I just listened to an interview with Ligon Duncan about the Manhattan Declaration. It's very much worth a listen. (At one point the interviewer poses #18 of the nineteen questions.)
As I listened, I found myself in sympathy with Sybil. At the same time and in the same brain, I feel my affection and respect for Ligon Duncan deepening all the more... and, along with it, my pain that that good man would associate his good name with that bad document also deepened. What a great guy! What a bad document!
Dr. Duncan clearly gave the matter serious thought, and is prepared to speak for himself. Stepping away from him individually, consider for a moment: what if we found ourselves in a similar position? As I pondered, an analogy took form.
Suppose you had earned an internationally-known name as one who stands robustly for the sufficiency of Scripture and the closed nature of the Canon. (Hey, it could happen. We have some great readers.)
Suppose you were invited to sign a document stating and detailing your stance on that issue. Now suppose the men inviting you to sign this document, its authors and promoters-to-be, included Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Jack Hayford, C. J. Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, Henry Blackaby, and Jack Deere.
My first question would be: would you even consider signing the document?
"Ah," you say, "there we have you, Phillips! It's a bad analogy. The Manhattan Declaration isn't about the Gospel, as your made-up document would be about the sufficiency of Scripture. Fail!"
First, if that is your response, then you have not yet dealt seriously with the nineteen questions. Fail!
However, I'll accept the faulty premise for the sake of discussion. I pose this follow-up question: suppose those same men asked you to sign a document putatively about abortion, marriage, and religious liberty. And suppose the document began and repeatedly stated, "As men who all wholeheartedly affirm the complete sufficiency of Scripture, the principle of Sola Scriptura, and the closed nature of the Canon, we...." And suppose the document also included several allusions to "the necessity we all affirm of never doing anything to suggest that the Bible is not wholly sufficient for all of Christian life, thought, and practice."
You'd look at the invitation, then you'd look at the inviters. You'd know that some or all of them are desperate to remove the opprobrium inherent in their position. They want to get rid of that whole "you have a leaky Canon" thingie. When then get all excited about mystical mutterings and blessed burblings and holy hunches and pneumatic nudges, they want never to have to explain that yeah, really, they really do believe the Bible is (mostly) sufficient, and the Canon is (largely) closed. And boy, your name on that document would be a sweet catch, and a nice help to their agenda.
You are deeply convicted about the issue... but you know all that about the men writing and proffering the document. And so my question:
Now, some of you would sign it because (in my opinion) your position on Scripture versus the myth of ongoing semi-hemi-demi revelation is faulty. In that case you'd be like some of those who signed the MD because (in my opinion) their position on the Gospel is faulty. Others would sign because they never thought the issues through and didn't see how at-loggerheads those men's positions and practices are with the Biblical truth. Still others would sign because they look at some of the brothers who already agreed to sign, see that they are great guys, and figure "Hey, if those smart cookies favor this document, who am I to argue?"
Here's the thing: none of the initial signers whose participation (as Sproul said) so makes our spirits plummet would fit any of those categories. They are square on the Gospel. They do affirm its centrality and non-negotiable nature. They would identify official Roman Catholic and Orthoborg positions as fundamentally hostile to the Biblical Gospel.
Hence the ongoing slackness of our jaws at the ongoing presence of their good names on that bad document.
So you keep that in mind. Should God so equip and prepare and keep and use you that you find yourself in a position of leadership and prominence, remember that all the much more is required of such as you (Luke 12:48). Remember that teachers merit stricter judgment (James 3:1). Remember that "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches" (Proverbs 22:1a).
And don't let your good name be leveraged and used by men with a bad agenda.
Postscript question: some of our readers had signed, then wanted their names removed. Has anyone found exactly how to have one's name removed from the MD? Is there a specific contact-point? That would be a public-service announcement.