Nuance is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “a very small difference in color, tone, meaning, etc.”
However, when the term is often used by leading evangelicals, the Polemical Definition is as follows:
The ability to project vagueness on matters that are theologically clear in order to be more palatable to those who disagree.
An evangelical leader supportive of Vinism (gay theology) might speak of the Bible’s stance on sodomy as being, “nuanced” or encourage evangelicals to speak of sodomy with more “nuance.” This will leave opponents of Biblical human sexuality unsure of what to disagree with and will leave evangelical laypeople unclear what is the Bible’s stance on sodomy.
A social-progressive leader may refuse to repudiate criminals and vandals who assault innocent people or property after a white police officer has been cleared of a shooting of a black criminal because the courts determined the act was justified, claiming the situation is “nuanced” even though all evidence points to the fact that it is a clear-cut case of justifiable force. This way, the evangelical leader can appear to say something in regards to matter when, in fact, they said nothing of substance. Claiming “nuance,” the leader makes the situation more complicated than what it truly is, allowing them to be unclear in their stance and allowing them to avoid making definitive judgments (even when the situation calls for it).
Thabiti Anyabwile has claimed that his endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 is acceptable because the Christian ethics on the sanctity of human life are “nuanced” and complicated.
In polemics, the claim of “nuance” is often used to allege that other evangelicals are too “black and white” or “cut and dried” in their judgment. And although not everything is a binary choice between right and wrong, “nuance” has become a catchword for those who choose diplomacy over clarity.