Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Last week in a comment Matt asked me to weigh in with some thoughts on a document recently released called the Manhattan Declaration. To my fault, I did not get back to him, so I thought I'd make a post about it (sorry Matt!).

Essentially, the Manhattan Declaration is a document written by evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders affirming their support of the pro-life cause, traditional marriage and the right to freedom of religion. What has made the document somewhat controversial is in Evangelical circles is the question of whether it is right for an Evangelical to work for these causes by signing off on a document with other branches of Christianity that have a fundamental disagreement about the Gospel.

To read both sides of this debate, you can read this post from Al Mohler (who happily signed the document) and this one from Alistair Begg (pictured at right, who declined to sign, though he is supportive of the three causes that the document defends).

Of his not signing the document, Begg writes:

In accord with others who have chosen not to sign, my reservation is not with the issues themselves, or in standing with others who share the same concerns, but it is in signing a declaration along with a group of leading churchmen, when I happen to believe that the teaching of some of their churches is in effect a denial of the biblical gospel.

However, Mohler writes:

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. I could not sign a statement that purports, for example, to bridge the divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals on the doctrine of justification. The Manhattan Declaration is not a manifesto for united action. It is a statement of urgent concern and common conscience on these three issues -- the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defense of religious liberty.

My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. 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.

I have deep respect for both of these men, but based on what I know of the document, I would probably side with Mohler (pictured left) on this one. My personal conviction is that signing a document with others whose view of the gospel is heretical does not necessarily affirm or give approval to their false gospel. I think the issues are significant enough that co-laboring with others whose view of the gospel is deficient is worth our effort, and need not compromise our passion for the gospel.

That said, I haven't actually read the document myself, so maybe if/when I do, I will see certain statements pertaining to the gospel that so alarm me that I would be unable to sign it. But I'm thinking if Mohler was willing to sign it, I don't think I would find any of those.

If you've made it this far in the post, you probably have an opinion too. What do you think? Is the Manhattan Declaration a compromise of our esteem for the biblical gospel? Or is it an opportunity to work with others whom we disagree with for the sake of the common good of our nation?

Let me know what you think...

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