I'm almost hesitant to blog today because the last time I blogged here I posted a link to a somewhat-helpful article about Twilight and its apparent analogical apologetic for Mormonism, and it turned into, well, something else. I enjoy blogging, especially when I think I have something useful, helpful or otherwise edifying to share, and sometimes people just take the fun out of it.
Anyway, again leap-frogging from a post by a co-blogger at Evangel, the Manhattan Declaration rears its ugly head as some over there are again taking up its torch. James Grant has pointed to a blog post by Father Patrick Reardon. What we should think about today is the center of Fr. Reardon's assessment of the position of (for example) Dr. John MacArthur (and for those who missed it, RC Sproul):
The critics I have in mind, rather, are those Christians who confessed agreement with the substance of the Declaration while declining to associate with the other signers. Their objections, I believe, are significant in the sense of deserving comment. Considerations of available space impose brevity here.That underlined part (emphasis added) is the part that interests me -- because here's what Dr. MacArthur actually wrote:
We may take the example of the Evangelical spokesman, John MacArthur, Jr. His complaint was very simple: The Manhattan Declaration scans only the symptoms of these social evils but neglects to address their root cause. That is to say, this document fails to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, which is the sole remedy for every social ill.
Substantially identical was the objection of the Orthodox Christian priest, Father Jonathan Tobias, who faulted the Declaration for not preaching repentance. This writer went even further, nonetheless, lampooning at length the document's form and rhetorical style. (Ironically, the somewhat softened Father Tobias has of late chastised James Carroll, for a similar mockery of it.)
In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way—perhaps the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.Now, you know what? I'll be glad to concede for the sake of this post and whatever argument you think you want to start at this point that it is possible for someone with a clean conscience to have signed this document. You know: Al Mohler deserves the benefit of the doubt. Ligon Duncan deserves the benefit of the doubt just in case he's reading here. I think it's possible that some people have made an error not because they have some aim to deceive even the elect (as if that was possible) but because they think public proclamations of morality are prophetic in nature.
To that I say: I respect your motives, but your are letting your idealism obscure your normally-wise pragmatism.
What I'm posting about here is about Fr. Reardon's approach to justifying the MD's signers. The idea that John MacArthur has merely decided that if we just preach the Gospel we don't need to do anything else is, frankly, unfounded for two reasons:
 Plainly, Dr. MacArthur's objection is grounded on the idea that the three major groups named in this declaration all define the Gospel of Jesus Christ differently! That is: all his other objections are in orbit around the point that you cannot possibly say that confessional Evangelicals and Roman Catholics can say, "preach the Gospel" and mean the same thing. This fact obscures the Gospel.
 Only someone who has never read Dr. MacArthur and his thorough stand on holiness and godly living could possibly say he advocates for just preaching the Gospel "as the sole remedy for every social ill". The Gospel has real-world, real-life consequences, and Dr. MacArthur is one of the loudest and clearest preachers to this point in the English-speaking church.
So in that, let's please not think that if one has repudiated the MD he has repudiated living among people, doing good works, actually protecting the down-trodden and the orphan the the widow, and suffering for the sake of others. What he has repudiated is doing that in the context of an undefined "gospel" for an inexplicable Jesus. Someone has already said this, but it bears repeating:
[the Manhattan Declaration] assumes a big tent for the definition of what it means to be a “believer”, assumes that law is greater than grace in reforming the hearts of men, and provides moral reasoning that those who are unbelievers have no reason to accept — because they are unbelievers. And in making these three items “especially troubling” in the “whole scope of Christian moral concern”, it overlooks that the key solution to these moral concerns is the renovation of the human heart by supernatural means established by the death and resurrection of Christ.I also have a beef with the red herring of "declining to associate" which Fr. Reardon mentions. Many of the signers of this document are either hopeful or fearful (I just can't tell which) that the disagreement over this document is going to lead to some manner of quasi-fundamentalist "separation" over the matter.
We'll have to take that up another time. It's enough to say for now that this document doesn't hardly cause a person to be a rank heretic or disqualify himself from ministry. It's just a mistake which, one hopes, many of the signers will reconsider and therefore remove their names from the list.