The Manhattan Declaration

I have received several emails about the Manhattan Declaration, so I thought I’d do something of a hodge podge post on it. Information about the Declaration itself is here.

Some explanations for why they signed the Declaration:

Some explanations from others as to why they would not sign it:

Here’s what I wrote to someone yesterday who had emailed me to ask my view of it:

“I think the major problem is the assumption made by the statement that all involved are Christians and believers. It uses this language clearly and repeatedly. Placing Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Evangelicals all under the common designation Christian and referring to them as believers causes confusion regarding the gospel. At the least, it substitutes a sociological-historical definition of Christian in the place of a biblical-theological one. At the worst, it runs the risk of minimizing the biblical message of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

I share the concerns of this document regarding the issues it addresses, but I differ from them in that I cannot give those matters more importance than clarity regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it truly means to be a Christian.”

I also think that John Stackhouse’s assessment regarding the value of this statement is insightful.

A few thoughts:

  1. The issue of co-belligerence within Christendom in spite of radical differences regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ is a serious matter. As I noted above, and MacArthur argues more fully and clearly in his response, the gospel is at stake in an effort like this. I’ve used the words “extend Christian recognition and fellowship” a lot throughout my posts on gospel-driven separation and that’s the problem here. It’s one thing to sign a paper under the banner of “concerned citizens” and another thing altogether to sign one under the banner of “concerned Christian citizens.”
  2. While I recognize that I am a member of a very small minority on this point, I still contend that this kind of effort is the inevitable outcome of accepting the original new evangelical agenda. Elevating social concerns to the degree that it does inevitably demands: (a) the broadest coalition possible in order to actually have an impact; and (b) the basis for social action be some kind of flattened Judeo-Christian worldview or ethic (whether formed by Scripture or natural law). Both of these move in the direction of minimizing the gospel since focusing on it would introduce division and probably seem too conversionist.
  3. I think it is a good thing that there is open debate about this because it shows: (a) the diversity of viewpoint among evangelicals on these matters; (b) that some (hopefully many) evangelicals are uncomfortable with anything that sends mixed messages regarding the gospel (the fact that Dr. Mohler felt the need to defend his actions seems like a strong proof of this); and (c) that “movement” unity isn’t the dominant concern that it used to be.
  4.  I wonder if something like this doesn’t quickly surface where people are on the contemporary fundamentalist-evangelical spectrum. On one end will be those who conclude from this that all signers have betrayed the gospel and, therefore, must be marked and turned away from. At the other end will be those who think signing it is somehow wrapped up with the gospel itself since the mission of God is to oppose all injustice and establish His reign on earth. There is a lot of turf between those two poles and we’re seeing that demonstrated in the responses. I’ll probably return to this in some follow up posts.

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