical truth is always controversial.
During a podcast posted on the desiringGod.com website Monday, Piper read an email he received about the Nashville Statement which talks about some of the pushback the statement has generated, even among conservative circles.
In the email, a listener identified as Amy listed her two main concerns about the August deceleration, which Piper signed, that affirmed conservative theological positions on issues of gender and sexual orientation:
"(1) Is hot-topic orthodoxy, announced and affirmed in the wide-open public realm, appropriate in a 'casting pearls before swine' kind of way? and (2) Is it helpful or harmful for outreach to draw public lines in the sand over ideology, which, at worst, is seen as politically motivated by the world, or is at least something that adds a new wall of separation between the Christians in a local church from the liberal, unbelieving neighbors they are trying to reach within a neighborhood, first through relationship building?"
Piper delved into both questions and explained that Jesus' warning against "throwing pearls before pigs" in Matthew 7:6 was in reference to a specific example, rather than advice that should always preclude Christians from sharing Gospel truths.
"I think the Christian vision — the vision of the creation of mankind as male and female, of marriage as a covenant-keeping, lifelong bond between a man and a woman (a husband and a wife), and of a courageous, Christ-exalting chastity outside marriage (or in marriage, for that matter) — is a beautiful pearl that should be set on a pedestal before the world, even knowing that today many in the world hate this pearl, mock this pearl, and do everything they can to trample on and shatter this pearl," Piper said.
To answer Amy's second question, Piper noted that public preaching is often accused of being politically motivated, much like Jesus and His ministry in the New Testament.
"If someone thinks that there's a way to preach and write and make statements and do anything else in public that presents the pearls of biblical truth without encountering in social media and other ways a thousand angry critics, they're just naïve. It cannot be done," Piper wrote.
"Let me say this as strongly as I know how. The day is long gone in America where it is possible to be publicly faithful as a Christian to the truth of God and not be excoriated."
As for whether the Nashville Statement divides conservatives and their "liberal, unbelieving neighbors" even further, he argued that nothing has been added to the fundamentals that already divide the two groups.
"I will just appeal (this is really a personal appeal, so take it for what it's worth, and I hope folks who are resistant to the Nashville Statement for various reasons will at least listen carefully) to those whose method of evangelism — or 'being missional' as we say today — includes the effort to conceal offensive biblical things about the pearl of the Christian life," he continued. "Those folks may not only be missing golden opportunities for biblical witness, precisely because offensive things are out in the public, but they may also be abandoning the way Jesus and the Apostles did their public ministry."
Piper further insisted that the declarations on sexuality in the Nashville Statement are "beautiful," and encouraged conservatives to "insightfully and creatively and courageously" engage with those "fuming" against the statement and point them to the truth.
"The real challenge is not to make Jesus look beautiful by hiding some of His cherished convictions. The real challenge is to trace all His views, including His most offensive ones, back to the beautiful root of this person and up to the beautiful flower of His glory and His purpose is for all of mankind. That's the challenge we may be missing by huffing and puffing about how controversial things are," he wrote.
Some who've said they agree with the points made in the Nashville Statement have also argued that it further damages the Church's already negative reputation with homosexuals, however.
New York Times best-selling author Preston Sprinkle argued in September that the Nashville Statement falls short on key aspects.
Sprinkle, who at the time of the publication of the Nashville Statement released a 20-minute film called, "Dear Church: I'm Gay," asserted that the declaration uses "impersonal" and "outdated" language and fails to own up to the mistakes made by theologically orthodox believers in the conversation.
"While we absolutely need to celebrate and promote Christianity's historic view of marriage and sexual expression," Sprinkle said, "we need to do so much more thoughtfully and much more holistically — pounding the pulpit for truth and grace."