Monday, November 23, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, it is good not only to be grateful for God's blessings, but also to take action to protect them.

Charles Colson and James Dobson are promoting "The Manhattan Declaration," which is a pledge and call to protect things for which we should be thankful. The Declaration begins with a list of these things:

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes - from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Libertarian scholar Thomas E. Woods has described these and many other things for which we can be thankful in his book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization -- a book which Protestants can enjoy as well. Alvin J. Schmidt did the same thing in his book, How Christianity Changed the World. Likewise, Rodney Stark is thankful for The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Easier reading is Kennedy and Newcombe's books, What if the Bible Had Never Been Written?, and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?

We should be thankful for what we call "Western Civilization," which is really Christian Civilization, and one way of giving thanks is doing something to preserve civilization, and a worthwhile example is to read and sign The Manhattan Declaration.


Kevin Craig said...

Celebrity mega-church pastor John MacArthur says he will not sign the Manhattan Declaration because Roman Catholics have also signed the Declaration, and the Declaration implies that all signers are Christians or "believers" -- even the Roman Catholics.

MacArthur is correct to maintain that Protestants and Catholics have different ways of expressing the doctrine of "Justification." I'm sure MacArthur wouldn't claim that all Protestants -- or even all the Protestants who signed the Manhattan Declaration -- have a correct understanding of the Biblical Doctrine of Justification. He would probably be embarrassed to have the members of his own church take a simple questionnaire on Justification. Some Catholics believe "justification" requires "sanctification" to be real, while some Protestants speak of "Definitive Sanctification". MacArthur would not claim that "every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation." He must "fight the good fight" and persevere in good works to the end, in a faith that works in love.

It would appear that if MacArthur had been alive in 1943, and Catholics and Lutherans joined together to sign "The Berlin Declaration," noting the tragedy of a million people murdered by the Nazis, and warning against a possible five million more murders, MacArthur would not have signed the Declaration, giving the impression that those who opposed the Holocaust were probably not true Christians.

Kevin Craig said...

More from the MacArthurites at the "Pyromaniacs" Blog. I have answered their questions here.

Anonymous said...

Leading Reformed figures like J.I. Packer and non-charismatics like Bill Bright joined charismatics like Pat Roberstson signed Chuck Colson’s ‘Catholics and Evangelicals Together’ document at a time when millions have been saved and are being saved out of Catholicism. This accepts Catholicism as biblical and renounces the conversion of people out of Roman Catholicism with its apostate system of veneration of images, atonement for ones own sin in purgatory, the sacramental cannibalism of transubstantiation, the necromancy of calling on spirits of dead saints in prayer, the belief that Mary is theotokos or God’s Mother who co-saves us and is co-mediator between God and man, that salvation is by sacraments that work ex opera operato (meaning the ritual itself is the means of saving grace) and the anti Christ doctrine of The papacy that teaches the pope is the infallible vicar of Christ who cannot be in error when speaking ex cathedra, and its doctrine from Trent that it alone is the one true church. Ecumenism is a deception that many conservative believers take on and many Pentecostals , especially in Latin America, Italy, and The Philippines reject. The erosion of biblical standards and compromise with things not acceptable to The Lord is not restricted to Charismatics and Pentecostals.
Moriel Ministries