ERLC_Summit_logoNEWS | Meredith Flynn

Nashville, Tenn. | The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s summit on the Gospel and sexuality drew to a close this morning. Much was said on a variety of topics related to sexual ethics, and we’ll cover the conference extensively in the May 5 and May 26 issues of the Illinois Baptist. For now, here are three threads that ran through the conversation in Nashville this week.

Same-sex marriage isn’t the only threat to biblical marriage, and may not be the biggest. In a breakout session this week, Andrew Walker of the ERLC outlined 11 contemporary threats. Same-sex marriage was #6 on his list that also includes economic pressures, divorce, singles aspiring to find their soul mates, and the rise of “professional marriages,” in which spouses have individual bank accounts and separate social lives.

Closing speaker Kevin Smith summarized it this way: “I don’t know what homosexuals shall do or can do to the institution of marriage in the future, but I know marriage is jacked up right now in America in the popular culture and among believers because of heterosexuals.”

The call to reclaim biblical marriage is more urgent. Summit speaker David Prince probably raised some eyebrows when he said that as a pastor visiting new parents, he prays over their babies, and specifically for their future spouses. One grandfather in a hospital room expressed his disbelief that Prince was praying that way already, the Kentucky pastor said. But several leaders this week echoed the principle: At a time when marriage is being redefined, and fewer people are getting married in the first place, it’s up to evangelicals to reclaim and profess the biblical meaning of marriage.

Embrace the strangeness. One of Moore’s main messages during his first year as ERLC president has been that Christians will be increasingly strange – he has even used the word “freakish” – as nominal Christianity falls away and culture continues to move away from previously held values. Twitter proved that point this week, as posts with the hashtag #erlcsummit poured in during nearly every session. The majority of the feedback was negative from those watching online or following along on Twitter, but that’s not surprising, Andrew Walker said.

“We are talking about the Christian sexual ethic being more unique and distinguishable in society, and we’re trying to warn Christians, ‘Hey, the ground has kind of fallen out from beneath you. The culture has changed on this issue. And one way to really gage that is to see what social media is saying.’”

The correct response to our increasing strangeness, Moore said, is an awareness of what’s happening in the world and a commitment to speak lovingly into the culture. “We have to understand that as we speak prophetically within the church and outside of the church when it relates to issues of sexuality or any other issue, we have to do that in a way that opposes the devil, without acting like the devil.”

 

The example of the Proverbs 31 woman has been misused in the past, Trillia Newbell said. But there's wisdom to be found in her story too.

The Proverbs 31 woman was excellent not because of what she did, but who she adored, Trillia Newbell said.

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

Iconic TV moms June Cleaver and Clair Huxtable were products of their times – 1950′s idealism and 1980′s feminism. The matriarchs from “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Cosby Show” have been idolized by women and by culture as ideals of femininity and, basically, having it all together.

But idolizing those examples, or that of any other cultural icon, leads to condemnation, said Trillia Newbell. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s consultant for women’s initiatives spoke today on biblical womanhood to women gathered at the ERLC’s summit on the Gospel and sexuality.

The June’s and Clair’s of television might see their influence wane as the culture changes, or at least they’ll be replaced by other ideals. But what about the one many Christian women have heard about from the time they were old enough to find Proverbs in their Bibles?

“I already know that many people are tired of the Proverbs 31 woman,” Newbell said of Scripture’s ideal wife. “She too has been idolized. It hasn’t been helpful.

“But no worries,” she assured her audience, “I’m not merely going to be talking about how excellent she is.”

Instead, Newbell talked about why the Proverbs 31 woman is held up as an example of excellence in the ancient poem. It wasn’t because of what she did, but rather who she loved. Near the end of the chapter, we discover she fears the Lord.

“If the call to be a God-fearing woman completely freaks you out, God provides the grace for it,” Newbell said. For Sarai, who laughed when He made her a promise. For women throughout Scripture. Even for the woman in Proverbs 31.

 

An almost-Gospel is no match for the sexual revolution.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

A gentle and quiet spirit is not about volume.

“Woo-hoo! Otherwise, I’d be in trouble.

“It’s about a heart that fears and loves the Lord.”

Trillia Newbell, speaking on biblical womanhood

When I die, I want my children to be able to say that was the godliest man I ever met. And I want my wife to be able to say I would marry him all over again.”

Pastor Matt Carter, on his two life goals

“Satan would love for your children to be morally pure, as long as that’s not the fruit of the Gospel.

…With Satan, any path to self-righteousness, any path to self-exaltation is a good one. Satan doesn’t hate morality, he hates the cross.”

David Prince, on teaching your children about Gospel-centered sexuality

Our approach to teaching our children about Christian sexuality cannot be, ‘Just say no. Just don’t do it.’ That’s not a Christian sexual ethic. …We want them not to just have a right view about what to say no to, we want them to have a comprehensively Christ-centered, Christian view of sexuality.”

David Prince, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist in Lexington, Ky., at the ERLC summit on the Gospel and sexuality