Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Recently, the president of the seminary I attend sent out an email discussing why he signed a document entitled, "The Manhattan Declaration." I was unfamiliar with the document and so I read his blog post Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration and checked out the document.

As much as I respect Dr. Mohler and many of the other signers of the document, I think they made a mistake in signing it. My email update to the church this week describes why:

{UPDATE: One signer clarifies his position: Kevin DeYoung's blog, TeamPyro weigh in: Nineteen Questions }.

Dear Bethany Community,

I am passionately, unashamedly, and whole-heartedly pro-life. So, when someone suggested to me recently that I sign a document supporting the pro-life cause, I was prepared to do so.

As I reviewed the document, entitled “The Manhattan Declaration,” I found myself in hearty agreement with its three primary affirmations: the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Not only did I find myself in agreement with its general principles, I found that many evangelical leaders whom I highly esteem had already signed it, including men who have served or are serving as presidents at each of the three seminaries I have attended.

So why did I ultimately decide not to sign it?

The Manhattan Declaration does two things that I believe undermine the gospel. First, it refers to the gospel without ever defining what it is. The reader is left to define it however he or she may choose. Second, and related, it asserts unity in Christ among the signers of the document even though some of the primary signers of the document would reject the basic truth of the gospel that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone apart from our own works.

For example, it states: "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.” It also uses phrases such as “we Christians,” “we believers,” and “as followers of Jesus Christ” to describe the people signing the document.

But I do not have such unity with all the signers of this document, nor is the basis of unity—the gospel of Jesus Christ—defined. While I will pursue unity with the signers in fighting for the causes enumerated, we do not have unity in Christ simply because we both use the word “Christian.” We believe radically different things concerning how a person comes to faith in Christ.

My personal conviction is that by signing this document, I would be implying that we have unity on the most important issue in the universe—an issue in which we stand on different sides of an immense chasm.

If the document had merely advocated political positions, I would have had no problem signing it. I need not agree with others on theological issues to work toward political ends. But the document made theological assertions. It therefore crosses the line from being a political document—which I could support as a Christian—to making a theological statement about the nature of the gospel that I cannot support.

How important is the gospel?

It is more important than ending abortion. It is more important than preserving a traditional understanding of marriage. Yes, it is even more important than our own lives, brothers and sisters.

No one will ever come to Christ by simply opposing abortion. No legislation defining marriage will transform a child of wrath into a child of God.

May God end abortion in our land and may He give us the grace to work with individuals from all different creeds and religions in the political process. I strive for that and pray you do as well. May God preserve us from the unraveling of traditional marriage in our culture and may He give us the joy of working with those from different faiths toward that end.

But even more importantly, May God give us the ability to boldly proclaim the Good News of His Son Jesus Christ, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved!

By His Grace,

Pastor Daniel


Seth said...

Very thought provoking, Daniel. Your passion for God and His gospel above everything else shows through clearly as always. Thank-you for helping me do the same!

Grammy said...

Hi, Grandson!
How very true!I agree with you whole-heartedly. Good for you for reading it so thoroughly and thinking through what you have stated.

Paul and DeeDee said...

Paul and I enjoyed your well thought out rebuttal to the Manhattan Declaration then scrolled down to see your previous post which was also enlightening on a whole other level:) Are you guys coming to TX for Christmas?