Manhattan Confusion!

Over 27,000 Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Mormons, JWs, and a whole host of  other religious people have recently affixed their names to a document called the Manhattan Declaration.  This document is championed by Chuck Colson who was the originator of the Evangelicals and Catholics together in the early nineties.  It is an attempt to foster unity between different groups who call themselves “Christians” to preserve and defend conservative values.  While I am in full support of conservative values, I cannot support this declaration by any means.  Some leading evangelicals have affixed their name to the document, which greatly disappointments me.  I was also delighted to see some names notably absent from the document.   Here is a list of the leading religious leaders who affixed their names.

Manhattan Declaration

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

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.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

What is most troubling to me is the continual referring to the signers as Christians, and in essence, describing the signers as Christian.  All of those who sign might call themselves Christians, but being a Christian is more than “following” a historic person named Jesus the Christ.  It is absolute surrender to what Christ came to proclaim-the Gospel, and it is not just some fuzzy idea of what the Gospel might “mean to me.”  The Gospel is the historic account of Jesus being fully God and fully man dieing on behalf of depraved sinners who when they come to him by faith alone because of grace alone, they are completely justified, forgiven, and being sanctified.  Catholics have a different gospel.   Mormons have a different gospel, liberal protestants have a different gospel.  Therefore there is more confusion generated when Evangelicals unite with unbelievers under the banner of the Gospel.  This does not mean that no Catholic or Mormon or Protestant is possibly saved, but rather that the belief systems are in fundamental opposition.  How can those who believe the Gospel is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone think it is okay to blur lines like this.  I know that my position does not make me popular as well as more notable Christian leaders who did not sign the declaration (after all, I really am not an “influential” Christian leader), but I will not contribute to the confusion created by reducing the word “Christian” to a political moniker, or “tradition” marker.

Note, my main problem is not what the declaration is trying to do.  My concern is that we soften Christianity and the demands of the true Gospel when we fudge on what the Gospel means.  Did not Paul tell the Galatians that there would be some who bring another gospel which is not another, but a twisted Gospel?  And did he not tell us that, that person who preaches that perverted Gospel should be accursed?  We have come a long way from Galatians in justifying participation with unbelievers “for the sake of conservative values.”  Let us have a clear voice that resonates with the true Gospel as defined in the pages of Scripture alone.

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