MacArthur and the Manhattan project

I was totally unaware of this document until Hugh Hewitt began plugging it regularly on his radio program this week. He gushes over the thing as if it represents some sort of new religious revival preparing to break forth upon the United States.

My pastor captures my sentiments exactly on what is really ECT2. Or maybe we could call it ECT 2000 to be trendy? Or ECT21st Century?

At any rate, the document has been re-named the Manhattan Declaration.

Why I am not signing the Manhattan Declaration

What I always wonder with documents like these is how anyone who signs it can take it seriously at the same time. Is the concept of “unity” just spiritualized or something? How can there be any unity at all seeing that each group defines the gospel with such diversity? If myself, a baptistic Calvinist, and a Roman Catholic, and a Greek Orthodox are asked by an 18 year old guy how he can be saved from his homosexual sin he will receive three entirely different answers. All of them cannot be true at the same time. And I know for certain I will refuse to lay aside my commitment to the biblical gospel grounded in Christ alone to redeem sinners just so I can have some fake unity with the Catholic and the Orthodox on moral issues in society. I would imagine the same is true of my counterparts as well.

And by the way, where do the conservative Jews come into play here? I mean, Michael Medved and Dennis Prager hold to the same convictions regarding abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty as Chuck Colson. What would they say, by the way, if a homosexual asked them about how to be saved from his sin?

Additionally, consider a couple of highlights from the declaration itself:

We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. (emphasis mine)

If we are going to make this declaration in light of the truth grounded in Holy Scripture, the Holy Scripture plainly declares man’s reason to be fallen and darkened (Ephesians 4:18, Romans 1:20 ff., 8:6,7 to mention a few). Natural human reason thinks according to the flesh and does not want anything to do with the things of God. According to scripture, the only solution to this condition in men is the saving gospel of Christ. The very thing on which there is no unity.

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. … Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation. … In the Bible, God Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.

Just as there are diverse opinions as to the sufficiency of the gospel to save among these three groups, so there is diversity of opinion regarding the nature of marriage. Oh certainly all three groups recognize and affirm the divine establishment of marriage, but this establishment is recorded for us in which book? Genesis. The very reason we are to defend marriage as being between only one man and one woman as a one-flesh union is because God created man and woman at the beginning and ordained marriage for the entire realm of humanity.

Yet, all of these groups are divided as to the authenticity of the Genesis record and are divided in opinion concerning the use of Darwinian evolutionary constructs to re-interpret the Genesis record. These philosophical ramifications are astronomical to any sustained argument in favor of traditional, God ordained marriage as defined in this document and yet these signers completely ignore these factors relegating them to mere secondary matters that have no bearing on what they are attempting to affirm.

Then I ask: Will these individuals firmly press these points in public discourse with vehement detractors? In other words, are they prepared to anger their opponents on Larry King Live by telling them their support of gay marriage is morally wrong? It has been my observation of many of the names of those who signed the document that they generally do not. And if they do, they do all they can to leave out any reference to Scripture and speak of God in vague, general terms. Rarely do they argue on behalf of the sovereign creator who has revealed truth which must be obeyed by His creatures. This alone limits the effectiveness of this declaration to being just another pointless conservative Christian comment upon the state of affairs in America.


34 thoughts on “MacArthur and the Manhattan project

  1. Hi Fred,I think you know that I greatly enjoy your blog. And so I hope you don't mind that I seriously disagree with you and John MacArthur (I've read many of his books and listened to his radio show).My hope is that we can agree to disagree agreeably, and although some may want to push this into a fellowship-breaking test, that's inappropriate in my opinion. Although I do disagree with those Protestants who don't affirm the Manhattan Declaration, I don't condemn them, and I hope it goes visa versa the other way too. Disagree with me, but don't condemn me.FWIW, here's Jesse Taylor's post over at Challies:"As a Master’s College Alumni and former Grace Community Church attender when I lived in So. Cal., I very respectfully disagree with Dr. MacArthur. This appears to be a very clear and concise document that addresses key issues in our nation. Certainly I do not believe that Roman Catholic theology nor Orthodox theology is truly orthodox, however in the very broad sense of the term they fall in the tent of Christendom, any cursory study of church history will prove this point. To give a very basic illustration, if I, a Roman Catholic, and an Orthodox were standing outside a burning building with children caught inside I would work hand in hand with them to rescue the children. Certainly many of you will poke holes in this illustration, and maybe rightly so, but I do not see how seeking to save children, defend marriage, and defend our religious freedom is compromising the gospel. Blessings to all. Now I will go sign the document."

  2. I thought my concerns were fairly straightforward and seem to be the areas where many who are eager to sign the document are somewhat blinded. Though I – and I know John – certainly would not condemn Al Mohler (the most prominent name who runs in our circles, spoken at our conference) for signing the document (and I wouldn't "separate" from him either), the one clear disunity among the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and the Red-state conservative evangelicals, is the definition of the gospel. It's just disappointing that Al doesn't really think it is a big enough deal to attach his name of endorsement to a document, whose signers, when pressed as to their conviction on salvation, won't have any unity what soever among themselves. I don't know who Jesse Taylor is. He may have graduated way after me, but there is fundamentally more at stake here than fighting for our cultural values. It's a bit simplistic, even to the point of naivete, to frame the discussion with an anecdotal story of rescuing children from a burning building. It's much more than that. Eventually, people will have to move beyond the pointless exercise of agreeing with a purpose statement to actually putting into practice what that purpose statement says and therein lies the validity of the document as to its so-called unifying theme.By the way, this document isn't really any different than the ECT document from 1994 in stated goals, ie, putting aside theological differences for the sake of being united around confronting societal ills. Did you disagree with John's stance when he dissented from it? Why or why not?

  3. Hi Fred,The ECT was before my time as a more fully engaged and thoughtful Christian. So I can't report what I did because I didn't do anything!But I have looked at it since and I'm sure I would have rejected ECT (just like Mohler did). So I support John's rejection of the ECT.And fwiw, I did not like "An Evangelical Manifesto" that came out last year. I really did not like it.BTW, I like Declarations, Manifestos, Creeds, and Confessions. It gives clarity and cuts through a lot of unhelpful fog and haze, IMHO. So I affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the Danvers Statement, the Together for the Gospel Statement, and of course, the Manhattan Declaration.Anyways, I just found this quote by Francis Beckwith regarding the Manhattan Declaration and I thought it might be of interest to you since he discusses MacArthur in what I think is a friendly way:"Here’s what MacArthur writes:“Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel.”Can you imagine if he had said this, instead:Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to rape, torture, and theft and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel.MacArthur, though a decent man with his heart in the right place, does not seem to understand that “the Gospel” is more than merely getting people into heaven. It is about loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and that requires a concern for the moral ecology of one’s community, since that community, whether we admit it or not, has the power to shape Christian culture and its influence on the wider culture. Consider this example. As a Christian, I have an interest in making sure that the Church’s children grow up to be loving ambassadors for Christ, living holy lives. But that task, that hope, becomes more difficult when they are surrounded by, and saturated in, a wider culture that opposes that hope. To put it another way: it may be the case that the children of one Christian will never have to sit through hours of indoctrination in a public school. But other Christians’ children will. Yet, it the latter children may grow up to date the former childrenShameless plug: I have a book coming out in March with InterVarsity Press–Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft–which addresses these and other concerns. See"

  4. If Beckwith genuinely means this, he's an idiot. It explains why he is so easily pliable and swam back across the Tiber to mother Rome. He is still missing the point. Whose gospel engages the culture, the Roman Catholic gospel with all the trappings, or the gospel as outlined in the Bible in which the God alone is the savior? That's just fantastic. For what it is worth, I appreciate creeds and clarifying documents as well. However, I want them to reflect biblical truth. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy is such a document. This one is not, especially in that it embraces Roman Catholics as if there is no history between me, the Baptist Calvinist, and the pope.

  5. I don't see any indications that Beckwith is jesting….Anyways, CSBI has been mocked and derided for about 30 years now. I still hold to it and affirm it."This one is not, especially in that it embraces Roman Catholics as if there is no history between me, the Baptist Calvinist, and the pope."There was a line in the MD about "historic lines of ecclesial differences" which explicitly acknowledged the historic divide.

  6. There was a line in the MD about "historic lines of ecclesial differences" which explicitly acknowledged the historic divide.And they sort of dismiss those differences as if it is some disagreement between liking vanilla or chocolate?

  7. I thought they acknowledged the differences. Obviously, it wasn't to the depth that you or others might have liked. (And people complained about its length already!)Have you had a chance to read Albert Mohler's explanation of why he signed? He rejected ECT, but signed the MD.BTW, I have read a comment or two in the blogosphere that John's not going to invite Mohler to speak anymore because of Mohler's endorsement of the Manhattan Declaration.

  8. It seems to me that many people have missed the point of the Manhattan Declaration. It makes no attempt at getting differing groups to compromise their theologies, it simply brings them together on ONE issue that they agree on.

  9. Gary you ought to read the comments over at the Shepherd's Fellowship blog.From Jesse Johnson who makes a good comment:The confusion doesn't come from signing a document with Catholics. The confusion comes from signing a document that repeatedly goes out of the way to call Catholics "Christians" in the same sense as evangelicals. Have you read the document? The opening line connects Catholics to maintaining the "Christian traditions" for 2,000 years, to guarding Christian institutions, etc. The third paragraph talks about how papal edicts have protected life. And so on. The website's summary of the document, which I can almost guarantee people like Mohler and Grudem did not see when they signed it, overtly says that Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals are all part of the same Christian tradition. It is not as if the history of these religions are a secondary issue to the document. The MD itself makes the shared history of Christian tradition a central part of its statement. To sign that, but then say you don't think that Christians and Catholics do believe the same thing about the "fullness of the Gospel" is confusing because it contradicts what the document itself implies.On the contrary, the language specifically goes out of the way to bring all diverse groups under the umbrella of "Christian" when we know such is not the case.Of course, my question to any who so eagerly sign such statements: Why is it necessary? Why must I sign a popular document just to say "me too!" when such is entirely unnecessary for the Bible believer?

  10. Dr. Manahattan. From the Watchman.He could split into several different selves. Three are in the picture. Catholics, Orthodox, and Red Staters were the signers of the declaration.Get it now? Maybe I am being too abstract.By the way, we had a Canadian from Prince Edward Island at our house last night.

  11. "Though I – and I know John – certainly would not condemn Al Mohler (the most prominent name who runs in our circles, spoken at our conference) for signing the document (and I wouldn't "separate" from him either)"Good to know Fred. Because when I went to SF blog this morning I saw these comments: (1) "Would you then agree that Mohler must be admonished publicly for his public action with the RCC?The Scriptures compel us to admonish (2 Thess. 3:15) Al Mohler and every brother in Christ who joins with Roman Catholic signatories in The Manhattan Declaration."(2) "Yes the mandates are clear. Men who love Mohler, have some sway with him and want first to live in fidelity to God and His Word will make the application of the mandates graciously and with mercy. The goal, of course, is to recover an erring brother. Otherwise, we are left with no other option than to “mark and avoid” (Rom. 16:17) Mohler."

  12. As far as I can tell, those are comments made by Lou Martuneac, a non-lordship IFB who has an unbalanced understanding of secondary separation principles. I doubt seriously this reflects John's opinion, though I would imagine more from him may be forth coming. Our pastor and church tends to shy away from extremist fundamentalism insistent upon separating from every suspicious action and those who may fellowship with them.

  13. Hi Fred,(Off-topic, but of related interest).What do you think of this blog post and the ensuing comment thread by Professor Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary as regards to teaming up with unbelievers to do Biblical scholarship?Any structural similarities to critiquing Protestants working with Catholics and Orthodox on the issues in the Manhattan Declaration with critiquing Protestants working with atheists and non-Protestants on issues in Biblical Scholarship?

  14. I thought his arguments were a bit strained. It's like he is trying his best to show that John just doesn't have a different opinion on the matter, but to prove him wrong theologically. I wonder if he has the same sentiments against Allister Begg and James White and a host other similar men who dissented from signing the document along the same reason John did. I also didn't see him address the one question I have always asked and don't really feel anyone has answered sufficiently for me: How does me signing a document with a bunch of Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox really change anything? If one thinks about it, this is really nothing but a big PR stunt. So, why then must I dismiss the deep — "deep", mind you — theological and historical rift that divides me as a biblical Christian from Roman Catholicism just for the masturbatory experience of signing my name with a bunch of other people so I can say I don't like gay marriage either? Oh. I am sure we can say "we have our differences" and approach our divide with broad categories of historic Christianity. I mean, Catholics believe Jesus was born of a virgin and died and rose the third day, but honestly, who are we fooling here?

  15. Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon: "We may take the example of the Evangelical spokesman, John MacArthur, Jr. His complaint was very simple: The Manhattan Declaration scans only the symptoms of these social evils but neglects to address their root cause. That is to say, this document fails to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, which is the sole remedy for every social ill.The objections of MacArthur and Tobias are curious in their evident presumption that Christians, when they speak in public, should limit their discourse to the proclamation of the Gospel and the summons to repentance.This may be a legitimate view, though it is neither shared by many Christians over the centuries nor obviously favored by the prophets. Jonah, for instance, preached judgment—not repentance—at Nineveh, nor did his proclamation include one syllable of Good News. If this was true of Jonah, what shall we say of Nahum, whose own message to the Ninevites was just an expansion of Jonah’s meager half-verse? Respectfully, these objections to the Manhattan Declaration (including its rhetoric) could easily have been made against any one—and perhaps all—of the biblical prophets. Our modest Declaration, as a statement of social concern, invites the endorsement of Christians who share that concern. The matter is truly as plain as that."James Grant: "I disagree with what I would consider a sectarian view of Christianity that would require me to never agree on these issues with Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians. I had no problem signing it. I would encourage you to to read it and sign it as well."

  16. Did you hear any of Phil's interview on the subject? Relevant MP3s can be found HEREI thought he did a lot to dispel a lot of the misconceptions people have of why John didn't sign it.

  17. Hi Fred,No, I haven't heard the MP3's yet.But I did read this comment this morning:"What puzzles me about the opponents like John MacArthur is why they don't offer their own document, which contains support of those provision of the Manhattan Declaration which they support, removes those provisions which they do not support, and adds those provisions which they believe should have been included, but which were omitted. I see no reason why they couldn't do that and, so, stand up and be counted. It is very curious that they are apparently unwilling to do so. Of course, it is likely that if they did so, we would see as many declarations as declarants since, in the end, I find their complaints nit picking, word parsing excuses for not standing together."Do you think Pastor MacArthur would do this? Or consider doing this?I'm quite sure I would be delighted to sign and support his version. Wouldn't you be?

  18. Do you think Pastor MacArthur would do this? Or consider doing this?Well, probably not. The simple answer: It's absolutely pointless. Doesn't really accomplish much socially than getting a big group of people to say "we don't like abortion and gay marriage." The news papers report it for a week. Bloggers may talk about it for a few weeks more, but with in a couple of months, its gone under the radar and is forgotten.This has been my question all along of the declaration supporters. Do they really think their political adversaries are going to go running into the dark or something? The lesbians are going to quake in their flannel shirts? That they are really going to re-consider pushing gay marriage now because a whole bunch of evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox people signed a document on the internet?On the contrary, I don't need a public document to let the world know what I think of those things when my opposition of such is spelled out clearly in scripture.

  19. It may or may not be "absolutely pointless." God is sovereign.Incidentally, I don't think the MD signers and supporters are naive enough to think that their liberal political adversaries are going to go away. Rather, they want to let them know that the Christian opposition will not be going away. Anyways, here's something to consider:Evangelism -> Politico-Socio-Cultural ImpactPolitico-Socio-Cultural -> Evangelism ImpactEvangelism <-> Politico-Socio-CulturalBi-directional.As Scot Klusendorf wrote: "Are we to conclude that God's ability to save His Elect decreases when cultural morality increases?"

  20. Rather, they want to let them know that the Christian opposition will not be going away.I am confident they realize that without the publication of a ecumenical document.As Scot Klusendorf wrote: "Are we to conclude that God's ability to save His Elect decreases when cultural morality increases?"His comment is a ridiculous non-sequitor. It does nothing to address the objections of those who refuse to sign such documents. I guess I would ask him if he thinks God's ability to save His elect decreases when cultural morality decreases? God's power transcends the so-called bio directional relationship of evangelism/social-political climate.

  21. Gay Activists Target Signers Of The Manhattan DeclarationBy Susan Brinkmann, For The BulletinMonday, December 07, 2009Same-sex marriage proponents are threatening to cause disruptions in the diocese of every bishop who signed the Manhattan Declaration, a statement calling on Christians to stand up for their belief in the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.A post appearing on GayBuzz.blogspot on Nov. 28 calls upon gay activists to punish Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Ca., for signing the declaration.“It is time we let Bishop Cordileone know there are consequences for his actions,” the blogger states. “Is anyone up for a rally in front of the Oakland Diocese or a disruption of services? Let me know and I’m happy to help organize.”After listing an address where people could write to the bishop, the blogger goes on to say: “By the way, here are the other Catholic cardinals and bishops who signed the Manhattan Declaration.” Listed are the names of the 17 bishops who signed the Declaration to date.The blogger goes on to cite Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate who refers to the 152 framers of the document as “zealots” who “drafted, approved and signed their Declaration of War on full civil rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans last week. They threw in some other societal beefs, just to try and mask the overriding issue, their fervent opposition to same-sex marriage.”From here.

  22. "For the record, I do not think that the conservative protestants who signed the document have compromised the Gospel."And for the record, if you read John's response, he doesn't say that either. I wouldn't say that. The greater problem, as I think was outlined in the various comments under the Shepherd's Fellowship blog is that such action is confusing issues related to the groups involved with the document.

  23. There was, but it provided no context. Apparently some offensive image that is no longer there. So folks who read the citations here are at a loss as to what the heck was being discussed and why. Ergo, I deleted it.

  24. Hi Fred,I think you know I disagree with most of what you write, and I am not a fan of MacArthur nor a disciple of Lordship Salvation. So, I appreciate having an opportunity to agree with you. This is not the first time that Chuck Colson (still a politician even if born again) has tried to squeeze Roman square pegs into Evangelical Protestant round holes, and vice versa, plus Orthodox now… if a position on gay marriage, abortion, or any other subject is rooted in faith, then three different faiths cannot "unite" just because their widely differing doctrines happen to reflect a common practical result. The theological principles are not the same, and they should be what is important. What exactly did God say?This goes hand in hand with a common misconception about the First Amendment. It does not reflect any notion that all faiths are equally true and correct. It reflects a firm conviction that the government is incompetent to rule on which faith is true. That is up to God.

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