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Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Comments (5)

John MacArthur

Here are the main reasons I am not signing the Manhattan Declaration, even though a few men whom I love and respect have already affixed their names to it:

• 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. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.

• This is precisely where the document fails most egregiously. It assumes from the start that all signatories are fellow Christians whose only differences have to do with the fact that they represent distinct “communities.” Points of disagreement are tacitly acknowledged but are described as “historic lines of ecclesial differences” rather than fundamental conflicts of doctrine and conviction with regard to the gospel and the question of which teachings are essential to authentic Christianity.

• Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.

• The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message.

• This is neither a novel approach nor a strategic stand for evangelicals to take. It ought to be clear to all that the agenda behind the recent flurry of proclamations and moral pronouncements we’ve seen promoting ecumenical co-belligerence is the viewpoint Charles Colson has been championing for more than two decades. (It is not without significance that his name is nearly always at the head of the list of drafters when these statements are issued.) He explained his agenda in his 1994 book The Body, in which he argued that the only truly essential doctrines of authentic Christian truth are those spelled out in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. I responded to that argument at length in Reckless Faith. I stand by what I wrote then.

In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way—perhaps the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.


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#1  Posted by Matthew And Liyah Mcdonnell  |  Friday, December 18, 2009 at 10:26 AM

thank you for sharing your thoughts on this dr. macarthur. i had read over the manhattan declaration a while back and something was just not sitting right with me about it. i'm very thankful that you shared about what it is that is not right. i was confused because there are a number of names on there whose teachings i do believe are solid, but still something didn't seem right, you know?

thank you again for sharing.

#2  Posted by Michael Leiker  |  Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 5:53 AM

Sola Scriptura!

Soli Deo Gloria!

#3  Posted by George Law  |  Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 9:44 AM

I myself, while wholeheartedly supporting the statements concerning the topics. Was also unsure of aligning myself with the groups represented as signers of the document. After searching scripture and seeking advise from more "learned" men of God. I could not, with a clear conscience sign my name and risk embarrassing myself before God. I work at a Christian School and was given the Declaration to consider by a teacher. In fact the document was circulated through the campus.

I'm not sure how many signed, but by speaking my reservations to the person who passed the information on to me, we had a discussion on why I was hesitant to sign. In the end my Biblical reasoning showing the supporting scripture along with my refrences from John's article persuaded this person to withdrawl their support as well. Only by aligning with these groups. NOT IN any disagreement with the topics.

#4  Posted by Stacey Morales  |  Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Thank you Dr.MacArthur! It seems so many "christians" want unity at the exspense of throwing aside doctrine. Thank you for standing firm. Why do you think some well respected leaders signed this declaration ?


#5  Posted by Stephen Chambers  |  Friday, December 25, 2009 at 5:54 PM

Back in 1979, I had the privilege as a new believer to study at Logos Bible Institute. While there, I also attended Grace Church. Over the years my wife and I have been encouraged by your strong stands on important biblical issues. Even now with this Manhatten Declaration, I applaud you. Your mention of the word "we" made me think of a recent email from my brother-in-law regarding the use of that same word. This is what he says ....

One of the biggest challenges that all Christians have in our time of mass propaganda is to develop the skill of thinking for ourselves. One example I like to use that comes up frequently has to do with who "we" are. In the propaganda war, one of the clever methods is for a propagandist of Group # 1 to induce a member of Group # 2 to support Group # 1 actions and goals by associating the Group # 2 member with Group # 1. For instance, consider two distinct groups:

Group # 1: The power elite, mainly on the Eastern seaboard, in Washington and New York. These people own the mainstream media and start wars, which require immense sums of money. As investment bankers and "defense" industrialists, they are only too happy to profit at the expense of members of Group # 2.

Group # 2: Ordinary Americans, or the American people - targets of abuse by members of Group # 1. Because Group # 1 is vastly outnumbered by the membership of Group # 2, it is necessary to delude Group # 2 members into thinking that their beliefs and goals are those of Group # 1. Through lifelong indoctrination from the information institutions of society (controlled by Group # 1), many of Group # 2 are fooled.

One common way to fool Group # 2 members is to talk about Group # 1 policy or action and then identify this policy or action with "us" or "America," where "we" are both groups. Many Americans start talking this way themselves, about what "we" are doing in other parts of the world, for instance, when in fact almost nobody of Group # 2 is doing anything of geopolitical significance anywhere in the world. "We" is simply Group # 1, talking inclusively to Group # 2, and hoping that enough of them fail to realize that they are being suckered into supporting their Enemies Within.

Now, apply this to ourselves as Christians. Who is "we"? Can it be any other group than Christ's people? They are "us". When we became a Christian, did we not give our total allegiance to Christ? If he is indeed Lord then that means we follow his commands, obey his laws as the highest authority we recognize. If we apply this to nationality, our nation can only be Christ's nation, or as Peter calls us, a distinctive nation, a separated people from the other nations. This means that we do not view ourselves as being part of any other group that is following some other leader with some other laws. We are Americans only in the sense that we have been born in America and are culturally American. However, we do not consider other governments to be "our" governments, nor its laws or constitutions or declarations. They are not ours. The Christian has as sole constitution and declaration the word of God, not man. Even the JWs correctly recognize that the US pledge of allegiance is not compatible with the Christian claim that Jesus is lord. He demands our sole allegiance or we are none of his.Almost the entire American church has been fooled into giving up Christ's lordship and shifting their identity from being under Christ to some other "we". Once you recognize this, you can start evaluating the many connections in life where we no longer see ourselves as under Christ but under the US Constitution, US government, NATO, or some other entity. There are many Christians who are "Constitutionalists" yet they have failed to recognize the simple fact that the Constitution of the US does not recognize Christ as the highest authority. The American colonies did in their constitutions but not the United States. Christ is not even acknowledged in it. The highest authority in the US Constitution is "we the people". These "people" decide by majority vote what is right and wrong, not God. They make laws, which declare what is right and wrong. That's what laws essentially are. Yet for God's people, God alone has the authority to give us laws to live by and tells us (more than once) not to add to or subtract from his laws. The US has over 2 million laws on the books. Have they (notice I said they, not we) obeyed the Word of God? Yet we have been propagandized from our youth to the present day to give our loyalties to Washington instead of Jesus, and many Christians have done just that without ever realizing it.