Why I signed the Manhattan Declaration

MHDLRecently a number of prominent evangelical figures have made waves by signing the Manhattan Declaration, an ecumenical1and rather terse (in scope anyway) statement consisting of three points:

  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.

While these may seem pretty vague and readily agreeable to by a wide range of people (in fact, the deceleration is implicitly inclusive of even non-theists) and rightly so. The goal of this declaration is not to form yet another creed or charter  or statement of faith. The goal is simply to come together with others of like mind over a very limited set of issues. It’s an old and wise tactic, pool resources and efforts in order to accomplish a common goal. In this case it’s the cessation of threats (real or imagined, you be the judge) to religious liberties by government encroachment, combating abortion, and combating the constant assaults to the traditional family prevalent in our times.

However, as simple as all this sounds, the amazing thing is that some evangelicals, or fundamentalists rather, are staunchly opposed to even the notion of this declaration. It’s as if the notion that a Christian would forge an alliance with anyone that doesn’t hold their exact level of legalism is somehow being “unequally yoked”2.

In my opinion those who hold such views are not only out to lunch on this issue, but are also poor strategists when it comes to the culture war we are engaged in.

Sadly, however, such narrow and sectarian thinking is not new. In fact, not too long ago Os Guinness set out to form a new (or reclaimed) public square where fruitful discussions and debates could be had in our nation3. The Williamsburg Charter was his attempt to forge a healthy platform from which opinions could be expressed rationally. Where debates could be had that were productive more than they were divisive.

His greatest opposition ended upcoming not from the secularists or atheists. But from his fellow Christians. In fact, his only death threat came from a supposedly Christian group that valued their hatred of others more than their love of their fellow man.

My fear is that the Manhattan Declaration will end up being remembered more for those who opposed it (and mistakenly called for the repentance of those like myself who signed it) than for what it truly represents, a concerted effort to rid the world of at least a few evils.

  1. On a side note; one of the signers, Peter Kreeft has an excellent sermon titled, Ecumenism Without Compromise. []
  2. Which ends up being a thinly veiled attempt at legalistic control. []
  3. Much more about his vision of public discourse can be found in his excellent work The Case for Civility []
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12 responses to “Why I signed the Manhattan Declaration

  1. Excellent post. I agree with you 100% and even value Peter Kreeft. I listened to Ecumenism Without Compromise, weeks ago.

    Bless you

  2. The MD states, It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus. This certainly reads as a theological statement in which those standing together are grounding their cooperation in the Gospel. How should one signing this document understand Gospel cooperation here?

    Is there a specific place above that actually states Why you signed the Manhattan Declaration?

    I'm confused by this statement: (in fact, the deceleration is explicitly inclusive of non-theists). I thought the MD was exclusive of non-theists.

    Peter Kreeft has some extreme ideas. I could not stand with him on much theologically. For example, this amazon review of Ecumenical Jihad states,

    For example, "even atheists and agnostics, if they are of good will . . . perhaps . . . can be called 'anonymous Christians', as Karl Rahner suggested . . . " [p. 31] "Is there . . a `hidden Christ' of Hinduism? When a pious Moslem practices his islam, his submission, might this be taking place through Christ . . . . I think this is very likely. [p. 156] In fact, Mr. Kreeft speculates that the "ultimate reality" of Taoists, Buddhist, and Hindus might be the god of Christians. [p. 161]

    There, he met and spoke with Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed, and Moses. In the afterlife, all have become pious Roman Catholics. Nonetheless, Mohamed still teaches (and Kreeft appears to agree) that the Koran is "divine revelation." [pp. 103-4]

  3. The gospel is merely the good news of Christ's being the promised messiah to set us free from sin and death. Anything past that are secondary and tertariary issues at best. Something Mohler (who did sign the document) has explained numerous times (though a link to it eludes me at the moment).

    As for the non-theists, I thought I read somewhere where the MD was inclusive of non-believers as well as believers among it's signatories as it's chief aim is really he 3 issues they have posted on their site.

    Regarding Peter Kreeft. I don't see how citing him in one instance entails acceptance of all he has to offer (though I think much of his work is admirable). Even in the work I cited, I take issue (naturally) with his conclusion regarding the Roman Catholic Church but his approach to it is genuine and honest.

    I think the major source of division here is willingness to understand and work together with people we don't fully agree with towards a specific goal. I think detractors who want to whine about the theological ramifications of this document are missing the point of this declaration which is predominantly secular. I also suspect the wording of the Gospel was thrown in by committee as a requisite for evangelicals who seem to be rather near sighted as evidenced to their reaction to the earlier Williamsberg Charter..

    Another variation is with the belief that docturnal purity is wholly important, but only when pursued in love without force (something the declaration also upholds). In that regard I don't think 100% theological agreement is required (or even possible!) before we work together as members of the same body we claim to each be a part of.

    • In Mohler's "theological triage" he seems to include a bit more than you stated, First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.

      Originally, as this LDS member notes faith groups like the LDS were not invited due to theological reasons.

      To add further confusion, MD's faq question 14 asks about the it being concentrated on faiths groups. It answers, So the signatories are happy to stand alongside our LDS brothers and sisters who have worked so heroically in the cause of defending marriage, our Jewish brothers and sisters, members of other faiths, and people of no particular faith (even pro-life atheists such as the great Nat Hentoff), who affirm our principles and wish to join us in proclaiming and defending them.

      I'm not sure what a Jewish, LDS or other faith member "brother and sister" is.

      Colson keeps the argument for the MD theological when he states And just as important, I believe the Manhattan Declaration can help revitalize the church in America. One great weakness of the Church today is its biblical and doctrinal ignorance. This document is, in fact, a form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.

      Predominantly secular? It seems hardly so. The drafter obviously had certain form of doctrinal purity in mind. However, there can be no greater form of doctrinal agreement as foundational than the Gospel.

  4. "The gospel is merely the good news of Christ's being the promised messiah to set us free from sin and death. Anything past that are secondary and tertariary issues at best."

    Talk about big-tent Ecumenism. A Muslim (not to mention an Arian, a Nestorian, or a Monophysite) could sign that statement of faith. And if a Muslim agrees with it, it's probably not the whole gospel.


  5. As for the non-theists, I thought I read somewhere where the MD was inclusive of non-believers as well as believers among it's signatories as it's chief aim is really he 3 issues they have posted on their site.

    That would be completely antithetical to what the designers have stated their aim was in this document (particularly Colson).

  6. It's very interesting to me generally that most (but certainly not all) of those fighting so hard to defend their choice of signing this document are working very hard to try to divorce the document from its stated content (paragraph 4 of the reply above) and from the statements made by the authors regarding their intent and their goals.

  7. Not really as those wouldn't constitute "the promised messiah".

    I'm not saying that truth and study of Scripture are not important, I'm merely pointing out that Christ never required a fully fleshed out doctrine before coming to him. Just trust and faithfulness in his claims to be the savior we need.

  8. I've read Colson's comments on the matter. He considers the sanctity of life along with religious freedom (two of the core tenants of the Declaration) to be vital (not required, though) for the proclamation of the gospel. Something I wholly agree with.

  9. You missed repentance from sin. But yes, I'm not suggesting people are saved by doctrinal perfection. I am suggesting, however, that things like the crucifixion and the deity of Christ are also essential doctrines, and that the nature of the faith (i.e. in Christ alone, not in Christ and something else) is important.

  10. My reason I signed this is that Jesus said I am the way , the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me. When we accept Jesus as our Lord & Savior then God grants us the free gift of Grace. In the Old Testament it is stated God knew each one of us before he planted us in our Mothers womb so why would anyone think that The Word of God is untruthful or are they saying God lies? This is why we need Congress to pass the pain-capable unborn child protection act to remove abortion or pay for Planned Parenthood.

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