Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Nashville Statement

In amongst endless Australian re-definition of marriage vote status updates on my Facebook feed comes a refreshing post from the USA.  The refreshing post is the Nashville Statement.

The Statement – which has been signed by some US conservative evangelic Christian heavyweights – addresses God’s intended design for human sexuality.  The Statement re-asserts two thousand year old teaching.  It has proven to be an affront to liberal Christians.  At the worst, the response has been in the form of a statement - the Denver Statement.  Some liberals have rushed to sign the Denver Statement.  I do not recommend reading the Denver Statement lightly (hence my decision to not link through to it).  It is fair to say that a person’s endorsement of the Nashville Statement is at the exclusion of their endorsement of the Denver Statement and vice versa.  The Nashville Statement arose at a joint meeting of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) on August 25th (reference via this link)

The Nashville Statement is a fascinating document for its use of a literary device.  That literary device is Antithetical Parallelism.  I have chosen Article 7 of the Nashville Statement to illustrate antithetical parallelism.  Before I address Article 7, the reader may wish to observe a study of some of the Psalms in respect to a number of literary devices used.  This table sets out three of the literary devices used in the Psalms.

Literary device
Text considered
Blog link
Antithetical parallelism

Antithetical parallelism links two sets of text.  One set is obverse to the other.  Greater meaning flows from reading the whole text than the individual couplets of the text.  In Article 7 of the Nashville Statement, the author’s intent to contrast one part of the text with the other is evident in that one set of text begins “WE AFFIRM” and the other begins “WE DENY”.  The “WE AFFIRM” text and the “WE DENY” text are in parallel. 

The structure of Article 7 is in common with the structure of all of the fourteen Articles.

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 7 is antithetical parallelism in that it states the positive proposition – that gender is defined by God – and denies the negative proposition – that a person’s adopted self-conception (specifically homosexual or transgender) is excluded from God’s purpose.  In effect, the Article recognises only male and female gender assignment as a matter of God’s work in knitting a person together in their mother’s womb Psalm 139:13-14 NIV.

Antithetical parallelism works powerfully to convey a message.  It has a similar impact to a mother's stern warning to her teenage daughter: "You will dress properly for your date tonight; you are not to wear that mini-dress" or a train station attendant's announcement: "Please stand clear of the yellow line; if you are standing beyond the yellow line you face danger".


Note 1: all links good as at 3 September 2017

Note 2: Both Pastor John Piper and Pastor John Macarthur are signatories to the Nashville Statement.  I’ll admit to a degree of intellectual sloth in concurring with the Nashville Statement in that I have happily benefited from saturation in books, blog posts and downloadable sermons of these Pastors. Nonetheless, I have read the Nashville Statement and have not had any cause to reject it.

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