Posted by: T. Boyd | September 1, 2010

The Missing Core of the Manhattan Declaration

Last November (2009) I got an e-mail requesting me to sign the Manhattan Declaration. After reading through the information my wife and I signed it to show our support.

A little while later I discovered that several of my “heroes” of the faith had posted statements about why they had not signed it. These included R. C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, and John MacArthur, all of whom had good explanations, and their explanations helped convince me to withdraw my signature.

Since the promotion of this declaration has arisen again, this time on Facebook, I have studied the Manhattan Declaration to try to explain in my own words what bothers me about it. It gradually dawned on me how to respond to the document.

The Manhattan Declaration says many good things, and I agree with the analysis of the awful problems of abortion, euthanasia, attacks upon marriage, and the threat of losing religious freedom. However, it leaves out the most important part of pointing the way to the solution. It refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ without ever talking about what that gospel is and how it can cure the sickness of society. And it points out great Christians of the past that helped correct some of these ills without explaining what enabled them to persist in the fight.

A non-Christian reading this document would conclude that Jesus was a great teacher and promoter of wonderful ideals, and followers of His ways can be model citizens. But there is nothing about the transformation in our hearts that come from responding to the gospel, that is, the rebirth from our death that has come into our lives because of sin. In fact, I find it a glaring omission that there is no reference to sin or the fallen nature of man in the document. How can this “cancer” be eradicated without identifying its source?

According to the Declaration, it seems that the authors are attributing the evil abuses and bad ideas to lack of mankind’s adherence to our good traditions and heritage. There is no implication that the ills stem instead from evil hearts, from greed, selfishness, and hatred. There is no mention of our adversary, the evil one. Instead, the authors imply that these wrongs in society can be minimized by such things as re-education, good laws, strict enforcement, and good leadership, in other words, by human will.

To say that this is a Christian declaration, I think it should state what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches: people are born in sin, they are lost and in a hopeless condition; they are dead spiritually and are slaves to sin in their natural state; but the good news is that Jesus has provided a way out, a transformation, a metamorphosis of the person that brings life, and life that will last forever.

This free gift is offered to all people. The price for that gift was paid by the death of Jesus who lived a sinless life, and therefore, was enabled to pay for all our sins.  It lets God, our righteous judge,  cancel the sentences of death against us by nailing them to the cross (see Colossians 2:13-15). The acceptance of this gift and the commitment to live in Him creates a rebirth of that person, and this transaction occurs by faith in God’s power to do just that.

The proof that this is all true was demonstrated by the resurrection of the body of Jesus after being dead for three days, and then 40 days later ascending into heaven. This good news, this gospel, is the only hope of changing peoples hearts, of bringing truth and righteousness into the nation and our world.

In conclusion, the Manhattan Declaration misses the whole point of how to correct these evils of society. It does a good job of describing what has happened and how mankind has gone against the traditions and norms of society. But it falls woefully short of providing a way out of the mess or of even giving hope that change can occur. It declares that if Christians will stand together to fight the evil that maybe we can sway the drift of society back to the righteous ways of living. I think the sad history of mankind proves this false.

Without the empowering of God in our lives, there is no hope for a cure. Where in the document is there a call for repentance, for falling on our knees to pray to our Lord for help, for wisdom, for strength? The cure put forward by the Manhattan Declaration is like suggesting that if everyone in New Orleans had used their leaf blowers the course of Hurricane Katrina could have been altered.


Responses

  1. There is a comment to this post in Egg Shapes and Arches – see comment Thanks, Donna.


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