And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XII, Number 48 December 06, 2009
In this issue:
There is a culture war going on in America; of that there is no doubt. On November 20, 2009 the Manhattan Declaration (A Call of Christian Conscience) was published as a call to action in that war. It is presented as a Christian declaration of faith and its intent is to battle against the rise of secularism in America.
The Manhattan Declaration was drafted by a committee of three men (Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University, Timothy George, Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, and Chuck Colson, Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview) and initially signed by 152 theologians and religious leaders. Two weeks after its release over a quarter of a million people had signed the online document to show their support and agreement. But before you rush out and sign it, please give careful Bible consideration to the central question of this brief review: Does the Bible teach that Christians may join with these men by signing and endorsing their call to action?
What is the Manhattan Declaration?
The Manhattan Declaration announces its stated sphere of responsibility as follows: “Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.” The Manhattan Declaration goes on to set forward three “foundational principles of justice and the common good” by saying “we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense.” Its authors then identify these foundational principles for us. “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, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and nonbelievers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.”
In other words, the Manhattan Declaration is a creed that calls on Christians to be “pro-life”, to define marriage as only being between a man and a woman, and to defend religious liberty and conscience. Its call to action is summarized in its last paragraph:
“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.”
There are admirable qualities to be found in the Manhattan Declaration. We agree with its principle statements because they are contained in the inspired word of God. This gets to the basic point of this article: The Bible said it first! The Bible already declares these God-given principles of justice, morality and goodness (Gen 1:27; 2:23-25; Matt 22:37-39; Rom 13:1-10). The Bible already calls on Christians to stand for and defend every principle of truth and righteousness (Matt 10:28; 1 Pet 3:15; Jude 3). Christ already calls on us to suffer for righteousness’ sake (Matt 5:10-12; 1 Pet 2:19-24). We were long ago taught to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Heaven authorizes every Bible declaration on these topics (1 Cor 14:37). But, who gave authority to the Manhattan Declaration?
We are not surprised by the hypocrisy of the Manhattan Declaration on the subject of marriage and immorality. On the one hand it upholds the truth that Christ affirmed that marriage is only between a man and a woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6). Yet, in practice, its proponents accommodate adultery with doctrines and actions that violate Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:9: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery”. Divorce for any cause except fornication followed by remarriage is adultery, yet it is prolific and accepted throughout the churches of America. Adultery in all its forms is something Christians should stand up and fight against. The hypocritical duplicity in what they say and what they do renders their Declaration impotent to successfully battle the immorality of our age.
What’s the Fuss?
Someone will undoubtedly say, “Don’t you believe Christians should stand up for the sanctity of life?” Of course we do. “Don’t you believe Christians must resist the forces destroying marriage?” Certainly we must. “Don’t you believe in religious liberty to act according to one’s own conscience?” Yes. “If so, then why wouldn’t you support the Manhattan Declaration?” Commitment to the truth of God on these subjects does not compel us to be signers and defenders of a human declaration of God’s truth, anymore than we are compelled to accept and endorse the creeds of men because they contain some measure of divine truth in them! In fact, it is our devotion to the Biblical declaration of truth that prevents us from endorsing it.
The authors and signatories of this Declaration are from the major branches of “Christendom”: “We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.” Thus stated, the Manhattan Declaration is an ecumenical endeavor. “We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths.”
These “branches” of Christianity are not of Christ and His church; they are the results of men’s departures from the faith and bear God’s anathema (1 Tim 4:1-3; Gal 1:6-9). They oppose the Bible plan of salvation and distort Bible doctrine and worship.
Christians are not to have fellowship with this or any other ecumenical endeavor (2 Jno 9-11). The New Testament does not speak of different kinds of Christians (Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical). It speaks of “Christians” – disciples of Christ – not disciples of different “branches” of Christianity (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16). These divisions teach contradictory doctrines and practice opposing forms of worship. They do not conform to the New Testament pattern of salvation, unity or discipleship (Matt 7:21-23; Lk 6:46; Mk 16:15-16; Jno 17:20-21). It is indeed ironic that those who are religiously divided see the need and value of unity in giving weight to their declaration (Jno 17:21)! Yet, their religious division undermines their intent and exposes the underbelly of denominationalism and human wisdom. Why should a Christian support any document written by men that presents a false view of the church of Christ? We must not (Col 2:20-23; 2 Jno 9-11; Eph 1:22-23; 4:4).
The Bible Declaration
The Bible contains the divine call to action on each of the issues addressed in the Manhattan Declaration. The Bible carries the weight of heavenly authority, not the collective appeal of well-meaning men who have strayed far from the truth in both doctrine and practice (Col 3:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17). So, we will fight for life, we will oppose the destruction of marriage and we will respect the liberty of conscience as these are defined in the Scriptures. We are disciples of Christ and citizens of heaven, so we will obey God rather than men – even at the expense of personal safety (Acts 5:29, 40-42). We will do this, not because the Manhattan Declaration says we should, but because God says we must!
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:5-9
1:18-23: God has shown His power and Godhood so that mankind “may know Him”
(19-20). Foolish and sinful to ignore Him and reject Him.
I. GOD PROVIDES US ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN CHRIST, Eph 1:3-11.
God is “Blessed”, 1:3 (Lk 1:68).
II. GOD IS MERCIFUL, Eph 2:1-10; Micah 7:18-20.
Bankrupt Life of the Lost, 2:1-3.
III. GOD IS ACCESSIBLE, Eph 2:11-18.
the Blood of Christ, 2:11-17.
has made Himself known to us His by revealing His great willingness to save
us and bless us in His Son, Jesus Christ.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: John 14:7-11
knowing the Son we also know the Father, Jno 14:7-11.
IV. GOD HAS TOLD US WHAT HE WANTS US TO KNOW AND DO, Eph 3:2-5, 9-11.
God Has Revealed His Will, 3:2-5.
V. GOD IS A GOD OF UNITY AND PEACE, Eph 4:3-6.
A. All must to Endeavor to Keep Unity and Peace, 1 Cor 1:10; 14:33.
VI. GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR (AND EXPECTS) PURITY AND STABILITY IN OUR DOCTRINE AND PERSONAL LIFE, Eph 4:11-5:6.
Christ’s Gifts Equip us to Serve and Mature, 4:11-16 (Col 2:6-7).
VII. GOD DOES NOT LEAVE US TO FIGHT OUR BATTLES ALONE, 6:10-17
God Knows the Nature Of Our Battles, 6:12 (Heb 2:18).
faith in the true and living God is assured in Ephesians.
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 12/07/2009
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA