Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Manhattan Declaration, very briefly

Before a number of big names made their statements, back on November 20, I said this in response to an encouragement to sign the declaration:

Not a chance.

Here’s enough to lose me, period, no need to read further:

“We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians… We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences….”

I still affirm the necessity of the Reformation, and its recovery of central Biblical truths. I don’t see Roman Catholicism or Orthoborgism as variations on a theme. I could never associate myself with something that gives that false impression. The Gospel is not an “Oh, yes, well, that” issue.

Alistair Begg sees it similarly
So does John MacArthur
Dr. David Doran adds some helpful thoughts here and here
...and Brian Maclaren manages to focus on everything that doesn't matter about the Declaration, and to get even that wrong
FINAL UPDATE: I saw such muzziness and evasiveness in some metas that I decided a few pointed questions were necessary. So I formulated a progressive list of nineteen.


GZimmy said...

I understand that, Dan. I agree on that point.

However, I signed it. I see it as uniting against a common enemy. I don't think our differences, which are enormous, should keep us from uniting to fight our common enemy.

Anonymous said...

In reading the Declaration, the word gospel is used several times:

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace...

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.

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel.

It is because of such language that I can not add my imprimatur.

Jason M. Woelm said...


My heart is absolutely breaking over this ECT restart. I've been reading Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided, and...WOW. It nails just about everything that has and is going wrong with evangelicalism, and, by application, with the Manhattan Declaration. I don't care what Dr. Carson may claim in his new book on evangelicalism...the term is dead.

Hey, did you notice how no Calvidispies signed this thing? you view prophecy determines a lot, doesn't it;)?

Anonymous said...

Al Mohler's signature was a shocker, especially given the reasons he gave for not signing the Evangelical Manifesto. If his criteria, some of which are listed below, were applied to the Manhattan Declaration I don't see how he could have signed it. It boggles my mind.

Following are some of the reasons expressed by Al Mohler as to why he could not sign the Evangelical Manifesto:

But when the Manifesto presents a theological definition of Evangelicals, it turns out to be a rather minimal definition...

Those are wonderful words filled with Christian content, but they are also words that would be claimed by many who would never claim to be Evangelicals. The definition is just not sufficient...

That is a substantial statement of the Gospel, but it leaves out the question of the exclusivity of salvation to those who have come to Christ by faith. The use of the phrase "for us" in strategic sentences makes one wonder if room is left for some manner of inclusivism or universalism? The door is certainly not adequately closed. Do all of the signatories announced on May 7 affirm that sinners must come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved? This is one of the most crucial questions for Evangelical identity...

Another complication on this score comes from the fact that Evangelicals are identified as "one of the great traditions that have developed within the Christian Church over the centuries." There is a sense in which this is true, of course, but relegating the Evangelical understanding of the Gospel to just one among many Christian traditions undercuts our witness and sows seeds of confusion.

"An Evangelical Manifesto" is, at least to a major extent, an exercise in public relations. The document was released at the National Press Club -- not a usual venue for theological discussion. The stated aims of the document are also directed to public relations.

Anonymous said...

So far half of the "Together for the Gospel" frontmen have signed this piece of trash. Let's hear more about the need for a clear gospel message from these guys in an age where there is so much confusion. Oh wait...

DJP said...

Half? Mohler, and who?

Fred Butler said...

I don't think our differences, which are enormous, should keep us from uniting to fight our common enemy.


The man-centered popery that defines Roman Catholicism is not that enormous of a difference from a gospel of free grace offered by our sovereign God? Why would I want to identify myself with any document that doesn't take such a divide seriously?

Anonymous said...

Dan, Ligon Duncan signed it.

DJP said...

Ohhhh, no no no no....

Anonymous said...

I am actually very surprised Mahaney and Sproul haven't signed it. Do you know if there is a list somewhere that is beyond just the original signatories?

Mike Riccardi said...

It's right to be up in arms about the ecumenism in the document. I'm thankful for guys like Dan, James White, and MacArthur who are publicly decrying the document on those grounds.

But even if that wasn't an issue, I'm not sure I'd sign it, on the basis of what it's actually saying. The wording, just in the sample from JT's post about it, in my opinion is at best tragically misleading. And this from "a careful, thoughtful statement," says JT.

We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity;

I have compassion for those who struggle with homosexuality and other forms of immorality, and I want to do whatever I can to help them see and enjoy Christ above their sin, but sometimes I wonder whether we stretch Genesis 9 too far. The only place any profound, inherent, and equal dignity comes from is the fact that we're made in the image of God, which itself is marred because of our sin. But that's not what readers of things like these think when they hear "human dignity." They think self-esteem, uber-rights (as James White calls them) to flaunt their perversions, and worthy of unconditional acceptance and love.

I think that's garbage. I think one reason that our society is fast on a train to the Valley of Hinnom is because we've lost the sense of the totality and universality of man's depravity. Along with it, we've lost the gall to proclaim it to even those whom we mean to love and serve.

Nobody, regardless of sexual orientation or category of besetting sin, needs to be reminded of their human dignity, especially if it can send mixed messages about self-worth. We all need to be reminded of our vileness.

...and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward.

Really? Why? Because I thought earlier the document established that we're all in the same boat, and their sins are no different than our sins:

We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.

Why is it especially praiseworthy that people struggling with X resist temptations to do X, but it's normal for people who struggle with Y to resist temptations to do Y?

Mike Riccardi said...

We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it.

This is funny to me. I guess the key word is "disdainful." But now we're going to subject ourselves to the world's notion of disdainful. I suppose "detestable," "abomination," "depraved mind," and "will not enter the kingdom of God" aren't disdainful by the writers' definition? At least I hope so. Because there's no question that Scripture condemns those sins. And I'm not sure any unsaved person reads the condemnation of their sin in Scripture and says, "Well, they condemn me, but at least it's not disdainful condemnation."

Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners.

The whole hate the sin love the sinner thing falls short at the imprecatory psalms. Besides those you have Psalm 25:5, 31:6, 119:113, and especially 139:21-22 ("I hate them with the utmost hatred.")

For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts.

Absolutely and Amen. He loves us in the free offer of the Gospel. He loves us in the incarnation. But But God will indeed deliver our destruction if we persist in our sin and impenitence.

Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way."

There's a verse taken out of context to make it sound like those who lead these lifestyles do lead merely "alternative" lifestyles. Like, "That's your way, but Jesus has a better way." No, the way that Jesus offers is the way. He Himself is the way.

It's language like this that makes me hesitant to sign it myself, and makes me go, "Ohhhhhh, no no no no..." when I see names of men I respect on it. There's no doubt in my mind either that the ecumenical language there is offensive and deal-breaking. But even if it wasn't I wouldn't like this document.

Aaron said...


Along the lines of hate the sin, love the sinner seems to be this thought process that all sins are equal. And insofar as a single sin leads to death and damnation as do any other sins, that is true. But the law (torah) proscribes drastically different punishments for sins based on their degree. Even the New Testament proscribes more strict treatment for those involved in sexual immorality.

Aaron said...

Another thing...if Chuck Colson spent have as much time telling his own congregation that they cannot stand for Christ and vote for a democrat as he does with this declaration, a lot more good would be done.

CR said...

I knew John MacArthur wouldn't sign it. Stan makes a good point. It wasn't only that Christians was used to describe Catholics and Orthodox but it's them using gospel in the same document with Catholics and Orthodox.

Well, we'll just wait and see the justification in the minds of reformed evangelicals that signed it.

CR said...


There are other avenues to deal with issues like this where we can join non-Christians - that would be the political process - join the Republican party or something.

But signing this declaration is wrong. We don't unite at the expense of the gospel.

Susan said...

I was finally able to get on to the page of the religious leaders signatories to see who signed Bryan Chapell...J. Ligon Duncan...Al Mohler...Joni Eareckson Tada...Ravi Zacharias...all of them thoughtful, insightful Christians. Did they sign the declaration because they considered the issues raised in the declaration so crucial to our society's well-being that they were willing to overlook the ecumenical language ("We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians")?

Chris Anderson said...


Dude, you are such a fundemantalist. ;)

Jeri Tanner said...

I've been reading Iain Murray's book Evangelicalism Divided, a history of the pursuit of ecumenism in the US and Britain over the past 40 years and its tragic consequences. Then my husband mentioned the Manhattan Declaration to me this morning and the leading evangelical men who have signed off on it; it was chilling.

DJP said...

Exactly right, Jeri. It is so lamentable that such excellent men don't seem to have seen what this kind of ecumenism has wrought in the past, without exception.

When a dog lies down with fleas, it doesn't make the fleas more dog-like.

Isn't that a sad, good book?

TAR said...

I agree, signing a declaration will not rid the world of sin, only the TRUE gospel can do thatingstio

Solameanie said...

It is possible that the men who signed got caught up in the intended message, which I understand was "we will disobey governmental moves that try to force us to compromise..etc." In other words, a shot across the bow to the government.

It will be interesting to see if, in time, some of the signers decide to withdraw their signatures and issue a separate, more biblical statement.

mhbeatty said...

Is it really a surprise that sectarian Reformed baptist-types can't swallow this? Really?

Aaron said...

Solameanie, I think that's right. Everybody liked the idea of standing together against government enforcement of laws that violate our religious freedoms. But they could have said that, rather than saying we Christians and then implying that our doctrinal differences are only superficial.

Anonymous said...


Why the surprise about CJ Mahaney and RC Sproul?

Just out of curiosity. If you ever happen to see this comment.

Unknown said...

Yes, Susan, apart from Al Mohler my greatest disappointment was seeing Ravi's signature attached. To think that a man with such an incisive mind for defence of the Gospel doesn't see the trap in this Declaration is beyond comprehension.
What was it about being "unequally yoked" that someone once said? Has anything changed so dramatically that it no longer has meaning or effect?

Chris Anderson said...

FWIW, Ravi didn't surprise me much. He had a joint service with Mormons a few years back in Salt Lake. I don't think it's out of character, or at least unusual for him to make some unfortunate alliances.

Lig Duncan's participation was very disappointing to me.