Recently, a group of evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox folks came together and drafted what has been called the “Manhattan Declaration”. In it, these leaders pledge to stand together and refuse to accommodate themselves, or the religious institutions they represent, to the encroachment of pagan society with regard to human life issues, issues of the fundamental definition of marriage, and issues of religious liberty. In short, there is much to agree with in this document, and a number of folks whom I deeply respect have chosen to add their names as signatories to the document. Charles Colson, whom I admirea dn respect deeply, but who seems committed to these types of ecumenical, gloss-over-the-issues types of things, spearheaded this one. Christian pastors are being called on to sign; indeed, any Christian can “sign on”.
In a nutshell, this document glosses over the gospel. And the gospel cannot be compromised for anything. Not for anything. Because if we don’t have the gospel, we got nothing. Zero. Bupkus. At several points, the document lumps together all of the above group under the name “Christians”. Granted, in one sense of the word, that is true–just as in some sense of the word, we could use that term to refer to pseudo-Christian cults like the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. At other points, it uses terminology such as “proclaim(ing) the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”, and suggests that this is our common mission.
The problem ought to be obvious: while I am certainly sympathetic with the overall gist of the document (apart from the issue of the gospel), I cannot agree that I share a common mission with Rome, for instance. I’m not “doing the same thing”. My goals, my mission, my preaching, my teaching, my life is not devoted to a “gospel” which is no gospel, which glosses over the fundamental differences that divide these branches of “Christendom”. The gospel is the issue–and rather than linking arms with Roman Catholics as brothers/sisters in Christ (though on a different basis, we could stand together); rather than smoothing over the unsmoothable differences in our beliefs, it is incumbent upon me to stand first and foremost for the gospel.
Now, when it comes to the particular social actions advocated by this document, I would find myself in substantial, if not total, agreement with its aims. But I refuse to act as if the Reformation didn’t matter; I refuse to compromise sola fide; I refuse to embrace any “greater good” than the specifics of the gospel–because without its specifics, we have no good. And I thus refuse to sign the Manhattan Declaration.
Just to give you a little more food for thought, here are two respected Christian bloggers who have written on the subject:
Tim Challies on The Manhattan Declaration
Pyromaniac’s Dan Phillips on Nineteen Questions for Signers of “The Manhattan Declaration”
And here, further, are the responses of John MacArthur and Alistair Begg.