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Doctrine

The Manhattan Declaration

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:

Some thoughts:

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

Your thoughts?

2 Comments

  • Adam J. Miller says:

    I appreciate the diversity of quotes here. This is a serious issue and like said MacArthur it’s not going to change without the Gospel. I agree that these issues are a problem in society, I agree with Stackhouse in part, that just because Christians agree on something as being right doesn’t mean that we can convince them of it.

    I agree with Obama in part because we don’t live in a Christian nation. In order to make that claim we need more than a history of Christian principles, we need a populace that reflects that. It seems our populace is for abortion and gay rights (Based simply on the fact of who they elected and what his platform is). Technically, our government’s responsibility is to reflect the populace. If we really want to make a difference in society we need to be winning people to Christ and teaching them truth. Otherwise, all we are doing is distancing ourselves from the world and hindering the Gospel.

    Abortion and gay rights need to take a back seat for most Christians. You can’t make a dead person smell good, you can only cover the stench. We need to pray that God will bring people to life and save their souls not simply adjust their way of thinking about Christian ethics.

  • Gary says:

    Abortion and gay rights, as any other moral issue, can be opportunites to bring the love of God to a sinner caught up, personally or politically, in the troubles these sins bring to their life.

    Abortion: At New Hope Family Services in Syracuse the1st purpose of their mission statement expresses this:
    “Through a Christian ministry – that offers the hope of an abundant life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    Gospel-centered crisis pregnancy counselling, adoption services, abstinence talks in public schools are all practical ways to give a reason for the hope that is within us. In this way abortion can take a front seat for some Christians and there’s plenty of room for more to get involved.

    Homosexuality: At Evangelical.us (which ministers to homosexuals) the 1st purpose of their mission statement expresses this: Our purpose is to fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples of all men.

    We are willing to help anyone put their belief in Christ as their Savior. Our specific mission is to the people of America

    In this way the issue of homosexuality and its bondservants can take a front seat for some Christians… and there’s plenty of room for more to get involved in spreading the Word as God directs them.

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