The following post is from November 2009 regarding the Manhattan Declaration and the reluctance of some to sign on to this joint venture. The pressing political issue may have changed but the principle behind that reluctance remains the same today as it did then. It would be a good reminder to revisit the underlying reasons that only true Christians can stand together as one man for the faith (Phil. 1:27). Only true Christians. Read and remember.
From November 26, 2009:
As many of you know, the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience was drafted on October 20th of this year and released a month later on November 20th. “What’s the Manhattan Declaration?” you ask? From their own website they state the following:
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Sounds noble, doesn’t it.
In fact, almost 200 well-know and influential Evangelical leaders, with a clear conscience, signed the document. Some of them include:
Dr. James Dobson
Dr. Richard Land
Dr. Joseph Stowell
Joni Eareckson Tada
Dr. Michael Youssef
But there are a few names that are missing— John MacArthur for one. And John Piper, Franklin Graham and David Wilkerson to name just a few more. Did you ever wonder why? Why are these names conspicuously absent from the Who’s Who of notable Christian signatories? Maybe they weren’t asked to sign. Or, maybe they couldn’t make the trip to New York for the conference? You know, maybe it didn’t fit into their ministry schedules.
Or maybe, just maybe… they had a problem with the opening statement of the Declaration that blurs the lines between authentic, Biblical Christianity and the heresy known as Catholicism? Remember the documents opening salvo?
“We are Catholic, Orthodox, and evangelical Christians…”
Uh, exactly how can that be? How can both Catholics and evangelicals be Christians when their foundational core beliefs about Jesus, the Scriptures, the Atonement, Heaven and Hell, Biblical Authority and many other non-negotiables are opposed to each other? How can these groups join together under the flag of Christianity when the Gospel they preach is not the same? Both cannot be correct, can they? Of course not. Then both cannot be Christian.
Biblical Christianity is not some big, political tent where we willingly ignore our core differences and try to agree on whatever we can just to get along. This is not about numbers or unity at the cost of truth. One view of the Gospel, as Jesus taught in Matthew, is the wide road that leads to destruction and the other view is the narrow turnstile that leads to eternal life. There is no third way. There can be no compromise or common ground on the Gospel.
There is only one Gospel, one Lord, one message and only one way to heaven. Period.
It appears this sinister blurring of the lines between the true and false Gospel is why John MacArthur refused to compromise and sign the document. The following is his position statement that clearly gives his reasons for not adding his signature to the next ecumenical Magna Carta, the Manhattan Declaration.
I’ll let John tell you in his own words.
Here are the main reasons I am not signing the Manhattan Declaration, even though a few men whom I love and respect have already affixed their names to it:
- Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “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”— and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.
- This is precisely where the document fails most egregiously. It assumes from the start that all signatories are fellow Christians whose only differences have to do with the fact that they represent distinct “communities.” Points of disagreement are tacitly acknowledged but are described as “historic lines of ecclesial differences” rather than fundamental conflicts of doctrine and conviction with regard to the gospel and the question of which teachings are essential to authentic Christianity.
- Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.
- The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message.
- This is neither a novel approach nor a strategic stand for evangelicals to take. It ought to be clear to all that the agenda behind the recent flurry of proclamations and moral pronouncements we’ve seen promoting ecumenical co-belligerence is the viewpoint Charles Colson has been championing for more than two decades. (It is not without significance that his name is nearly always at the head of the list of drafters when these statements are issued.) He explained his agenda in his 1994 book The Body, in which he argued that the only truly essential doctrines of authentic Christian truth are those spelled out in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. I responded to that argument at length in Reckless Faith. I stand by what I wrote then.
In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way— perhaps the very worst way— for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.
Amen. Thanks John. Thanks for standing for what is true and of greatest importance: the Gospel. I totally, wholeheartedly agree.