The Manhattan Declaration

On November 20th of this year a document titled, The Manhattan Declaration, was released by Chuck Colson, Robert P. George, and Timothy George. Signers of the statement include J.I. Packer, Tim Keller, Albert Mohler, and over 100 others. Several people at CVCC have presented the statement to the pastoral staff, mentioned it in passing or asked us what we think about it.

The content of the declaration affirms:
1. The sanctity of human life
2. The dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. Rights of conscience and religious liberty
In sum, the declaration calls for the recognition and restoration of these values in the culture and government of the United States.
You can read or download the statement HERE.
Since I have not yet had the chance to speak with many people face to face about this document my comments here will be very, shall we say…noncommittal. That is to say, as pastors we have yet to reach an agreement on what we think about this document and how we, as a church should respond to the truths proclaimed in it. Therefore,

The pastors of CVCC desire the prayers of CVCC as we, together, seek God’s will in our response to the truths proclaimed and affirmed in the Manhattan Declaration and desire to respond in a way that honors Jesus Christ above all.

One example for the caution on our part is that many Christians, for whom we have profound respect, signed the Manhattan declaration. One signer, J.I. Packer is one of the most influential authors in my own life and I quote him in sermons as often as possible. However, John MacArthur, a note-worthy pastor with great concern for the gospel, has refused to sign it. So, even in our own Evangelical circles there is disagreement on whether this statement is the appropriate response to the immorality of our day. This is something we must not take lightly.

The summation of MacArthur’s concern is as follows:

1. The Declaration contains no explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and very little mention of it.
*Blog author’s note: The concern here is that Christians should be united around the gospel rather than a declaration that affirms several of many uniquely Christian values. An additional problem in this light is that many signers can’t even agree on what the gospel is.

2. Therefore, the Document affirms a status of “brotherhood” or “unity” between people that are, in fact, not united or related because one or the other does not adhere to the same gospel.
*Blog author’s note: One example of what MacArthur is referring to here is the fundamental disagreement between Evangelicals and Catholics over salvation being a free gift of God, or if it is merited by works and religious ceremony.

He states finally,
3. Avowing the statement is the worst way to affirm Christian values because it affirms the relegation of the gospel to a secondary issue when it needs to be the primary issue.

All of MacArthur’s statement can be read by clicking HERE.

I think MacArthur’s statement summarizes well why we must tread lightly on the ground of the Manhattan Declaration. We must tread carefully because the content of the document i.e., the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage, and the grace of religious liberty are things that we actually do passionately affirm. And yet, a confessing, gospel centered, evangelical pastor, cannot in good conscience sign it and I can’t, personally, ignore his concerns.

However, the problem I have with MacArthur’s statement is that he doesn’t seem to offer up an alternative to dealing with the issues that the declaration is trying to confront, at least not specifically. MacArthur may not be done speaking on the issue and perhaps he has already affirmed alternative action in the book he references in his post, Reckless Faith.

With these concerns in mind, it is our recommendation, as pastors, that we consider the following as we consult our conscience, God’s will, and God’s Word in our response to the Manhattan Declaration:

1. What do we want to change in our nation?
2. What is ultimately going to make that happen, i.e., what will make that change last?
3. What is our role in this change as we reflect the image of Christ in a fallen and sinful world?

Let us pray together, diligently seek God’s will in his Word together and together we will see him change hearts and lives.

God bless you all and have a Christ-exalting Thanksgiving holiday.


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