Bible Teacher and Pastor John MacArthur addresses the new sensation among Christians called “The Manhattan Declaration“. The framers of the document say it reaffirms truths about justice and the common good. But is there something else we should be aware of?
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: the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
I’ve had invites to sign it and have read commentary both for and against it. While I do believe in the sanctity of human life, marriage comprises the sexual union of a man and woman, Im not so sure about how “the rights of conscience and religious liberty” is to be interpreted by people who have questionable religious beliefs. That’s too broad and is certainly not a “fundamental truth” of the gospel (ref Romans 14).
As I would do with any documents which ultimately chooses compromised unity (think emergent church) over biblical unity, I reject the Manhattan Declaration as an appeasement effort towards people who want to use Christ’s name but reject the authority of his word in the critical matters which confront the 21st century church.
That being said, MacArthur spoke clearly enough that I agree with his fundamental divergence not only with the document but its intent. Frankly, the entire thing is suspect to me. Do we need such documents in lieu of the scriptures or as some sort of addendum to the scriptures?
In some issues (called nonessentials) we can agree to disagree without penalty to either party. On some things, we are still in the discovery mode pursuant to our study of the Word and subsequent revelation of the Holy Spirit. And then on somethings (called essentials), we cannot budge one inch to the left or right as it would destroy the foundations of our faith.
The Manhattan Declaration’s major goal in my opinion is loose knit unity. To wit, the signatories affirm a fairly wide perspective on “critical” issues. If the resolutions to the issues and the root causes of these issues were clearly biblical, I suspect the signatory numbers would be considerably less. Thus, widening the allowing agreement does not follow biblical unity, but as stated unity based on compromised positions.
One signer, Dr. Ronald Sider a Canadian theology professor is the type of person which proves the document isnt a biblically oriented document but social one with Christian overtones. Read his interview with the Village Voice.
Christian unity is never valid if is only for the sake on being one. The terms of our unity is spelled out by Christ and any offers of deterrence from that should be rejected. In John 17, Jesus prayed that our unity would mirror the unity he had with the Father. On the weightier matters, were no “differing perspectives” between Christ and God the Father and there should be none among his followers. Christ did not come to do away with God’s commands but rather to fulfill them in love.
Pastor MacArthur says “the document fails most egregiously.”
“It [the Manhattan Declaration] 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.”
He concludes, “Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.”
The gospel shouldnt be a factor in how we decide to resolve the issues of our day. For followers of the Lord Jesus, it shouldnt become merely a reference book we check after we’ve exhausted our intellect. It stands the ultimate authority of who we are, what we should be doing and why. We would do well to keep our name off all the declarations and documents which do not glorify God and do not follow true biblical unity.
You should also read:
- Diaprax, collusion and emergent heresy, part 1
- Bishop Charles Blake endorses gay marriage declaration