The Manhattan Declaration is starting to take the blogosphere (if nowhere else) by storm. Basically it’s a statement by a group of more or less ecumenical Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical individuals decrying the social ills of abortion, gay marriage, and dangers to religious liberty.
Several people have posted responses to this declaration—some for signing it and and some against.
Three who signed it:
Five who didn’t:
I think the strongest part of this declaration is its addressing of the threat to religious liberty. We need to be quick to counter threats to this vital area for ourselves, as well as Catholics and Muslims for that matter. The statement is also very strong at stating we will not comply with efforts to restrict our freedom to speak against sin.
It seems that the major problem with the declaration is, while not trying to make common doctrinal cause with other groups, it calls all of these groups Christian or identifies them as brothers. While this may be used in a social/political sense, it needlessly confuses the gospel message and different beliefs that need to be upheld and frankly could be upheld fairly easily within the document.
Personally, I like David Doran’s thought here:
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.
Professor John Stackhouse’s comments about the difference between being right and law, however, are also apt:
I’m conservatively prolife and have traditional Christian views of marriage also. But just because I think those views are right doesn’t entail that I believe they should be law. Deciding what ought to be law in a pluralistic, democratic society that welcomes immigrants from, and seeks to influence helpfully, countries all over the world, requires careful political theory. Indeed, it requires fundamental and detailed consideration of a variety of related subjects, including the nature and intentions of divine providence over nations, what God expects of human beings individually and corporately short of the return of Christ, what is politically feasible in a given situation, and more. There is none of that sort of thinking evident in this declaration, but rather a strong sense—common enough among conservative evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox around the world—that particular Christian convictions are simply right and therefore ought to be law.
I think the priority of a clear gospel must be the highest priority—even as you may use this with different people in your congregation to help them understand the importance of this issue. I especially agree with Dr. MacArthur:
Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “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”—and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature.
Showing how the gospel—defining how we are sinners and how Christ saves us from our sins—can help our society with these problems should have been a higher priority than just saying, “Let’s unite against it!” By trying to include too many groups in a stand against sin, they are, in my opinion, diluting their power to provide a clear message of the true solution.
For a final look at some thoughts: www.dougwils.com