The latest buzz in the Christian blogosphere has been “The Manhattan Declaration.” If you haven’t heard of it, you most likely will. Perhaps, you have heard of pastors signing it or refusing to sign it.
It is a document written by Chuck Colson, Robert George and Timothy George and signed by a long list of Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox leaders including J.I. Packer, Randy Alcorn, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler(link to his explanationof why he signed).
Here is a short description of the document:
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.
The premise is noble and honorable, however, there are a number of prominent leaders who have declined to sign the declaration as well basing their decision more on what the document fails to say rather than what it does say. Namely, they believe that by joining a cause together with those from other doctrinal camps and even Catholics would muddy the waters in terms of what it means to believe in Christ and blur the message of the Gospel for the sake of social good.
John MacArthur presents his explanation of why he did not sign here.
As a Christian, we should be informed on the current issues facing our society and faith. We should likewise be prepared to give a defense for our stance on any particular issues to our co-workers, friends and family members; perhaps even our fellow church members. To be able to articulate Biblically why one believes what one believes is essential and perhaps can be a strong witness to those who are not believers.
Whatever your stance is on these issues, take time to prayerfully and Biblically think through them.
In the end, is this really something we should be interested in? Why should you care about declarations such as “The Manhattan Declaration” and is it really a big deal? Well, here is an article that makes a case that it is a big deal. It ends with a statement from J.I. Packer that on the surface seems harmless: “what one does for others is the real test of the genuineness and depth of one’s love to God, and specifically to Jesus Christ the Lord” (p. 262).
What you should know is that the context for that statement comes from the end of the second edition of J. I. Packer’s Rediscovering Holiness, which contains an afterword entitled “Holiness in the Dark: The Case of Mother Teresa.” Surprisingly, he makes a case that Mother Theresa was a true believer despite her adherence to Catholic doctrine basing her saving faith on her actions rather than her beliefs.