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The Manhattan Declaration

All believers should support the aims of The Manhattan Declaration; to declare and defend the sanctity of life, to affirm and codify the biblical definition of marriage and restore true religious liberty, even when it isn’t politically correct.

One of the men I respect most in this world, John MacArthur, has decided not to sign the declaration. This is a summary of his reason (read the entire statement here).

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. – John MacArthur

Dr. Albert Mohler explains why he is one of the original signatories of the declaration here at his blog.

I signed The Manhattan Declaration because it is a limited statement of Christian conviction on these three crucial issues, and not a wide-ranging theological document that subverts confessional integrity. I cannot and do not sign documents such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together that attempt to establish common ground on vast theological terrain…The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent — and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground. - R. Albert Mohler

It is with great trepidation that I must respectfully disagree with one portion of the first sentence of Dr. MacArthur’s summary. He says, “support for The Manhattan Declaration would…tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue” I agree that relegating the truth of the gospel to the level of a secondary issue would be the worst way for believers to address these issues, but this declaration does not do that.

This declaration has nothing to do with primary issues such as the gospel, justification, the sovereignty of God, or any other essential Christian doctrine. This declaration is an agreement on a secondary issue where the scriptures allow freedom for the conscience-bound Christian.

Are we to do things in this world only with others who believe undeniably, certifiably, exactly and rigidly the same as we believe? I doubt there are two Christians in the world that have exactly the same beliefs. How are we to be salt to the world if we don’t rub up against it? How are we to be light if we hide ourselves under a bushel basket? (Matthew 5:13-16)

- Story time -

Three people, one an Atheist; one a church-going, unrepentant adulterer; and one a saved sinner meet at a homeless shelter to feed the hungry. They all do exactly the same work for exactly the same amount of time. What effect does this good deed have on their eternal souls?

The Atheist will have no part of the kingdom of God because he denies Christ is Lord and will be judged according to his rejection of Jesus. This good deed may alleviate some of his eternal suffering, but he will spend eternity separated from God and in torment.

The unrepentant adulterer will have no part in the kingdom of God because, though she says she believes in Jesus with her lips, her heart is far from Him as evidenced by her actions. Jesus will say to her in that day, “Depart from me you worker of iniquity, I never knew you.” This good deed may alleviate some of her eternal suffering, but she will spend eternity separated from God and in torment.

The saved sinner will be ushered into God’s heavenly kingdom because, though he is a sinner, he acknowledges that Christ is Lord and though he sins on a daily basis, he also repents on a daily basis. This proves that his faith is genuine and it is by that faith, given freely through the grace of God, that he is saved and will spend eternity in the presence of the One Holy God. This deed has nothing to do with him getting into heaven, but he will be rewarded in the kingdom of God for this selfless act of love.

Remember, the worst room in heaven is infinitely better than the best room in hell.

God is not going to withhold the believer’s reward because he did good deeds standing side-by-side with an atheist and an adulterer. Neither will the unbelievers share in heaven because they did the same good deeds as a believer.

  • The atheist is condemned because he denied Christ with his words, even though he did good deeds.
  • The adulterer is condemned because she denied Christ with her deeds, even though she confessed him with her word.
  • The believer is approved because, by grace, he confessed Christ and his words and deeds are the proof.

So what does this have to do with The Manhattan Declaration?

Let us say that doing the work of God means carrying a heavy load up a mountain along a rocky path. I am carrying this load by myself, struggling and sweating all the way. Now let us say that an unbeliever comes along side of me and, for some reason or no reason, begins to share my load. Am I to stop doing the work of the Lord so as not to be yoked unequally to this unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14) Of course not! I am not marrying this person. I am not in a business partnership with this person. I am temporarily allowing him to help me do the work that God has appointed to me.

What really matters is Jesus’ work on the cross and God’s work in drawing the sinner to belief and repentance. The sanctity of life, marriage and religious freedom are secondary issues compared to the primacy of the Gospel. At this point in time, I fail to see how The Manhattan Declaration does violence to the Good News of Christ.

I have read The Manhattan Declaration, but haven’t signed it – yet.

I am leaning toward signing it, but there are too many Evangelical Christians that I respect deeply who are opposed to it for the sake of the Gospel. Please add your thoughtful comments to this post, or post a link to your blog, and help convince me and others what a “Narrow Path” Christian should do. (Matthew 7:13-14)

4 comments to The Manhattan Declaration

  • Dave, I tried to make the case based on the wording of the document that it does blur the Gospel. It attempts to make the Gospel the foundation for its existance, yet those three ecclesia named do not agree on the Gospel.

    Also, as many Conservatives argue we must look at the original intent of the authors. Colson, who is one of them, stated that this document was certainly a theological one. The only real theological position named is the Gospel.

    Just something to think about.

  • dancingcrane

    Remember the conditions in the Middle East and North Africa during the rise of Islam. Doctrinally-divided Christian communities would not stop infighting, and refused to band together to protect their societies, and were overrun. Are there Christians out there who are glad of Islamic domination, because at least the ‘wrong’ Christians didn’t win?

    If we can’t band together over issues we agree on, we deserve the results. Consider carefully. Are we championing the Gospel – or only our own pride?

  • You can access my thoughts as to why I signed it on my blog.

  • Thank you all for your helpful comments and links to your blogs. I spent a bit of time today reading Frank Turk’s blog and all of the comments he received. Unfortunately, the issue is still cloudy in my mind. The proponents of signing haven’t made a satisfactory apologia for the “believer” blanket the whole thing is wrapped up in; and the opponents of signing haven’t made a satisfactory case that signing it does violence to The Gospel.

    Is “the Gospel” (which means different things to different people) the foundation that this document is built upon or not? That is my question for now.

    iMark – The unanswered question still in my mind is whether or not the Gospel is foundational to this declaration or whether this declaration is simply an agreement on secondary issues. If it is foundational, and the three ecclesia disagree on that foundation, then it is built on shifting sand.

    Dancingcrane – One comment on Frank Turk’s blog really struck me hard. “It is cold comfort to a dead baby that we allowed him to die to avoid working with Catholics.”

    Dennis Thurman – Another comment on Turk’s blog pertains to your thoughts, “It is not morally wrong even for Christians to focus, for example, on saving human lives rather than primarily on spreading the good news.”

    Still cogitating for now. Not leaning toward signing anymore. Firmly on the fence.

    Can you bear to read one more really good perspective?

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