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The Manhattan Declaration: Why didnít you sign it, R.C.? (R.C. Sproul Did not sign the Declaration)
Ligonier Ministries ^ | 12/11/2009 | R.C. Sproul

Posted on 12/11/2009 12:11:30 PM PST by SeekAndFind

On November 20, 2009, a document called the Manhattan Declaration was presented to the public by a coalition of co-belligerents. The document is concerned primarily with three very important biblical and cultural issues:

the sanctity of life,

the meaning of marriage, and

the nature of religious liberty.

Without question, these issues are up for grabs in our nation.

As anyone familiar with my ministry will know, I share the document’s concern for defending the unborn, defining heterosexual marriage biblically, and preserving a proper relationship between church and state. However, when the document was sent to me and my signature was requested a few weeks ago, I declined to sign it.

In answer to the question, “R.C., why didn’t you sign the Manhattan Declaration?” I offer the following answer: The Manhattan Declaration confuses common grace and special grace by combining them. While I would march with the bishop of Rome and an Orthodox prelate to resist the slaughter of innocents in the womb, I could never ground that cobelligerency on the assumption that we share a common faith and a unified understanding of the gospel.

The framers of the Manhattan Declaration seem to have calculated this objection into the language of the document itself. Likewise, some signers have stated that this is not a theological document. However, to make that statement accurate requires a redefinition of “theology” and serious equivocation on the biblical meaning of “the gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

The drafters of the document, Charles Colson, Robert George, and Timothy George, used deliberate language that is on par with the ecumenical language of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) movement that began in the 1990s. The Manhattan Declaration states, “Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s Word,” and it identifies “Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelicals” as “Christians.” The document calls Christians to unite in “the Gospel,” “the Gospel of costly grace,” and “the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness.” Moreover, the document says, “it is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.”

Without question, biblical truth must be proclaimed and the gospel preached prophetically to our nation. But how could I sign something that confuses the gospel and obscures the very definition of who is and who is not a Christian? I have made this point again and again since the days of ECT. Though the framers of the Manhattan Declaration declaim any connection to ECT, it appears to me that the Manhattan Declaration is inescapably linked to that initiative, which I have strenuously resisted. More than that, this new document practically assumes the victory of ECT in using the term “the gospel” in reference to that which Roman Catholics are said to “proclaim” (Phil. 1:27).

The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of using studied ambiguity in order to win over opponents. Let me be unambiguous: Without a clear understanding of sola fide and the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, you do not have the gospel or gospel unity (1 Cor. 1:17; 2 Cor. 5:21). The ECT initiative repeatedly avowed that the signatories had a unity of faith in the gospel. This included Roman Catholic signers who affirm the canons and decrees of the sixteenth-century Council of Trent, which anathematizes sola fide. I believe there are true and sincere Christians within the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches. But these people are Christians in spite of their church’s official doctrinal positions.

At least one of the document’s framers, Mr. Colson, sees the Manhattan Declaration as a way to revitalize the church in America. In his commentary on November 25, Mr. Colson said the Manhattan Declaration is “a form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.” He suggests that the Manhattan Declaration is an antidote to “biblical and doctrinal ignorance” within the church. However, true reformation and revival within the church and the winning of our culture to Christ will come only through the power of the Holy Spirit and our clear, bold proclamation of the biblical gospel, not through joint ecumenical statements that equivocate on the most precious truths given to us. There is no other gospel than that which has already been given (Gal. 1:6–8).

The Manhattan Declaration puts evangelical Christians in a tight spot. I have dear friends in the ministry who have signed this document, and my soul plummeted when I saw their names. I think my friends were misled and that they made a mistake, and I want to carefully assert that I have spoken with some of them personally about their error and have expressed my hope that they will remove their signatures from this document. Nevertheless, I remain in fellowship with them at this time and believe they are men of integrity who affirm the biblical gospel and the biblical doctrines articulated in the Protestant Reformation.

Lastly, I stand with the sentiments expressed by my friends Alistair Begg, Michael Horton, and John MacArthur, and I appreciate their willingness to say “no” to the call to get aboard this bandwagon as they continue to stand firm in their proclamation of the gospel and the whole counsel of God as it pertains to all matters of faith and life, including the sanctity of life, the meaning of marriage, and the nature of religious liberty. It is only in our united proclamation of the one, true gospel of Jesus Christ that any heart, any mind, or any nation will truly change, by God’s sovereign grace and for His glory alone.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Ecumenism; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: christianright; declaration; ecumenism; manhattan; manhattandeclaration; rcsproul; sproul

1 posted on 12/11/2009 12:11:33 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Let’s not go jumping on R.C. Sproul, John McArther, et al., for not signing.


2 posted on 12/11/2009 12:14:13 PM PST by mbarker12474 (If thine enemy offend thee, give his childe a drum.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Well, suit yourself, but if you want to be able to preach the gospel as you see fit, you will probably need to stand up to these godless pukes that are running the country at the moment sooner rather than later.


3 posted on 12/11/2009 12:23:07 PM PST by smokingfrog (I'm from TEXAS -- what country are YOU from?)
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To: mbarker12474

They had their reasons for not signing. They have to follow their own conscience.


4 posted on 12/11/2009 12:25:03 PM PST by Marie2 (The second mouse gets the cheese.)
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To: mbarker12474

Having heard R.C. Sproul’s Tabletalk for years, I do know that like the signers of the Manhattan Declaration, he refuses to compromise on life, marriage, and freedom.

However, I can understand Sproul’s refusal to sign the document after being invited to do so by Chuck Colson.

For Sproul “the faith” that Colson and the other drafters expresses in the document has been boiled down to a skeleton of basic beliefs (Trinity, resurrection) that can unite varied and disparate religious traditions into one big (and politically powerful) group.

R.C. Sproul and those who refused to sign the document believes that this Least Common Denominator (LCD) form of “Christianity” is NOT what is needed to “revitalize the church in America.”

Sproul is deeply concerned that Chuck Colson believes this document is a “form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.”

Unlike Colson, Sproul believes that this gospel-less document is nothing but a catechism for anything other than cultural Christianity.

Without the gospel, you cannot change hearts and minds. So while the document mentions the gospel and says we must preach it in its fullness, evidently, that fullness does not include the very doctrinal precision demanded by the inspired Scriptures themselves.


5 posted on 12/11/2009 12:26:20 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: mbarker12474
You were saying ...

Let’s not go jumping on R.C. Sproul, John McArther, et al., for not signing.

Why jump on them when they did the right thing?

6 posted on 12/11/2009 12:28:39 PM PST by Star Traveler (The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a Zionist and Jerusalem is the apple of His eye.)
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To: Kolokotronis

Sola te, R.C...

Sola te.

Sic semper brutus fulmen.

Disputandi pruritus ecclesiarum scabies.


7 posted on 12/11/2009 12:32:17 PM PST by Yudan (Living comes much easier once we admit we're dying.)
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To: SeekAndFind

It makes sense from their perspective, and it certainly doesn’t affect their position on the concrete, public issues.

However, it’s informative to me, as an outsider, to see that their perspective is that they do not, in fact, share a common Christian faith with so many others.


8 posted on 12/11/2009 12:45:05 PM PST by Tax-chick (Here I come, with a sharp knife and a clear conscience!)
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To: SeekAndFind
I'm not fully sold on the value of signing such a document either, however, given the sustained attack on the family, the unborn and religious liberties, surely Benjamin Franklin's words were never more true:

"We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Document or no, religious peoples of all stripes need to stand up together for these common principles we ALL hold sacred or else we shall surely lose this battle.

9 posted on 12/11/2009 12:48:30 PM PST by Reaganesque ("And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.")
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To: SeekAndFind

I am saddened by RC, and the others for not signing; I did sign it.
In the words of Ben Franklin as he signed the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Or in the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller (1945),
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”


10 posted on 12/11/2009 1:05:36 PM PST by AZhardliner (PCA Pastor)
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To: AZhardliner

Why would a pastor to go against his conviction to sign an ecumenical document?

“To go against conscience is neither right nor safe...” Luther

“Let every man be persuaded in his own mind...” Romans 14:3


11 posted on 12/11/2009 1:44:14 PM PST by Augustinian monk
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To: SeekAndFind

More atom-splitting and nitpicking from people concerned with the letter more than the intent.


12 posted on 12/11/2009 1:46:55 PM PST by IronJack (=)
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To: IronJack

“More atom-splitting and nitpicking from people concerned with the letter more than the intent.”

I agree....


13 posted on 12/11/2009 2:11:19 PM PST by caww
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To: Reaganesque
Document or no, religious peoples of all stripes need to stand up together for these common principles we ALL hold sacred or else we shall surely lose this battle.

It seems like I've seen this same type of argument by the RINO's in the Republican party in an attempt to keep the real conservatives from ignoring the Republicans and voting and supporting independents. Personally I think R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, Michael Horton, and John MacArthur ministries are not dependent on copy cats, cookie cutter types of shallow Christianity that is so prevalent in our supposedly Christian Culture that doesn't think through their positions.

14 posted on 12/11/2009 2:15:08 PM PST by ReformedBeckite
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To: ReformedBeckite
And your argument reminds me of this joke:

Old Mrs. Watkins awoke one spring morning to find that the river had flooded the entire first floor of her house. Looking out of her window, she saw that the water was still rising. Two men passing by in a rowboat shouted up an invitation to row to safety with them. "No, thank you," Mrs. Watkins replied. "The Lord will provide."

The men shrugged and rowed on. By evening, the water level forced Mrs. Watkins to climb on top of the roof for safety. She was spotted by a man in a motorboat, who offered to pick her up. "Don't trouble yourself," she told him. "The Lord will provide."

Pretty soon, Mrs. Watkins had to seek refuge atop the chimney. When a Red Cross cutter came by on patrol, she waved it on, shouting, "The Lord will provide." So the boat left, the water rose, and the old woman drowned.

Dripping wet and thoroughly annoyed, she came through the pearly gates and demanded to speak to God. "What happened?" she cried.

"For cryin' out loud, lady," God said, "I sent three boats."

15 posted on 12/11/2009 2:23:56 PM PST by Reaganesque ("And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.")
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To: Reaganesque

Even though I disagree with you I think that was a good joke.


16 posted on 12/11/2009 2:29:01 PM PST by ReformedBeckite
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To: SeekAndFind
In answer to the question, “R.C., why didn’t you sign the Manhattan Declaration?” I offer the following answer: The Manhattan Declaration confuses common grace and special grace by combining them. While I would march with the bishop of Rome and an Orthodox prelate to resist the slaughter of innocents in the womb, I could never ground that cobelligerency on the assumption that we share a common faith and a unified understanding of the gospel....

... But how could I sign something that confuses the gospel and obscures the very definition of who is and who is not a Christian?

Oh, my.... How very unfortunate. For all his harping on "clarity" about the Gospels, it seems that Mr. Sproul would do well to dwell on what the Gospels have to say about attitudes such as he's displaying here.

St. Luke's Gospel has a couple of stories that really drive home the utter silliness of Mr. Sproul's objections.

The first goes to the heart of Sproul's apparent claim to be able to tell the difference between "real" and "fake" Christians:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

R.C., are you really, actually thanking God that you're not like those Catholics over there....?!?

The second story is this:

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Luke 18:15-17)

The lesson here, Mr. Sproul: You don't get to be the one who decides who gets to see Jesus. You don't get to be the one who decides who is worthy to be with Jesus. You're the one who should be beating your breast, asking for mercy ... just like the rest of us.

17 posted on 12/11/2009 2:30:51 PM PST by r9etb
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To: IronJack
More atom-splitting and nitpicking from people concerned with the letter more than the intent.

Concise, to the point, and completely correct.

18 posted on 12/11/2009 2:32:23 PM PST by r9etb
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To: SeekAndFind

They can ‘sign’ or they can ‘not sign’.

I am recalling the NY23 Hoffman race and the NY20 race from earlier this year. If you are looking for people to help out a pro-life candidate in a rough and very close race you often only find people who are like the good Samaritan.

And he was neither Catholic nor Protestant.

Out of the front lines of political fights, the definition of “the Body of Christ” often becomes “anybody who is willing to help”, which often means about 3 people.


19 posted on 12/11/2009 3:22:52 PM PST by campaignPete R-CT ("pray without ceasing" - Paul of Tarsus)
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To: ReformedBeckite

One of my favorites...:-)


20 posted on 12/11/2009 4:29:46 PM PST by Reaganesque ("And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.")
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To: SeekAndFind

On a semi related note, Sproul just published a 500+ page commentary on the book of Romans which I look forward to reading over the Christmas holidays. Given Sproul’s strong background in philosphy it out to be very interesting.


21 posted on 12/11/2009 4:44:40 PM PST by circlecity
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To: SeekAndFind
“Sproul is deeply concerned that Chuck Colson believes this document is a “form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.”

I disagree. I see it as a place to stand. The signers state they are willing to stand their ground for the Lord in the face of the enemy.

When the going gets tough, the tough will get going.

22 posted on 12/11/2009 6:22:00 PM PST by elpadre (AfganistaMr Obama said the goal was to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda" and its allies.)
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To: SeekAndFind
“Sproul is deeply concerned that Chuck Colson believes this document is a “form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.”

I disagree. I see it as a place to stand. The signers state they are willing to stand their ground for the Lord in the face of the enemy.

When the going gets tough, the tough will get going.

23 posted on 12/11/2009 6:22:34 PM PST by elpadre (AfganistaMr Obama said the goal was to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda" and its allies.)
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To: SeekAndFind

RC is correct. The reason why the church has the problems it does is because it has moved from the gospel to ecumenticalism.


24 posted on 12/11/2009 6:43:08 PM PST by HarleyD
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To: None

With this purely political alliance/issue, RC Sproul is truly weird! All who profess belief in Christ must come together on these matters of life, religious liberty, marriage -PERIOD-, flawed document/theology,etc aside.


25 posted on 12/11/2009 10:29:47 PM PST by Sporaticus
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