I read through the Manhattan Declaration this evening. It is a document of ”4,000 + words; six pages” discussing a Christian response to three prominent social issues: (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as a conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscious a religious liberty. This is the summary introduction to the document:
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
- the sanctity of human life
- the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
- the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Justin Taylor wrote earlier today about this document that, “It was drafted by Chuck Colson, Robert P. George, and Timothy George. Signers of the statement include J.I. Packer, Tim Keller, Albert Mohler, and over 100 others.” In support of the statement he wrote, ” It’s a careful, thoughtful statement, worthy of study and acceptance.” As of the writing of this post it appears that many are in agreement since the website states “4194 signatures in support”.
There are many who disagree with Taylor. The post is currently closed to comments, but several wrote responses beforehand. Some were upset that Protestants would align with Catholics and Orthodox. One commenter understood this as a blurring of the line between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox that undermines the gospel. Another states that this is a “call to war, with condemnation rather than compassion” in regards to homosexuals. There was even one who wondered why there was not a statement about Islam.
T.C. Robinson added his own post on the matter asking why these topics were not address:
1. A document to eliminate world hunger?
2. A document to provide water for those who can’t even afford a clean cup?
3. A document to treat and prevent certain curable diseases that millions die from daily?
I have a few thoughts of my own to add. First, I think that the issues being discussed are worthwhile issues. It should be noted that this document talks about the sanctity of human life as it addresses not only abortion but also genocide, innocent victims of war, sex trafficking, racial oppression and discrimination, and the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst other items. We must be careful to avoid plugging our ears as soon as we hear people discussion abortion simply because we are a bit worn out by the whole debate. It is still an issue worth discussing as are these other humans rights issues that were mentioned.
Second, the section on marriage being between a man and a woman was not a frontal attack on homosexuals. At least I did not read it as such. The writers were quick to note that promiscuity is the root problem and that many Christian leaders have failed to model Christian marital relationships. It has made us look like hypocrites.
On the other hand, we have the right to ask the question, “What does ‘marriage’ mean if we expand the definition?” It is one thing to prevent homosexuals from having some basic rights like shared insurance or hospital visitation rights. It is a whole different subject to redefine what is by definition a union of a man and a woman. I did not read this declaration as attacking homosexuals, although it stood firm that those who signed do not see homosexuality as a favorable lifestyle.
Third, I am a bit confused by the discussion of religious liberty. I am all for religious liberty, but I am not sure why this would be one of the three subjects given this much attention. Is it because Wal-Mart says “Happy Holidays”? If that is the problem go to Target. I saw “Merry Christmas” signs there!
Now that I have said that I must say I agree with T.C. Robinson. Why address these issues while leaving out others? Are these issues of utmost importance? If homosexuals can get “married” is this as terrible as the fact that thousands across this world do not have clean drinking water? I find this a bit confusing.
Equally, I disagree with my Reformed friends that we cannot be unified with Catholics and Orthodox on various matters. We are unified with both about the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Creed. It is silly to think that if we agree with Catholics and Orthodox we are somehow denying the Protestant Reformation! C’mon, for one thing the Protestant Reformation has nothing to do with the Eastern Orthodox church! But maybe I don’t really understand the whole debate since I am something like what T.C. called as Pente-Baptist.
It is odd though that we would choose several moral-social issues over those doctrinal, confessional issues that we agree upon such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures, and so forth. These types of social-moral issues can be agreed upon with Buddhist, Confucians, Marxist, Mormons, and Muslims. Why make a big deal that three Christian groups with as much in common as in contrast agree about some social issues?
Anyways, I promise not to close the comments if anyone has thoughts on this matter. Everything that can be said may have already been said. I just thought I’d weigh in as well.
Read the entire Manhattan Declaration here.