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The Manhattan Declaration

The recently released Manhattan Declaration is receiving a lot of news right now (although not as much as the all-important Tiger Woods wreck and scandal). Many well-known Christian leaders have signed off on this document which describes itself in this way:

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

While the issues and positions on which these leaders are standing are certainly commendable -- and many of the leaders themselves admirable -- there should always be a red flag that goes off in our minds when political, and even moral, motivations draw us together to the diminishing of core gospel issues.

Even when the topics being discussed or contended for are clearly Biblical in their worldview or ramifications, the question to ask ourselves is: are they Biblically arranged according to their relative weight in the way we are contending for them?

In other words, are we contending for the overall priority, and not just a single perspective, of Scripture?

Specifically considering the Manhattan Declaration , we should ask ourselves, "Does the sanctity of human life, or marriage, or religious liberty compare in its importance to the deity of Christ, the cross of Christ, or the gospel message?" Of course, the ready answer should be resoundingly negative. And, yet, when we draw up a document for political purposes, even when the issues themselves may be true and right, is it right to join with others as "Christians" as if we have a common ground that binds us all together that is stronger than Christ and his Word?

In other words, are we contending for the overall priority, and not just a single perspective, of Scripture?

I think Alistair Begg put it so well:

"Why then have I chosen not to append my name as one of the initial signers? Because of my convictions about the nature of the Gospel, and the importance of Christian co-belligerency being grounded in it. The activity of the Christian as a citizen engaging in co-belligerency over civic and moral issues is not the same as the declaration of Christians mutually recognizing the reality of each other’s faith. . .
I do not believe it is possible to embrace the premises of ecumenical strategy and still draw the conclusions of evangelical orthodoxy."

So, while I appreciate the godly labors of men like Albert Mohler (who explains his reasons for signing the declaration on his own blog), it seems to me the worthwhile ends do not justify the questionable means. Had there been a statement to similar effect on the same issues, but with a less ecumenical and gospel-diminishing backdrop, I certainly would applaud the effort and be happy to sign it myself.

Because, of course, we do all agree that "righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). The question is where (or who) that righteousness comes from and by what standard it is defined.