A few Christians have been hesitant to sign the Manhattan Declaration. I have tried to consider some of their possible reasons and would like to attempt a brief response. Also, at the end of this post, you may wish to read the related links and an email I sent out four days after the release of the declaration.
Why Some Might Hesitate to Sign the Declaration
1) Some people who call themselves Christians are not pro-life and also have no problems with homosexual behavior.
2) Some people who call themselves Christians do not believe the issues of life and marriage to be seriously under attack.
3) Some people who call themselves Christians feel uncomfortable signing anything that might imply to them some kind of solidarity or agreement with others who may not be genuine Christians.
4) Some people believe that while the issues of life and marriage are important issues, that they are dwarfed in importance and urgency by other issues (e.g., poverty and human trafficking). They feel that to sign the declaration is to “major on the minors.”
5) Some pastors may be personally sympathetic to the declaration and may have even signed it. But they may be fearful of discussing the issue with their church, lest some of their parishioners be offended, withhold money, or perhaps leave the church.
1) People who call themselves Christian and who are not pro-life and also have no problems with homosexual behavior are not what I call “Bible believing” Christians. If you can explain away what the Bible says about the sanctity of life and about homosexual sin, you can probably easily explain away just about anything you don’t like in the Bible. I would simply suggest that when you cut yourself loose from the authority of the Bible, you are left with the wild variations of human opinion of what is right and wrong, and are liable to reach some really strange (not to say ungodly) conclusions!
2) Some may not believe the issues of life and marriage to be seriously under attack. Without going into detail here, I will simply call your attention to the fact that Christian ministers in other western nations have already gotten into trouble for taking Biblical stands on the issue of homosexual behavior. Many elected officials who are currently serving terms in the U.S. have strong ties with the homosexual lobby and are pressing hard for so-called anti-discrimination laws (based on sexual orientation) that would include penalties for so-called “hate speech” (which would include simply speaking what the Bible says about homosexual sin). If you think there is no serious attack, I would like to gently and lovingly suggest that you may have your head in the sand.
3) Some have declined to sign the declaration because, to them, it puts Christians in the position of calling some signatories “Christian” who are really not Christian at all.
First, the declaration says nothing about agreement on doctrines of salvation. Theoretically, if Christians decided to appeal to elected officials regarding an issue, and non-christians (even if they call themselves Christians) decided to agree with the appeal, that would be no reason for Christians to back off the appeal. When the government begins to encroach upon Christian beliefs and values, non-Christians who value freedom may choose to enter the resistance. Just as Christians would stand up for freedom were we to witness an attack upon the freedoms of non-Christian groups.
Second, just because one calls himself evangelical does not guarantee that he is a Christian. Many members of evangelical churches, including evangelical leaders, have realized their lostness and trusted Jesus. Thus, many evangelical signatories may not really be Christian.
Third, while it may seem anomalous, individuals may belong to cultic or non-christian groups and still be genuine (although perhaps confused) Christians. Just as individual Baptists may not believe all that is delineated in the Baptist Faith and Message, individual members of non-christian groups may personally understand who Jesus is and have genuine faith in Him, regardless of the official teaching of their organization about salvation.
Martin Luther had issues with the Book of James, because it seemed to him to teach salvation by works. He was wrong. Similarly, we may incorrectly assume that others are placing their faith in their works, when in fact they are indeed trusting Jesus.
4) The Manhattan declaration is not a matter of merely ranking issues according to importance. It is true, that if you just want to count verses, the importance of taking care of the poor far outranks the issue of homosexual sin. There is no attempt here to somehow imply that these sins are the worst sins.
But perhaps you may also remember this famous and very relevant Martin Luther quote:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” (Martin Luther)
It happens that at the current time, no one is trying to stop the church from helping the poor or from working to protect the environment or from protecting women from abuse. And many churches and Christians are doing very significant work in these areas.
But the truth is that Christians can and must be willing to be involved in many important issues all at the same time. It’s not a matter of “either/or.” It’s a matter of “both/and.”
And there really are forces that are attacking the church on the issues of Christian liberty in the areas referred to in the Manhattan Declaration. Christians need to recognize these attacks and stand together against these attacks.
5) If you are a pastor who is afraid to stand because of criticism, pray for courage. And stand anyway!
Stay in the Battle!
The following is an email message I sent out on November 24, four days after the release of the Manhattan Declaration:
In case you haven’t yet become of aware of the Manhattan Declaration, I would like to encourage you to read it and sign it.
Several Christian leaders including Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Russell Moore, Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Richard Land, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr. James Dobson, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Colson (who was involved in the drafting of the document with Dr. Robert George and Dr. Timothy George), Dr. Jack Graham, Josh McDowell, Tony Perkins, Joni Eareckson Tada, Dr. Michael Youssef, Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Jimmy Draper, and many other prominent Christian leaders have already signed the declaration.
You can read the entirety of the declaration and see a list of the signatories here: http://manhattandeclaration.org/
Basically I believe it to be an extremely eloquent, and possibly historically significant, declaration of a commitment that all Christians should have in the face of the looming threat of increasing pressure for us to back away from certain critical Biblical principles involving the sanctity of life, marriage, and religious liberty.
I think you will appreciate the final paragraph of the declaration:
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.