Monday, November 30, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration and Gospel Clarity

If you haven't heard yet about the Manhattan Declaration let me summarize it incredibly briefly. More or less it is a document signed by over 100 religious affiliates that takes a stand against the governments efforts to pass laws that would be contradictory to Biblical teachings on
  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.
**3 points courtesy of manhattandeclaration.org

Before you read on you should really, if you haven't yet, go to the Manhattan Declaration website and read all the details. There you can also find a list of those who have signed on, affirming the declaration.

Then come on back and read just a couple of my thoughts and then post your own thoughts on the matter and, if you like, whether or not you yourself would sign on.

Am I in favor of defending and protecting the 3 items pointed out earlier in the post and outlined in the declaration? Absolutely. 100%

I was remarking to someone the other day about how we keep seeing headlines about the secularization of our nation... otherwise known as the continuing decline of society in general... and how these things are sometimes toted, by atheists and anti-God groups, as victories not just for them but for all of society. True enough that for their particular interest group these may be victories... but it is a bold statement to say it is a victory for society in general.

The Bible clearly tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10) and that the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), will set us free (John 8:32).

In reality, these supposed victories that are enabling freedom for all religions under the mask of religious freedom are really only taking steps towards a legislated hatred for Christians. Each ruling may seem small and insignificant by itself but it will ultimately lead to greater persecution towards God's elect.

But I digress, I am 100% in favor of defending the values outlined in the Manhattan Declaration. However, would I be willing to sign the document? I don't believe so. I am not the end all be all or the expert on anything. So please understand that from the beginning. And I realize, as you will from reading the list of signers, that many highly respectable theologians and apologists have signed. Men whom I trust in their knowledge of Scripture and matters of theology.

However, after reviewing the document myself and reading perspectives from both sides, I'm afraid I fall on the side that would prefer not to sign.

Is it to be quarrelsome or some lack of desire to do something controversial? no... here's my thoughts...

While I agree with the purpose of the document I do not agree with all of the wording in the document. Namely the ecumenical nature of the document.

My fear with this is two fold... that a.) it will set a precedent, a sort of trojan horse, that will open the door for other things to creep in and when we kick up a stink about it they will point back to this document in which we opened up the title Christian to groups that are in fact NOT born again believing Christians... when that happens their will be some embarrassment and damage control to be done.

2.) Too often it seems lately that we evangelicals are willing to set aside certain fundamental truths of the faith in order to accomplish some other good... as if the good of the community or anything else for that matter should come above the truth of the Gospel... this cannot be named amongst us... This is the Rick Warren approach to ministry. The 'Let's just include everyone so that we love everyone and don't offend anyone'.

Jesus said in Matthew 10 not to fear those who can destroy the body. Paul said, as you mentioned. in Galatians 1 that anyone who preached a Gospel contrary to scripture is to be anathema. I would rather concern myself more with being certain that every step I take in any circumstance is done with my gaze fixed steadily on Christ so that it is an action that is pleasing to Him, rather than ever worry about what types of inner-faith relationships I built.

From the declaration. "We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians" & "We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences"

That is the hang up for me. It clearly lumps Catholics and Evangelical Christians into the same category of True Believers in Jesus Christ. Although if you pushed the point with the respective signers you'd find significant differences between their respective definitions of Salvation.

Can we sacrifice Gospel clarity for the sake of another good, I say simply another good because there is no greater good than the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What could possibly be better than that? In a word, nothing...

Commenting on the Declaration, Dr. John MacArthur said "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"

That's the problem, the Gospel is not clearly identified as the solution to the true problem of all moral issues. If anything it goes to the other end of the spectrum to dilute the true Gospel giving it a wider-mercy feel.

I would say that we cannot and should not sacrifice any amount of Gospel clarity for the sake of any purpose. So that's where I fall. As I said, many men who are far more learned than I have signed on and so be it. At the same time many learned theologians have also respectively declined to sign...

We need to focus more on declaring the Biblical Gospel and less time trying to force a secular government to legislate Biblical morality. And we don't need to include non-Christians in that title to get it done... that helps nothing. It would be a far more successful endeavor, I think, to increase our efforts to reach the unregenerate with the Biblical message of Salvation by Grace alone by faith alone through Jesus Christ alone... We need to be clear on WHO we mean by Jesus and WHAT we mean by Grace and Faith... We rightly proclaim it, so that people hear, and God convicts their heart and grants them repentance and they repent and get saved! Through that God regenerates their heart and they trust in His Word as their authority by which they govern.

And they don't need to legislate Christianity as the official religion of America. That would be horrible. God doesn't desire forced devotion. But they govern in a moral way because they govern in a Biblical way, and the precepts of the Bible... that is, the Holy Word of God, is profitable for all things and good for teaching on all things... They set laws on morality based on Scripture and leave each person to deal with the issue of religion to themselves...

So, read and discuss... I am for sure interested to hear the opinions of those who are in favor of signing...

Some great articles in support of not signing it can be found at the following:

Pyromaniacs Blog: Nineteen Questions for signers of the Manhattan Declaration

And also Grace to You: John MacArthur: Thoughts on the Manhattan Declaration

2 comments:

  1. Hello j,

    I thought I'd drop by and say hi seeing as how I'm giving Trish's place a break (aside from condolences about her dog) and I'm not a big fan of email exchanges.

    I don't really have much of an opinion on the MD; I'm British, living in Canada - so it doesn't really affect me. Although I think I would agree with your reasons for not signing it.

    Not that I agree with your position, but I can certainly respect how not signing it would be consistent with your understanding of Scripture, is what I mean.


    Regards,

    Matt

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  2. @ExPatMatt - thanks for that. I can't credit myself for any wisdom. I just try to study God's Word and hear Him through it. By that I try to be consistent with my life and what I preach. A great problem is that there are many false converts these days who tarnish the name of Christ by preaching one message and living another.

    I pray that anytime I so something hypocritical that God chastise me by His Grace so that I grow more in Him and Glorify Him more and cause less damage to the cause of His church...

    thanks for the nod though dude...

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