The challenge with responding to this Article is that any objection opens the door for those who put this Statement together to question your salvation. The problem with this Article is less with what is said and more with what the group who put the Statement together believes this means.
The question arises around the issue of repentance. What does it mean? When must it happen? What must it entail?
Scripture gives us several different pictures of how this will look and which parable or image will connect with you depends on where you are when you encounter the Gospel. Scripture also includes statements about salvation that are generally not included as part of the discussion – such as when Jesus tells the rich young man that in order to be saved he must sell all he has, give it to the poor and follow Jesus.
”Repent” basically speaks to “turn around.” You’re doing one thing and you repent and you go in a different direction. So in a general sense the article addresses a real instruction from Scripture. If you’re walking along in your life and you encounter the Gospel – the real Good News of Jesus – and your heart responds to the immense love that God has for you then a response to that love is repentance. You were walking in one direction. God got your attention, and you turn around and change direction.
The most simple and beautiful prayer of repentance is when the Roman Centurion declares, in Mark 9:24, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
Too often the instruction to repent and believe for salvation is confused with the repenting that is an ongoing part of being refined and regenerated into the image of Jesus. That’s the problem with including this as part of the larger Nashville Statement. This group of Christians wants people to completely sort out their sexual and gender identities to conform with what makes them comfortable before they will acknowledge they are saved. That is not good news.
Another approach is that God comes to us with love and as we respond to him (repent and change directions to follow God) we are changed in the process.
This is a harder approach for many people who are already in the church to accept because it requires a lot of faith they may not have. Faith to trust God to work out salvation and righteousness with each person in a way that may not look like how God is working with you. Faith to trust God to work in the areas of someone’s life that they need worked in even if it’s not what you think it should be. Faith to trust God to do God’s part in all of this while remembering that the only part we are called to play is to love our neighbor as ourself and share our story with them.
Yet this is the Good News! God loves you! God’s arm is not too short to reach you and hold you wherever you are! As you walk in relationship with God you will be changed!
What I won’t say is how you will be changed.
Those of us who don’t have God’s insight to your soul or God’s amazing ability to partner with you in change can have all of the opinions we want. We can have the doctines and theologies that express how we think God works. We can have time tested beliefs and practices. We also need to admit that our understanding and knowledge is limited and we need to humbly step back and stop trying to do God’s job.
So here’s what I will say about the Nashville Statement that is a positive. Those who wrote it and those who signed it are being honest about what they believe and I respect that. They are giving everyone information that can empower them to make choices. If you don’t like their Statement then don’t be a part of the ministries of those who wrote and signed it.
Ultiamtely the Nashville Statement says everything about those who prepared and signed it – and very little about God’s Statement to humanity. You don’t have to put God in their very small box.