Home > Culture > The Manhattan Declaration: We Must Obey God Rather Than Men

The Manhattan Declaration: We Must Obey God Rather Than Men

November 23rd, 2009
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

manhattan_declaration_hi-res-smallerA significant statement, titled The Manhattan Declaration, has been signed by over 148 prominent leaders across the Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Churches. Now is the time for Christians, and all people of good will, to oppose the embrace of abortion and homosexuality, and consequently a full frontal assault against marriage. While we can quibble over nuance and method and approach of The Manhattan Declaration, how can we not join with others in expressing our opposition to such profound public errors? I urge you to read The Manhattan Declaration and if you feel you are able, to sign it. I have. I hope you do too. In so doing, you commit yourself to acts of civil disobedience. Lutherans, traditionally, have been pacifistic in the face of government actions that run contrary to the will and Word of God. Need we mention but one example? Nazi Germany? I appreciated Dr. Albert Mohler’s blog post explaining why he signed The Manhattan Declaration, perhaps you will too. Here is the conclusion of his explanation, which echo my own reasons for signing The Manhattan Declaration. And, with all due respect, if you think that we are not at a point of cultural crisis over these issues, I would urge you to wake up. Dr. Mohler cites but a couple examples of where, precisely, things are headed for the Church.

I signed The Manhattan Declaration because I believe it is an historic statement of conviction and courage that is both timely and urgent. Over the course of the next few months and years, these issues will be reset in our culture and its laws. These are matters on which the Christian conscience cannot be silent. There are, of course, other issues that demand Christian attention as well. The focus on these three issues is forced by the circumstances of current threats as well as the awareness that the time of decision on these questions has come. Though Christians struggle to understand the extent to which our convictions should be incorporated in the law, we must now recognize that the very respect for these convictions — and the freedom to follow and obey these convictions in our own lives, families, and ministries is now at stake.

I signed The Manhattan Declaration because I lead a theological seminary and college, serve as a teaching pastor in a church, and am engaged in Christian leadership in the public square. Thus I see the threats to Christian liberties that now stare us in the face. The freedom not to perform a same-sex marriage is one thing, but what about the freedom to hire employees according to our Christian convictions? What about the right of Christian ministries to conduct their work according to Christian beliefs? What about the freedom to preach and teach against the grain of the nations laws (for example, after the legalization of same-sex marriage)? When to hate crimes laws slide into definitions of “hate speech?” The threats to our religious liberties are immediate and urgent.

I signed The Manhattan Declaration because it is a limited statement of Christian conviction on these three crucial issues, and not a wide-ranging theological document that subverts confessional integrity. I cannot and do not sign documents such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together that attempt to establish common ground on vast theological terrain. I could not sign a statement that purports, for example, to bridge the divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals on the doctrine of justification. The Manhattan Declaration is not a manifesto for united action. It is a statement of urgent concern and common conscience on these three issues — the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defense of religious liberty.

My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent — and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground.

But when Catholic Charities in Massachusetts must choose to end its historic ministry of placing orphaned children in good homes because the State of Massachusetts required it to place children with same-sex couples, this is not just a Catholic issue. The orphanage could have easily been Baptist. When Belmont Abbey college in North Carolina is told by federal authorities that it must offer abortion services in its insurance plans for employees, this is no longer just a Catholic issue. The next institution to be under attack might well be Presbyterian. We are in this together, and we had better be thankful that, in this case, we are not alone.

Finally, I signed The Manhattan Declaration because I want to put my name on its final pledge — that we will not bend the knee to Caesar. We will not participate in any subversion of life. We will not be forced to accept any other relationship as equal in status or rights to heterosexual marriage. We will not refrain from proclaiming the truth — and we will order our churches and institutions and ministries by Christian conviction.

There will be Christian leaders, pastors, seminaries, colleges, universities, denominations, churches, and organizations that will abandon the faith on these issues. They will bend the knee to Caesar. Far too many already have. The signatories to The Manhattan Declaration pledge that we will not be among them.

I want my name on that list. I surrendered no conviction or confessional integrity to sign that statement. No one asked me to compromise in any manner. I was encouraged that we could stand together to make clear that to come for one of us on these issues is to come for all. At the end of the day, I did not want my name missing from that list when folks look to see just who was willing to be listed.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
Categories: Culture
  1. November 20th, 2009 at 22:09 | #1

    A very well written document.

  2. jmark
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:31 | #2

    Hi Pastor Paul,
    I agree 100%.
    Having written that, I would be interested in reading what your pastoral response would be to a devout Lutheran who is homosexual? I have been in churches where as many as a third of the adult members of the congregation were divorced or were in their second and third marriages. I have never heard a sermon against divorce: even in the LCMS, there is acknowledgment that people are imperfect, stained by original sin, and that life has to go on. People can’t simply be told to do what is no longer do-able (go back to a spouse who is not interested in getting back, undo a marriage that should not have taken place in the first place, etc.). So, while fully in agreement with the inerrant teachings of the scriptures, I wonder what would be your pastoral response to an individual who accepts the Law and wonders what the Gospel has to say them. We certainly can’t tell people to live in perfect accordance with the Law or get out of the church (there would be no one left). We (or no one I know of) says this to the divorced and remarried. This is not a challenge to doctrine: I am fully confessional. I’m wondering what you think Dr. Martin would do…

    McCain response: Here is a useful link to a Q/A on The LCMS web site that states matters very well, and refers to an extremely useful document titled “Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families” http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2724

  3. Rev. Allen Yount
    November 24th, 2009 at 12:21 | #3

    I signed it last night. A while afterwards, I was reading the Scripture readings for the day from the Treasury of Daily Prayer. One of them was Daniel 3:1-30, the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, being thrown into the fiery furnace as punishment, and being delivered by the angel (or should that be Angel?) of the Lord. May the Holy Spirit give us comfort and courage through their heroic example of uncompromising faith.

  4. Tim
    November 24th, 2009 at 12:26 | #4

    If it did not have the language of Syncretism “We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians” I would sign, I can stand with atheist and Roman Catholic alike for what is right ( good old left hand kingdom stuff) but to muddle things up and make a generic christian statement is unhelpful. Is it historically common for confessional Lutherans to sign on to such statements?

    McCain response: This is not the “language of syncretism.” Lutherans have never denied that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are Christian churches. Your comment unfortunately suffers from category confusion. “Confessional” Lutherans have a disgraceful history of refusing to “sign” any kind of statement protesting where the government is headed, and is now. It reached its low/high point during WW II in Germany. We have a tendency to fiddle while Rome burns, and nuance ourselves to death on these issues.

  5. Mike Burdick
    November 24th, 2009 at 14:29 | #5

    Thanks for the suggestion. I read. I signed.

  6. Stephen Foxx
    November 24th, 2009 at 14:29 | #6

    I just want to submit that I signed, have had my wife read it and she signed it, and have sent it to several fellow parishioners in my church as well as those folks I know to be Christians in my unit and they are in signature aggreement too. The three pillars of society found in this declaration are truly worth defending at all costs for all Christians.

  7. Rev. Patrick Lohse
    November 24th, 2009 at 15:27 | #7

    Pastor McCain,

    I think you are a bit harsh in your critique on Confessional Lutherans and their reluctance to “‘sign’ any kind of statement protesting where the government is headed, and is now.” Lowell Green in his book, “Lutherans against Hitler” does a masterful job presenting the case that Confessional Lutherans did not simply twiddle their thumbs while Hitler rose to power. The Bethel Confession was one particular document formulated to confess God’s truth in the face of evil. Could Lutherans in Germany have done more to prevent Nazism? Yes! Were there Lutherans that made a clear confession? Yes! Praise be to God for men like Hermann Sasse and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who suffered much for justice and truth.

    By the way, you are right in calling Confessional Lutherans to sign the Manhattan Declaration. From what I have read and understand it is not a syncretistic document.

  8. November 24th, 2009 at 19:13 | #8

    I would probably sign it if it did not affirm Martin Luther King, Jr.’s perspective as “explicitly Christian.” It’s well documented that Dr. King was not a Christian, having denied the divinity of Christ, the hypostatic union, etc.

    Language affirming his “Christian” perspective is as sloppy as when evangelicals try to turn American revolutionary history into Christian hagiography.

  9. Daniel Gorman
    November 25th, 2009 at 08:59 | #9

    The Manhattan Declaration is loaded with Pelagianism (e.g., “In this declaration, we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God. . .”). Human beings are not fashioned in the very image of God. “That original sin (in human nature) is not only this entire absence of all good in spiritual, divine things, but that, instead of the lost image of God in man, it is at the same time also a deep, wicked, horrible, fathomless, inscrutable, and unspeakable corruption of the entire nature and all its powers, especially of the highest, principal powers of the soul in the understanding, heart, and will, so that now, since the Fall, man inherits an inborn wicked disposition and inward impurity of heart, evil lust and propensity. . .” SD, Original Sin. Why would a confessional Lutheran sign an obviously heterodox document?

    McCain: I think you raise a valid concern, but again, I don’t think this aspect of the document should override its main point and purpose. Further, I’m not sure that in asserting your point, there is not also a danger into falling into the trap of Flacius re. original sin and the essence of humanity. See: http://bookofconcord.org/sd-originalsin.php

  10. Fred
    November 26th, 2009 at 07:20 | #10

    I signed. Its time we stood up and were counted. Very interesting follow-up.

  11. Ty
    November 26th, 2009 at 11:09 | #11

    You’re doing it wrong. It’s about infinite love and compassion. Judge not lest ye be judged. Other people’s motes versus your own massive beams. You are NOT God. Show some humility. God didn’t put you on this earth so you could tell your fellow sinners what to do with their genitals.

  12. Keith Shedron
    November 29th, 2009 at 22:06 | #12

    Pr. McCain: Above you wrote that Lutherans have never denied that the Catholic church is a Christian church. Isn’t that what Luther did when he denounced Rome as the “synagogue of Satan”? I was taught in catechism that the answer was death and hell. What do you say?
    Keith Shedron

    McCain: In so far as Rome teaches falsely, it is not Christian. In so far as it teaches rightly, it is Christian.

  13. Bruce G
    December 2nd, 2009 at 23:52 | #13

    I signed last week when I first ran across it. I’ve already been called–somewhat tongue in cheek–an ecumenist by a former pastor. I stand by the signing, and am glad to have a little Lutheran company. I responded to my pastor friend by a tongue and cheek rebuttal. I wrote, “Here I stand! Now excuse me while I go pray with some Methodists!”

Comments are closed.