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Mike Horton's Take on the Manhattan Declaration

Yet another reason why it is so important to be clear about the gospel, and why the gospel is not to be confused with social ethics, no matter how wise those ethics may be.

Reader Comments (14)

Of the making of many manifestos and declarations there is no end,
And much reading them is a weariness of the flesh.
December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
I applaud the Manhattan Declaration.
December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPat T.
I applaud Dr. Horton's critique of the declaration.
December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatt
The Declaration calls Christians to work for the COMMON GOOD which includes standing for the sanctity of life, marriage between a man and a woman, and freedom of conscience to worship as God would have us worship. The authors at least put this defense of life, marriage, and freedom to worship, out there in the public square. Obviously, It is not a reformed theological treatise on justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. Whatever weaknesses the declaration may have, it is a valuable and timely call for Christians to be bold in standing for what is for the COMMON GOOD, all the while knowing and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation.
December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPat T.
So I guess when the declaration talks about the gospel, I should applaud it's confusion with social ethics? Or perhaps I should interpret what is meant by the gospel differently from how a Romanist or Orthodox would read it?

I think it's better to lose all those battles they're waging, if it means confusing and losing the gospel. I value more the purity of what has been handed down to us concerning true doctrine, than momentary victories in this life.
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto
Alberto, I think that since you know the pure Gospel, you might be able to stand alongside someone who is confused about it, and clarify The Gospel to them. Ya think? Instead of, well, shunning the confusion, why not take the opportunity to clear it up? You, yourself would not be compromising your own belief in the pure Gospel by doing so, would you?

"...momentary victories in this life." What would Wilberforce say?
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPat T.
"I think it's better to lose all those battles they're waging, if it means confusing and losing the gospel. I value more the purity of what has been handed down to us concerning true doctrine, than momentary victories in this life."

I fully concur.
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike

You correctly distinguish between the gospel and the "common good" (as you call it). The problem is that MD doesn't. It speaks of the "common good" as the gospel.

Being pro-life, opposing the culture of death and the spirit of the age are good and necessary things in the civic kingdom. But I can engage in these "common good" ethics with my Mormon neighbor, who happens to think that Jesus was the spirit-brother of Lucifer--i.e., who embraces a false gospel.

Being concerned about the MD's confusion of law and gospel (as well as the distinction between the two kingdoms) is not the same thing as saying that Christians shouldn't engage the culture in the way the MD urges. The issue is that we can't call the "common good" the gospel. And the MD does.

That's the point of MH's reply.
December 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
If I stand next to someone for some cause who doesn't know the gospel, I wouldn't do so as a Christian speaking in religious terms, but as a secular citizen. I would help clear up their misunderstanding of the gospel apart from whatever civic activities we were engaged in so that they get the message that we are not of the same faith. But also, I really do doubt that many, if not all of the signers, are genuinely open to be corrected on what the gospel truly is.
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto
Darn, Kim responded right before I did.
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

On top of confusing the gospel with worldly cares, things like the MD seem to think that when it comes to common plight we're all on the same page. For example, it's true that believers can work together with Mormons or Atheists For Life (yes, they really exist) in the pro-life movement. But what about those of us who have more concern for the rights of local magistrates to self-govern than the autonomous rights of particular classes of people (e.g. fetuses and females)? I see nothing in the MD that appeals to a more Borkian outlook on abortion.

And it may argue for religious liberty for Christians to dissent from views they don’t like, but it says nothing about the liberty of those who would dissent from those views except to assert that because these Christian views are right, they should be the law of the land. What about the religious liberty of those who disagree?
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
Thank you for your post, Kim. I re-read the 7 page MD, and Mike's review of it. I note that Mike refers to an interview of Colson wherein Colson states that defending these truths (MD) is defending/proclaiming the Gospel. I did not see that interview. I will look for it. In my reading of the MD, I do not see that it literally states that defending these truths IS the proclamation of the Gospel.
The MD's stated purpose is "A Call of Christian Conscience." I think it fulfills that purpose.
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPat T.
AAAmmmen, Hort!

I asked a Christian friend, newly traversing Evangelicalism to the Reformation, what is the Gospel? She winsomely replied: "doing good deeds, loving our neighbors; feeding the poor; helping the sick; basically being like Jesus."

I know she loves Jesus and acts truly regenerate. The fizz of American Christianity is flattening out for her; she is thirsty for Truth. But, when I explained justification, her eyes glaze over, confused and frustrated.

The MD is the type of document that would (and does) ensnare folks like this. It's similar to Rick's PEACE program - only cuter.

I think Christians at this point of faith could be at the "smoking candlewick" stage. ?? Why else would they be annoyed, offended or confused when we expound the beauties of the Gospel and the doctrine of justification to them?

We need "A Call to Christians to Know the Gospel."
December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
"To Signers, What's Next:

In asking you to sign we were not just asking you to raise your hand, but to raise your voice. Great changes in society have often come about when Christian people unite in this way - think of the Wesley awakening, the Celtic revival, or movements for social justice and civil rights in our own country. We believe God is looking for good men and women who will pledge (as those who have done in signing the Manhattan Declaration), never to compromise the gospel, and to become well-informed, effective advocates of true and godly principles.

This is a message of hope for every area of human life and endeavor, and a call to discipleship for every believer."

I got to this part and cringed...
December 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

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