I have heard and read much discussion lately concerning a document entitled “The Manhattan Declaration” which was released last month and signed by a number of prominent church leaders. It deals with grave issues which face our society: the need to stop the killing of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage as a life-long heterosexual commitment, and the importance of maintaining true religious freedom of expression. I would normally rush to endorse such a statement, but I cannot sign this one. Other people who are more eloquent than myself have already written about their concerns. I recommend reading the statements by R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Alistair Begg. This short article falls far short of their statements, but nevertheless I thought it worthwhile to express my thoughts particularly to those whose lives I am called to influence. I have four major objections to the document:
1.It confuses the Gospel. It speaks of proclaiming the gospel in it’s fullness, yet there is never a clear statement of what the gospel is at heart. The gospel is the good news of salvation available by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. That has an impact on how we live in society, which is an outgrowth of the gospel but not the gospel itself.
2.It presents Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics as true christians who simply have ecclesial differences and refers to them as “fellow believers.” These groups do not agree at all on the basis of salvation which makes a person a believer.
3.The two points above raise the issues of abortion, homosexuality, and religious freedom above the issue of the gospel itself! These are all extremely vital issues, but the greatest issue of all is the salvation of souls (not the saving of a society).
4.This document errs in the same way the “moral majority” movement erred. It attempts to fight spiritual battles with human weapons. We must recognize that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) We cannot defeat Satan and his schemes through a show of power. He can only be defeated through prayer, the proclamation of the word, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
As believers in Christ we must be involved in the battles of our culture. We have a clear command to love our fellow humans which would include fighting for what is best for society. We should work hard to protect the unborn along with all other people in a vulnerable position. We should be clear on the sanctity of marriage and fight against immorality (homosexual and heterosexual alike). We must insist on our right to preach the gospel of Christ, and must preach whether or not we are granted that freedom. But most of all, we must proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. All other issues are secondary to that calling and we must never let any other cause (no matter how important) detract us from the clear presentation of the gospel. It is upon that truth that our hope rests.
Pastor Nord Zootman