Does Manhattan Declaration unite or divide Christians?

The Manhattan Declaration may be called the Manhattan Division if Christians don’t get their act together. The document released last week called for unity among Christians on three distinct issues: life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. Over 200,000 people have added their names to the 152 original signers, but many others have not.

It is to be expected that some Christians would not sign. Obviously those who claim Christ but who do not stand for pro-life or pro-traditional marriage would not agree with the conservative statements therein. The Declaration clearly divides on these issues, and people generally won’t sign something with which they disagree. But some of those electing to abstain, and some of their reasons for denial, are surprising. For some dissenters, the three primary issues raised in the manifesto are not the dividing line; the gospel is.

The distinguished teacher and pastor, Alistair Begg, wrote on his website, Truth for Life, “In accord with others who have chosen not to sign, my reservation is not with the issues themselves, or in standing with others who share the same concerns, but it is in signing a declaration along with a group of leading churchmen, when I happen to believe that the teaching of some of their churches is in effect a denial of the biblical gospel.”

Yet the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Albert Mohler did sign, and he explains his reasoning in detail on his website. One of several reasons stated by Mohler: “I signed The Manhattan Declaration because it is a limited statement of Christian conviction on these three crucial issues, and not a wide-ranging theological document that subverts confessional integrity.” He adds: “I want my name on that list. I surrendered no conviction or confessional integrity to sign that statement. No one asked me to compromise in any manner.”

These two men I respect greatly have very different opinions. Therein lies a lesson. We must stand as individuals and prayerfully walk our own faith walks. We are fortunate to have educated men like Begg and Mohler to follow and to learn from, but we must think and act for ourselves.

I’m active on Twitter and openly proclaimed my favorable support of the Declaration. Like Mohler, I do not read in the manifesto anything that, by signing, compromises my own faith or witness. I believe it is time to unite under the cross, not further divide. We must not let doctrinal differences stand in the way of furthering the basic biblical principles that helped found and grow our great country. If we are to remain “one nation under God”, we must unite to positively influence our America, her morality and her future.

Some on Twitter replied to me expressing their strong opposition to the Declaration. But when questioned, they were weak in defending their position. They only knew that this leader or that leader did not sign, so neither would they. Some did refer to controversy over the gospel message, yet they could not articulate the debate at hand, and sadly inferred incorrectly that the Declaration was some sort of biblical heresy. The leaders who have taken a stand against the Manhattan Declaration are accountable for the misguidance of masses.

Still other Christians question the Declaration’s language which suggests civil disobedience as an appropriate response to the government if and when necessary to comply with God’s directives. The Manhattan Declaration closes with this statement: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.” I understand the concern surrounding such a call, but when examined through the lens of Scripture, this statement stands up to scrutiny. (Mark 12:17) God’s reign is above all reigns.

Certainly there are those Christians who have not signed the Declaration simply because they have yet to hear about it. A quick search on the Internet finds little media coverage beyond Christian websites and blogs. People cannot join the effort if they don’t know it exists. Pastors and preachers of every Christian denomination have the responsibility to share this movement with their congregations, and encourage them to prayerfully consider their support.

Finally, there are Christians who fear the consequences of taking a stand. This is an age-old problem. “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” (John 12:42-43)

If you are one of the millions of self-proclaimed Christians in America who has not signed this historical document, why not? In which category do you fall? This Declaration is dividing people on many fronts, but only one is truly important: Will you stand with others who claim Christ as Lord, and who long to better our country, or will you stand with those who oppose us?

Bill O’Reilly made a profound claim in his Nov. 24 Talking Points Memo: “Will Americans of faith rally to this provocative point of view? If they do, the culture war will become very intense.”

I say, “It’s about time it did.”

Be First to Comment

  1. NubisPertusus said:

    If you signed the declaration, then you have committed yourself to religious liberty for all. How do you reconcile (1) your commitment towards religious liberty for Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Wiccans, Atheists, Santerians, Taoists, etc with (2) your assertion that we are one nation under God? In answering this question, please note that the phrase “one nation under God” is using a capital G, which is therefore a proper noun, and let’s not be coy…. we all know that’s a reference to the Judeo-Christian deity. If all these other folks are entitled to religious liberty, how can YOUR deity be in the pledge that all these other folks are in practice expected to say once in awhile (although they are admittedly not compelled to say it legally)? How do you reconcile the Manhattan Declaration’s commitment to THEIR religious liberty with Judeo-Christianity’s appropriation of what used to be everyone’s Pledge of Allegiance? Thanks for your thoughts. NubisPertusus.Wordpress.com

    December 1, 2009
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  2. PastorTony said:

    While I appreciate your reporting on this issue, I do want to articulate the reason why many church leaders and believers have chosen to reject this document. And the reason is quite simple. The Declaration refers to Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelicals all as being Christians. Both Rome and the Eastern Orthodox church deny justification by faith alone. When someone denies the biblical gospel we cannot call them a Christian, and by signing this document one is doing so. This is hardly a small doctrinal difference, but is the truth that defines us.

    December 1, 2009
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  3. cowboygreg said:

    Pastor Tony, When a group of religious leaders get together to stand up for our moral values in this country I find it petty to split hairs on whether you consider them true christians or not. I thank God that he put these men and women together to fight this spiritual battle that we are in. I feel this Declaration was ordained by God. Pastors still have the responsibility to discuss this with their congregation to give them the opportunity to decide for themselves whether to support it or not. The time is here for all of Gods children to unite and defeat Satan.

    December 1, 2009
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  4. bobw1984 said:

    I have a few problems with the declaration. First and foremost the issue with marriage as defined by Christianity as being between a man and woman. The reason I feel as such is because for one thing, marriage is not specifically Christian institution. Its a global one and in many cultures, marriage is in many different forms. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, I keep hearing that we’re a “Christian nation” To say so basically denies one of the basic principles of the US Constitution in the first amendment stating that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” So in that respect, the legal nature defining marriage is not determined by the “Church”, but rather the state, whom with its laws not to be affected by religious influence. This one aspect of our Constitution is what makes us the country we are- which is to say not a Christian country, but a country that is ruled by its people whom are from many different faiths and backgrounds. So as an American, I don’t agree with the assertion of this document which seems to very much support the notion that the US government is in the business of imposing Christian moral concerns. Indeed- we have religious freedom in this country. But we are also free from religious rule. That is what makes our country the great place it is.

    December 1, 2009
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  5. Magnumserpentine said:

    Karyn I am so bitterly dissiappointed that fundamentalist reconstructionist try to sweep Romans 13 1-2 NIV under the carpet. For if the Fundamentalist Reconstructionist paid attention, they too would see that God does not support MDEC due to it call for CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. Also The Church called for people to follow bush with-out question but now they are calling for Civil Disobedience against President Obama. Very interesting. Finally. If MDEC is suppose to be so inconclusive, why does it not say so? All it says is that its for Catholics, Fundamentalist, and Orthodox. This means its not for Liberal Christians, Progressive Christians, Normal Christians, Non-Fundamentalist Christians, LDS Churches, Unitarian Churches, You get the picture. Apparently if you are a Democrat, you are to keep moving on. I will not sign MDEC for these and many other reasons. I also would suggest you read Romans 13 1-2 NIV again. Magnum Serpentine

    December 3, 2009
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  6. truthseeker said:

    PastorTony, Christian leadership carries with it a huge responsibility to unite Christendom. I appreciate your right to hold a creed. However, at the foot of the Cross, we all stand in need of grace. Only God knows who are truly His…and we can only judge by the fruit of the Spirit we observe in the lives of Christians. Sometimes those who hold to sacramental creeds evidence the greatest faith in standing for the truth (ie Bonhoeffer, Schneider, Neimoller and the Catholic Bishops who opposed Nazi Germany). The church stands on the cusp of a real time of trouble. Within the year, Don’t Ask/Don’t tell will be eliminated in the military. The result will be the loss of freedom of moral conviction to service members and Chaplains. This will just be the beginning I fear. MD draws a line in the sand that the Church will no longer follow civil laws that…violate truth claims revealed in scripture & nature and that force us as Christians to disobey God. We need the Christian leadership to be united on this issue or we will be defeated in piece meal.

    December 3, 2009
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  7. jonathanbrickman0000 said:

    I am one of the very large majority of people of Christ in the world who will not sign this document, because God has not given any priority to worldly proclamations and culture war. God has not commanded us to wars of culture; He has not commanded us to war against our neighbor, whether that neighbor be believer or not, sexual ignorant or not, marital ignorant or not. God has commanded us not to war against him or her, but to love him or her, in order to bring him or her to His Kingdom. Throwing proclamations in the face of the people of this world who do not understand God’s truth, does not help bring them to God’s truth. By such proud proclamations, we push others away. Yes, we are to know the truth and to do it. But we are not to push away those to whom the Lord has not revealed His truths. There is no true justification, in doing anything to push them away.

    December 5, 2009
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  8. truthseeker said:

    Jonathan, I could not agree with you more about the role of the Church in not changing culture. However, as I read this document and its intent, it is not to change the world, it is to energize the church to unified action (at least that is what I hope it will do). Putting the world on notice that we as Christians will no longer submit or follow “laws/policies” that would put us in opposition to the Word of God, is not pushing others away. Culture will collapse, persecution will come (we know that from scripture). Our role is not to start a war to defeat the enemy, it is to stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers proclaiming the truth…regardless of the cost.

    December 5, 2009
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  9. Reasonable Christian said:

    Albert Mohler is misleading everyone. He has been invited to speak at Anglo-Catholic events sponsored by so-called “orthodox” Episcopalians. The fact that he would choose to speak to a group of papists and romanists who hide behind the Episcopal umbrella is telling. The trouble with reconstructionists like Mohler is that they are willing to sell out the Gospel for the sake of political gains in this worldly kingdom. The real issue is the Gospel and the salvation of souls. No true Christian would sign a document that says that “Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox” are preaching the Gospel. They are preaching a gospel of works, not the gospel of free grace and justification by faith alone. My opinion of Albert Mohler is almost completely gone down the tubes. Sincerely, Charlie J. Ray http://www.reasonablechristian.blogspot.com

    January 31, 2010
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