The Manhattan Declaration – My Objections

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.

In Christ,
Pastor Nord Zootman

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December perspective

December is a busy month! We all know the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. There is shopping to be done and gifts to be wrapped. There are decorations to be brought down from the attic or brought in from the garage. There is a tree to be purchased, cut down, or assembled. There is extra cooking and baking to be done. There are travel plans to be arranged. There is Christmas program practice and some years a Cantata practice to attend. There are family times together (often with both sides of the family). There are company parties to attend, and maybe even a special concert, play, or presentation of Handel’s Messiah. Not to mention the weather is now getting colder and there are things to be done to winterize the house, the barn, and the vehicles!

It is a time of year when we can become hurried and harried, exhausted and exasperated, frazzled and frenzied, worn and weary, even grouchy and grumpy. We can become so caught up in activities that we have no strength or energy to enjoy them. We can be so busy decorating that we never take the opportunity to admire the beauty of the decorations. We can be so involved in preparing and consuming food that we never really take time to savor the goodness of it. We can be so busy buying and sharing presents that we never enjoy the relationship of the people with whom we exchange gifts. Worse than all of that, we can be so busy celebrating the birth of our Lord that we never stop to be amazed at his coming!

This month I would challenge you to find a quiet place and spend some time doing just that – be amazed! Read the gospel accounts of the events surrounding our Lord’s birth in Matthew chapters one and two and in Luke chapters one and two. Contemplate how God chose to use common people to bring about this miraculous event. Consider their lives and their words. Think how different their lives were because of Christ’s coming, and then ask yourself how that event has changed your life (hopefully for all eternity).

Take another time and read the great theological truths of the incarnation written in John 1 and Philippians 2. Read about the one called the Word who has existed for all eternity but who then became flesh and dwelt among us. Consider what it means that we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. Read how the one who existed in the form of God “emptied himself” and ask what that means. Think of the Creator becoming a servant and the omniscient God learning obedience and be puzzled and amazed all at the same time.

In short, in this very busy season take some time to consider God. He will be glorified and honored, and you will be humbled and blessed.

In Him,
Pastor Nord