The Manhattan Declaration

I have has a number of individuals in the congregation email a copy of the Manhattan Declaration (you can read it here) stating that we has a church should sign it.  Please understand that what I am about to write is not the official position of the church I serve (the Elders have not discussed the Manhattan Declaration as far as I know). So what I say is simply my thoughts.

I believe the intent of the Manhattan Declaration is commendable.  I believe the three primary ethical/social issues the document addresses, the sanctity of life, marriage and sexuality, and religious liberty, are key issues that we should be concerned with and should declare clearly what the Bible teaches.  I also think those who have signed the document have done so in good conscience and with good motives.

My concern with the declaration.

I do have one concern with the declaration, that personally has raised a few questions for me. In the declaration, Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Christians are all called “believers.”

We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image.

We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.

While I have no doubt that there are some who have truly transferred their trust from themselves to God through the substitutionary atonement of Christ, I do not believe that all who call themselves Orthodox, Catholic or for that matter Evangelical Christians, are truly saved.

But the area that has caused me more trouble is the definition of the gospel.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right–and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation–to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Now, let me clarify.

I don’t think the framers of the document intended to define the gospel.  That has been attempted (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) and rejected by many.  But I struggle when they state our duty is to proclaim the Gospel, having only defined a statement on three moral issues.  Those three moral issue should flow out of the gospel and should not be equated with the gospel.

If you would like to read more on this see this explanation.

While some will say that any concern over the declaration is foolish or narrow minded, I take the integrity of the gospel very seriously.  I believe the proclamation of the gospel, a new and eternal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, is central to the mission of individual believes and the church.  This gospel should result in our impacting our community through virtue and goodness.  And we should impact our community and nation in areas of moral ethics.

Having stated that, I do believe the declaration is a noble attempt at impacting our society. Why?  First, because they have responded to some criticism by providing more clarity if individuals read it.

By signing the Manhattan Declaration am I somehow endorsing the theology of other faith traditions or compromising my understanding of the Gospel?
There are serious differences between the Catholic, Protestant evangelical and Orthodox traditions on many theological issues and devotional practices.  However, none of those differences are alluded to in any way in the Manhattan Declaration, nor do any of the original signers believe they were compromising their respective positions by signing it.  The drafting committee was careful to achieve complete harmony of all three traditions–Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant evangelical–on the critical issues addressed in the declaration, and on those issues only.  This was accomplished by making sure every assertion in the declaration is rooted in the Holy Scriptures they share in common.  In the final analysis, the Manhattan Declaration is simply a declaration of the signers’ common stand on life, marriage, and liberty.  To read anything more into it would be contrary to the intention of the drafters and the nearly 150 leaders who signed it originally.

Second, because the issues address are important.

Please  read the documents for yourself and determine what God would have you do.  The declaration is intended to be signed by individuals not organizations, because in signing one is not only affirming agreement, but pledging involvement.  May we not simply sign a piece of paper or cast a vote–but may we boldly and graciously live its principles.

What I hope results

I hope that those who are truly believers will hear the challenge from the Manhattan Declaration and commit to two things. First, for those believers who are keenly interested in political issues in particularly “life” issues, I hope they will also boldly stand for and proclaim the gospel with the same passion and priority with which they stand for life issues.  May we not simple vote but live our conscience.

For those who are particularly focused on the integrity of the gospel, I hope they will not only seek to defend the gospel but proclaim it and live out its radical implication. May we not only study the truth but share it.

For me…I want to Know what I believe and why, life it and be able to defend it.

P.S.

After writing this I decided to do a little more research and provide links for those interested.

Some who have not signed
John MacArthur
R.C. Sproul
Alistair Begg
Michael Horton

Some who have signed
Albert Mohler
Kevin DeYoung interesting
Scot McKnight
Justin Taylor

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