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Monday, April 11, 2011

Manhattan Declaration (a *very* few thoughts)

I noticed that Turretin Fan had provided a link to this post of mine on the Manhattan Declaration.  When I clicked on the link from Turretin Fan's site I learned that it was a broken link. The broken link was due to my taking the post down shortly after having put it up. It was my intention then to modify the post, which I never ended up doing. What is below is the original. The post is old and in some respect yesterday's paper yet with abiding principles. Other responses to the declaration, including this one, can be found here. These include responses by Al Mohler, Alistair Begg and R.C. Sproul.

I was recently asked my opinion on the recent "Manhattan Declaration".

My "off the top of my head" response:

It is my understanding that individual Trinitarians have joined together across denominational lines to "affirm [their] right - and more importantly, to embrace [their] obligation - to speak and act in defense of these truths." (Emphasis theirs!)

I am grateful that men and woman are willing to speak their minds in times such as these. Notwithstanding, two less sanguine thoughts come to mind.

1. Now of course, I do believe that every Christian has a right to speak out against oppressive government. I also believe that individual Christians have the liberty to unite on such matters. However, I find it troubling when such people imply that it is obligatory for the Christian to speak out on these or any other particular political matter. One man's Christian liberty should not bind another man's conscience.

2. What we have here are three branches of Christendom: Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Evangelical. Why aren't all these branches "evangelical"? Well, I would suppose it is because they do not all affirm the gospel message of how a man can have peace with God and avoid an eternity in hell. Given the blurring of that truth, I choose to exercise my Christian liberty, which I find personally obligatory in my own conscience, not to participate in defending those truths in that unified manner; though I respect the liberty of those who feel led to do so. Fair enough?

Sundry observations:

1. I so appreciate the wisdom of the Divines. The Westminster standards teach that the organized church is not to intermeddle with civil affairs that concern the commonwealth unless dire circumstances prevail. I don't know whether the Manhattan Declaration has underscored the point, but they might do well to make clear that their declaration carries no ecclesiastical power and that the organized church's mission is first and foremost the gospel, which in turn will transform the world. (Of course most evangelicals are so rapture-ready that they have no expectation that Jesus will make all his enemies his footstool.)

2. It's interesting to me that there are some who disagreed with the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) dialogue and associated pronouncements yet have participated in the Manhattan Declaration. I think that is fine because ECT implicitly denied the gospel by affirming Rome's magical view of water baptism, whereas this new document does not try to bridge theological incongruities. For that we can be grateful, but I am still not comfortable with what is implied (and can be inferred) when such communions put aside their differences for some other cause, which all to often is seen as a "greater cause".

3. We may not let doctrinal purity be an excuse for us to do nothing!

4. Finally, doctrinal differences aside, I find it a bit passing strange that Rome can remain so vocal on the abortion front without giving equal time to the public acknowledgement of their abuses in the area of child molestation. May they be pleased to sound both trumpets.

5. "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. May God help us not to fail in that duty." That statement is very problematic. The gospel is not being proclaimed in the declaration, nor can it be because two of those communions are on a collision course where the gospel is concerned and the third group (Eastern Orthodoxy) hasn't been on the road course in about fifteen hundred years.

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