17 December 2009

Manhattany ponderment: what if...?

by Dan Phillips

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:

Would you even think about signing it?

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.

Dan Phillips's signature

76 comments:

Sheldon said...

Could one not just contact whoever they contacted (or who contacted them) to get their name on the document and ask them to take it off? I don't know if that would work but if it were me needing to undo that, that is probably the first step I would take.

trogdor said...

The general contact page is here. I don't see a specific link for un-signing it, nor is the process alluded to in the sometimes-laughable FAQ.

Frank Turk said...

"pneumatic nudgings" was worth the price of admission. The rest was savory gravy.

And I'm with you: Lig Duncan did something in his interview with Kevin Boling which was a great service to all. He took those who disagree with him seriously.

DJP said...

Absolutely.

Maybe somewhere they teach classes in how to dislike Lig Duncan, and after a sixteen-week intensive course, a certain small percentage succeed in doing it.

But I can't imagine how.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I went to the website where it says to "contact us" and wrote them a message with my return email address explaining why I had been convinced that I'd made a huge mistake signing that document - the page says that someone will email you to help you as soon as possible. That was weeks ago, and I have yet to receive an email confirming my request.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I went to the website where it says to "contact us" and wrote them a message with my return email address explaining why I had been convinced that I'd made a huge mistake signing that document - the page says that someone will email you to help you as soon as possible. That was weeks ago, and I have yet to receive an email confirming my request.

DJP said...

Thanks, WH. Wonder if it's because there are so many similar requests... or just lameness.

Tom said...

DJP wrote: "...holy hunches and pneumatic nudges..."

Isn't this the same thing MacArthur just advocated in his interview referenced (re: still small voice) in the last thread?

If not, what is the difference?

aussiejohn said...

DJP Would you mind telling an old Aussie why you mention 'Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Jack Hayford, C. J. Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, Henry Blackaby, and Jack Deere.'? I can well understand the first two, but don't know enough about U.S. preachers to understand why the others are listed.Thanks.

DJP said...

Tom - hope not. If so, we'd be in disagreement... and I wouldn't wish all those sleepless nights on that good man.

(c;

DJP said...

John, because all of them to one degree or another try to find some way to rationalize some kind of revelation, while (mostly) somehow keeping their creations below 100% high-octane real-live Bibley prophetic revelation.

Best way I know to briefly summarize something about which we've written dozens of posts.

Fred Butler said...

Thanks, WH. Wonder if it's because there are so many similar requests... or just lameness.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it's just lameness.

David Rudd said...

dan,

would i even consider signing the document?

sure.

i'd read it, and if it lined up appropriately with my understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture and the closed nature of the Canon, i might sign it.

and i'd praise God that He had helped those other men bring their previously faulty understanding into alignment with the truth! :)

DJP said...

I wonder what would motivate you to do such a naive, foolish thing? And what excuses you could offer for it?

olan strickland said...

Dan, I listened to the interview with Dr. Ligon Duncan and have to say that I really appreaciated his sensitivity to those who oppose. But I must say that far from convincing me that the MD signers have acted in accord with obedience to the Word of God my heart plummeted even further.

All through the interview I was saying, "Man, where is your faith? Where are you being instructed from the Word of God? Where is your obedience?"

Then at about 23 minutes Dr. Duncan sealed it for me when he said, "I don't think that there is a rebuttal that will satisfy anybody that's concerned about gospel issues, Christians issues, church issues - I don't think there is a textual rebuttal that can ultimately satisfy them about the Manhattan Declaration."

Well, now at least we know that the MD is a philosophical document and not a theological one!

David Rudd said...

Dan,

please read my entire comment and then get back to me.

;)

DJP said...

Done, David. See above. Still waiting on a substantive response.

David Rudd said...

"and i'd praise God that He had helped those other men bring their previously faulty understanding into alignment with the truth!"

i can elaborate if i need to.

DJP said...

You can try if you like. But if that's all you have, then you're just saying that you're impulsive and irresponsible, and do not take seriously the stewardship of your own name or the broader impact of your decisions. You're saying you're cynically disengaged about issues you claim to be passionate about, to the extent that it's a matter of indifference if those who hate those very issues use you to harm them.

David Rudd said...

i suppose that's true if you don't believe God can change hearts.

i find most surface disagreements are typical a reflection of a deeper more foundational disagreement. personal indults, name calling, and accusations rarely do anything to help dig down and figure out what those presuppositions are.

honest questions, civil discourse, and open ears are much better for finding common ground among brothers, which is a task commanded by Scripture.

if you'll read my comment without the blinders of hatred you'll see that i said i MIGHT sign ONLY if i felt the document was true in what it asserted.

if the document makes true assertions about the nature of Scripture and men whom i thought felt differently are willing to sign it, then I will praise the Lord that they have changed their view. why should i not assert my agreement with the truth?

if i preach a biblical sermon on sotieriology and joel osteen emails me to thank me and tell me he really appreciated what i had to say, will i recant the next Sunday?

i may want to go back and re-listen to make sure i said what i thought i was saying. but if what i said was true, then it was true. and if joel osteen agrees with the truth, then that is a very good thing.

and i will not deny the Spirit His place in changing the hearts of men, particularly those who claim to follow Christ.

donsands said...

Ain't no way I could sign any statement that has to do with the truth with a Benny the Hinn's signature on it. That would be inconceivable.

"What a great guy! What a bad document!"

It's a mystery. Just have to leave it in the hands of a sovereign Father.

Thanks for the good thoughts.

olan strickland said...

You are deeply convicted about the issue... but you know all that about the men writing and proffering the document. And so my question:

Would you even think about signing it?


Not for a minute!

Phil said...

I'm with you Dave- I understand what you are saying and I agree.
An evil persons signature on a valid truth does not invalidate the truth of the hypothetical document.
Dan sees you as claiming this document is gospel genuine.
Which it's not.

I think the better take away is that maybe we should be careful not to rush to breathe fire against people and thus humiliate ourselves and lose our credibility.

DJP said...

So what I'm getting, David — again — is that your total contribution is to affect a tone of lofty indifference, ignore the substance of every post on this subject, drop some irrelevancies that neither contribute to the discussion nor move towards a worthwhile goal, and insist that you be treated seriously?

I'd rather you leave space for serious folks who actually will engage.

Jugulum said...

David,

Let me try it this way.

Suppose we have a group of people called Bobians. They're are modalists, but they still use the word "Trinity" and "trinitarian" for their beliefs. They define it a completely different way--they aren't trinitarian. But they use the word.

They get together with some evangelicals and make a document, which includes things like, "Because of our commitment to the doctrine of the Trinity, we evangelicals and Bobians proclaim together that..." These actually-non-trinitarian modalists sign, and invite you to as well.

Will you "praise the Lord that they have changed their view"? Will you take the document as evidence that the Holy Spirit is changing their hearts?

Note: I'm not talking about one of them calling you to praise you for a sermon you did on the Trinity. I'm talking about them inviting you to a document that identifies Bobians as trinitarians.

Keyser Soze said...

One of the most frustrating/discouraging things I have dealt with is when gospel-sound leaders/teachers engage in something that minimizes that soundness. It is difficult to look at them the same again. I had this happen with Alistair Begg and RC Sproul (Begg with his Beatles weekend at Parkside and Sproul with infant-baptism).

While realizing no man is perfect, it still discourages me when said-men give up their good name over a cultural gimmick - and the MD is definitely that.

Jugulum said...

P.S. I just said, "a document that identifies Bobians as trinitarians".

People like Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan argue that the Manhattan Declaration doesn't do the equivalent of identifying Bobians as trinitarians. In other words, part of the disagreement is over how to interpret the MD. So keep the two questions distinct in your mind: (1) "Should we sign, if it says X?" (2) "Does it say X?"

Your objection, David, seems to be aimed even at #1. You don't seem to be objecting to Dan's reading of the document.

Solameanie said...

"Orthoborg."

Gotta love it.

DJP said...

To distinguish from biblical orthodoxy, doncha know.

(c;

David Rudd said...

jug,

i understand your point, and i don't think we're in sharp disagreement. (while i don't share dan's opinion of the MD, i didn't sign it, which i should think makes me a better person than Kevin DeYoung or Al Mohler!)

i'm simply responding to dan's question, "would you even consider it."

to not even consider the validity of a statement based on who has signed it or might sign it seems to me to be a tad dismissive.

why wouldn't i at least consider it. if you'll read my comment apart from all of dan's thundering judments you'll see i'm only suggesting that we at least CONSIDER it (which was the question)...

i'm just suggesting that:
a) they hypothetical document of dan's post (since he demands thorough reading of all his post, you will notice that this is NOT the MD we're talking about) is at least worth "considering".
b) if in consideration of the document you discover that it is in effect accurate and truthful (not a bobian kind of document, but truly states a biblical position), then our response should be at the very least joy that our brothers whom we thought were missing the point seem to have changed their way...

unless of course we've ruled out the Holy Spirit's ability to change people.

God help us all if we never change our position on things!

Carlo Provencio said...

I pretty much agree with 99.99% of everything you guys say on this blog. But sometimes it seems like you just have way too much time on your hands! Is the Manhattan Declaration really keeping you from fulfilling the great commission? Is it keeping you from telling your neighbors about Christ? Are you wasting God's time? Do you ever ask yourself at night, "Am I really using God's time wisely". I love this site, but sometimes I analyze things so much, just like you guys do. Is that a always a good thing? Expose lies, ya, that's really good, but truth came before the lie. If there were no lies, would you guys have anything to talk about?

P.S. You guys rock!!

Jugulum said...

Are you seriously saying that you interpreted Dan's point as, "Don't think carefully and discerningly about it before deciding not to"?

David Rudd said...

Jugulum,

Here's my first comment:

dan,

would i even consider signing the document?

sure.

i'd read it, and if it lined up appropriately with my understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture and the closed nature of the Canon, i might sign it.

and i'd praise God that He had helped those other men bring their previously faulty understanding into alignment with the truth! :)

do you have a serious disagreement with what i'm saying?

Jugulum said...

David,

Dan's post detailed precisely what the document says about the sufficiency of Scripture and the closed nature of the canon. It doesn't say more, just like the MD doesn't say more about the gospel than the sentences Dan was paralleling.

Maybe you didn't realize that. Now that you do, does you answer change at all?

David Rudd said...

jug,

no it doesn't. the post only says that the pretend document states and details MY stance on the issue.

i'm ONLY suggesting that maybe we should reconsider our "separation practices" if we're unwilling to even CONSIDER (not my word) signing a document that actually "states and details" OUR OWN stance...

please show me how that's wrong.

trogdor said...

So if they use a phrase similar to the one you would use, that is all it takes to convince you that they've abandoned their position and embraced the truth? Extreme naivete is not your friend.

Jugulum said...

David,

Two problems with your response.

1.) You returned to interpreting Dan's use of the word "consider" to imply, "Don't think carefully and discerningly about it before deciding not to". Supposing that's what he did mean--Fine. Yes, we should absolutely consider it carefully. Dan's point is about what we should decide to do.

2.) You don't get the point of the Bobian illustration. Dan's hypothetical document does not detail your position to any further degree than using the word "Trinity" details orthodox trinitarianism.

In Dan's hypothetical, people are writing a document that uses a couple phrases--but they mean something different than you or Dan does. The wording they use does not reflect any kind of change of mind--their minds haven't changed, they just use your terminology in a different way.

It only "states and details our own stance" in the same sense the Bobians are "stating and detailing our own stance"--meaning, not really.

David Rudd said...

jug,

this is getting silly. you're mixing dan's hypothetical with your own to create a hybrid hypothetical which proves a point i'm not even arguing against.

I'm just saying we need to be careful of how dismissive we are of TRUE statements just because we're afraid of who else might consider them true. that's all i'm saying? ok?

Jugulum said...

David,

If you think that my illustration is any different from Dan's, then you didn't understand Dan's point--and people's dismissal of your comments is happening because you're responding out of your misunderstanding.

David Rudd said...

we'll call it good then.

olan strickland said...

Carlo, inherent in the Great Commission is the responsibility of earnestly contending for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. We cannot teach the saints to observe all that the Lord has commanded without teaching them WHAT the Lord has commanded. This entails doing battle from the Word of God against speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.

Any cobelligerent alliance not based on the gospel is in violation of the Word of God (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-18) no matter what kind of spin one puts on it. It is a form of ecumenism no matter how you slice it. So part of fulfilling the Great Commission is to show how the MD is leading people away from observing all that the Lord has commanded and into disobedience.

Stephen said...

Carlo is right.

DJP said...

Oh my gosh, Carlo and Stephen have found us out!

The real reason we write these posts isn't the Gospel, the Scripture, nor all of the reasons we actually provide in the posts!

How could it be? Since when was the purity of the Gospel — or the eternal impact on people's souls, or truths for which past generations have gladly died — anything to get worked up about?

It's all just because we have 'WAY too much time on our hands!

Phil, Frank, the jig's up.

Kurt said...

The issue is separation. Of the several reasons separation is commanded in scripture, one is we are must not join hands with heretics in a way that would grant legitimacy to their heretical beliefs.

Therefore we must consider not only the the words of a document, but who is allowed to sign such a document.

The MD allowed all trinitarians to sign (which includes many rank heretics), and explicitly calls the Gospel the common ground around which they unite. Thus even the words of the document should have prevented any orthodox person from signing. The disclaimer that it is not a theological document is arguably meaningless as long as the other verbiage remains.

Sproul said it best IMHO.

DJP said...

You're right as to intent. I wouldn't even give RCs that they are Trinitarians.

I would say theoretical (or confessional) Trinitarians, practical polytheists.

Carlo Provencio said...

Haha.. you guys are definitely the kings of snarky responses, that's for sure! God bless you! Happy hunting!

P.S. I think I got the word "snarky" from Todd Friel

Frank Turk said...

[/me ducks and covers]

So I have this URL now called "calvinistgadfly.com", and I have already invented some villains for the comic strip:

The Ecu-maniac (he starts off as a self-proclaimed hero named "Ecu-man")

The All-men brothers (they are former muslims converted to semi-pelagian Arminian universalist inclusionism disguised as seminary professors) (not based on anyone really doing that today, I promise)

Finney Bone (He uses humor to conceal his deep loathing for Grace; he thinks we need a new way to be human)

Anyone have any other ideas?

[/hijack]

CR said...

With regards to Frank's hijacked blogged question, I believe DJP has come up with a couple of good ones. Evanjeallybeans and Evancreampuffs (or something to that effect). I forgot what they exactly mean though.

Jugulum said...

CR,

Hmm... Would those be characters? Or perhaps projectile weapons used by the Ecu-maniac?

olan strickland said...

Frank,

May I suggest that you'll need a Buddy Grey-ham to "love em all" and a Randy War-ender to show the way of peace - "let's unite on deeds not creeds."

These will help the cause of "Ecu-Man" more than a little!

Will Jack MacAreUsure be standing against them?

Grigs said...

From what I gather the debate seems to me whether the fact that other persons who are not Christians but confess the Trinity have a legtimate reason to have the title Christian. I think yes, must readers here think no. But I would just like to make an observation... It seems like those who disagree are very strongly not associated with overall evangelical movement (with the possible exception of R.C. Spourl) and are either fundamentalist Baptists or the very conservative Reformed types. Many of us who are neither do not seem to have a problem signing it.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Grigs,

I am Baptist by denomination, but I am a Christ-follower first and foremost. I was duped into thinking that this document was okay to sign, until I was convinced that it undermined the Gospel. When you sign something, you agree to all of its terms, and although there are no doubt some Christians among Catholics and Orthodox, I'll never be convinced that the Catholic and Orthodox institutions are Gospel-abiding while they cling to the doctrines they have - and doesn't that document lump us all together? John Newton once wrote a letter to a pastor friend of his who was wanting to be a politician, and he warned him not to go into politics, but to keep the higher calling of preaching the Gospel - because all you'll ever do with making laws is curb evil. However, with the Gospel preached and received, you solve evil. Isn't it true that once you're saved, all of your moral problems are worked out in Christ?

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Dan,

You brought up a hypothetical about an internationally-known name as one who stands robustly for the sufficiency of Scripture and the closed nature of the Canon (SSCC guy hereafter). SSCC guy is approached by some "charismatic" theologians and pastors who want him to sign their document about certain matters of importance like gay marriage and abortion. The statement even makes claims about the sufficiency of Scripture and the closure of the canon. But in your view, for SSCC guy to sign the document would result in a good name going on bad document.

However, this seems to have taken place in an actual case. John McArthur signed the T4G Doctrinal Statement that makes bold claims about both the sufficiency of Scripture and the canon being closed ("final"). And yet this same document was signed by CJ Mahaney-- a name you find incompatible with the ideas held by John McArthur (the closest we have to an SSCC guy today).

So by way of implication it seems the same thing happened 5 years ago with McArthur adding his "good" name to a "bad" document, correct? Any slackness of jaws warranted?

Matthew M. Johnston said...

Dan,

I am ignorant to the list of people you gave in your analogy besides Grudem, Mahaney and Hinn. Therefore I cannot really gather what you mean by that list- but the question I do have IF the other guys mentioned are heretics like Hinn; are you saying that Grudem and Mahaney are like that?

Just wanted to get clarification!
Thanks.

allanclare said...

Rather shocked to see Wayne Grudem on the list. Could you please clarify as to why? Or are you hardcore Met Tabbers? (UK speak for 'don't-talk-to-me-about-your-impressions-and-feelings-and-experiences-any-thought-other-than-this-bit-here-in-the-Bible-cos-that's-the-only-place-where-the-living-God-speaks)

DJP said...

Matthew, the article plus my 6:05 AM, December 17, 2009 comment answers your question.

DJP said...

Ditto to Allan.

DJP said...

AdamAny slackness of jaws warranted?

Mostly at the lame lengths some will go to try to save face for the MD, and evade the central issues.

Where did MacArthur sign that statement? Not on the link you gave.

Even if he did, in short, no. Doesn't match either of my examples and is, instead, a potent example to the contrary. T4G is about the centrality of the Gospel, an issue on which the signers had reason to believe they were in hearty agreement. There is a hierarchy of centrality of issues, and the MD gets it exactly wrong, as I've developed at length now over several posts.

Beyond that, perhaps Phil has a comment. I am no MacArthur authority.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Fair enough. Just wanted to know. And you should know that I haven't signed the MD either, so no "face" to be saved.

Stephen said...

Carlo is right again. You guys are the kings of snarky responses.

DJP said...

Do you know why it's so funny of you and he to agree on that, Stephen?

ajesh said...

Thank you Wonder if it's because there are so many similar requests..

http://www.youthforjesus.com

jmb said...

Grigs wrote:

"From what I gather the debate seems to me whether the fact that other persons who are not Christians but confess the Trinity have a legtimate reason to have the title Christian. I think yes, must readers here think no."

So people who are not Christians have a legitimate reason to be called Christians?

Jon said...

My hope for the future is that the men who I esteem to be very godly men (above and far beyond myself) to remove their names from a document that claims Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to be "Christian" brethren.

I was shocked and saddened at Al Mohler's signing of the document. I was not shocked at John MacArthur, RC Sproul, James White, and the Pyromaniacs not signing it.

Sir Brass said...

Jon,

Indeed. Not surprised at all once I took a closer look at the document.

Here's my fear, though. In these days, those of us who are feeling frustrated and berated every day that we see these very issues (homosexuals demanding uber-rights, the slaughter of thousands of little babies in the womb, and the attempted legal gagging of those who WOULD oppose the moral decline on the basis of firm religious belief), it is VERY VERY VERY VERY tempting to see the MD as something we can rally behind.

Here's the problem. That very temptation reveals our sinful nature. We have something FAR more powerful than social morals and the bible verses to back them up. We have THE GOSPEL. That is the most potent tool that the catholic church (notice I didn't say Catholic or Roman Catholic) has to affect change in society. And that is more of a gracious side-effect rather than the direct goal of the Gospel.

The only thing that will bring about lasting change in these major areas of concern is the Gospel, b/c only the Gospel (used as the means by which God brings sinners to faith) will cause hearts to be changed. When we dilute that or allow it to be diluted, then we take away our best weapon. That's like taking a soldier's sidearm and battle rifle away from him and giving him only a throwing knife in exchange to use..... and he's the squad's designated marksman. The soldier still has a potent weapon, but it's entirely inadequate for the task. That's like what the church is when her leaders (and I am NOT including Mohler and Duncan here) allow the Gospel to be diluted with their approval (by signature) in exchange for a statement with Romanists and EO's on the matter of social which by definition muddies the Gospel message.

I'm still slack-jawed at Duncan's responses in that radio interview. His answers really made no sense. It'd be comparable (and roles reversed) if a Judaizer approached Paul after reading Paul's Galatian letter and said,

"Paul, I can agree with what you've written here, it's just that we have fundamental disagreements over what "another gospel" is. But aside from that, we can join together in affirming this letter you wrote."

Please, please, PLEASE Dr.'s Mohler and Duncan, if you're reading this (I doubt it, but you never know), you MUST know that authorial intent counts for a great deal. Neither of you two worthy sirs was a major part of the drafting of the MD. It was Colson, George, and Stravinskus (sp?) who did that and Colson came out soon after and told WHAT THE INTENT was behind the document. Proper exegesis of the document must take the context, history, and personalities behind it. So when Colson says, "This is a catechism for the revitalizing of the church in America" (or something like that), he's telling us that this document which he penned is theological, not just social morality. That means that who is validly a Christian or not, or what is the Gospel or not becomes of CENTRAL importance.

Dr's Mohler and Duncan, you have made it clear to us what Y'ALL'S intentions were behind signing that document. And thank you for your defenses as well. They should show to all that y'all's motives were NOT in anyway in the line of being ashamed of the gospel. However, you two sirs were NOT the author's of the document. When it comes to a decision of whose interpretation is right, you go with the author's interpretation if it is available, not a well-meaning signatory. You two sirs were signatories, not authors. You two sirs should listen closely to what Colson had to say about what the message of this is. Authorial intent, sirs, not merely reader impression.

DJP said...

jmb on grigs is exactly right.

Grigs' comment marks him as one who — I word myself carefully — has not seriously worked through the nineteen questions.

Frank Turk said...

Can I add something here?

The first thing is a disclaimer: really, who cares if I signed the MD? I'm a guy who works in a job that is not in a church (or parachurch), and I blog -- and some of you find me charming or thought-provoking or informative, and that's great. But for you to make me into more than that for any reason is, well, not a great idea.

I am, in the best case (I hope), a spiritual friend to you and not a saint or a priest. So thanks for your support, but also let's make sure we see me as me and not St. Me of Arkansas who somehow deserves to have his statue buried upside down in your yard or something.

I disclaim that to say this: Let's keep the MD in perspective. At this point, after 3 weeks of hoopla, the MD web site says that 300,852 people have signed in. (18 Dec 2009, 9:08 AM central time US) the vast majority of people who signed at this point did so in the first 6 days; the drop off in interest has been geometric (that is, not a straight line but a sharp curve where interest seems to be decreasing more quickly than time is passing).

So this thing has a terminal life cycle, and that means it's not a "movement". It's a one-off document (as Phil has said elsewhere) like a lot of one-off documents with limited effect and historical impact.

Since this is what this document is, we have to treat it like something with a short half-life and not as something which is a threat to the eternal well-being of the faith.

About 0.2% of all sociologically-Christian people in the US have signed this document. To put that in perspective, more sociologically-Christian people in the US watched Katie Couric last night.

So as we discuss whether this document obscures the Gospel, let's remember that we are having a discussion in a very limited scope. It's absurd, for example, for one side to say that the other side "doesn't care about the lives of babies" because I can prove categorically that this document has not saved the lives of any babies so far; but it is equally dramatic and, shall we say, unrealistic to frame up what Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan have done as somehow on-par with taking the part of Erasmus against Luther or some such thing.

Sometimes, something can be a mistake without being the end of the world as we know it. And just to let the cat out of the bag, I'll be on Paul Edwards on Monday in the 5:20 slot to talk about this (unless Paul tries to get me to slander Bono, in which case there's no telling what will happen).

Back to your corners. Come out swingin'. But nice.

DJP said...

So this is what a Turkocentric hermeneutic looks like.

Jon said...

"I am, in the best case (I hope), a spiritual friend to you and not a saint or a priest."

Yeah, but you blog with the DJP and some dude named Phil!

stratagem said...

If I remove my name from the Manhattan Declaration, is that considered to be a Manhattan Transfer?

DJP said...

I like it.

onmysoapbox2 said...

Thank you Frank, for injecting a measure of sanity into this ongoing discussion! Your comment contains much wisdom.

I wasn't going to say this anywhere online, but my experience with MD was that I originally out-of-hand discounted it as being a political maneuver of the religious right (I don't normally get involved with that sort of thing).

Then, after discussing with some highly respected, visibly God fearing family members, I reconsidered and actually read the thing for myself.

I understand the core point of the document is that many true, professing Christians have been distracted in our primary duty to Christ as we attempt to engage our unseen enemy in the political, social and cultural arenas.

That's idolatry, and it shouldn't surprise us that the result is that we have had little to no effect on our culture. Any time we compromise our devotion to Christ, we ought to expect unhappy consequences.

Also, in the MD, I see a recognition of our need to repent of our double-mindedness and live our faith boldly regardless of who says it's okay.

As the document applies to me as an individual, I can agree with it. So I signed.

But then I started looking around to see what others were saying and became uneasy and requested that my name be removed.

But it wasn't because the arguments have convinced me that it was wrong to sign. Perhaps I was too hasty and should have spent more time asking God what is right. I honestly don't have that answer at this time. Certainly, it is not my job to play conscience for someone else and insist that others who humbly asked God and felt led to sign/not sign are sinning.

What actually moved me to "unsign" was the arguing itself.

Knowing me, I would eventually be tempted to vigorously focus on a defense of my association with other questionably Christian MD signers, instead of just personally move in the direction of obedient living that I believe the document was meant to encourage.

My disassociation with MD is actually for the same reason I refuse to stick on the label "Calvinist". Centering one's attention on a man's opinions/writings (regardless of how Biblically accurate) is idolatry, pure and simple.

While I appreciate the desire here to maintain the purity of the message of Scripture, I also wonder if there is a distinct danger of still missing the mark as the defenders of the faith ride out to battle in defense of the truth.

If being "right" and winning a debate ever become a primary motivator there is again a huge potential for idol-worship that is no more admirable than worship of the (possibly misdirected) Manhattan Declaration.


I am not remotely an "ignore the truth of Scripture and attempt a show of unity at all costs" sort. But I have felt an almost suffocating heaviness of heart at the disunity and temptation for unwarranted judgment by one Christian brother over another that this Manhattan Declaration thing seems to have stirred up.

I've probably strayed too far off the original topic, but on the off-chance this is allowed to remain up--I'll go slip into my flame retardant suit.

Respectfully,

Heather

Alexander M. Jordan said...

I too was too hasty to sign the MD, having first learned of it from reading Al Mohler's defense of why he had signed it. I have great respect for Al Mohler as a reformed thinker and leader and I thought his reasons for signing the document made a certain amount of sense. I read over it quickly and signed.

Subsequently, having considered the arguments of MacArthur, Sproul, Phil Johnson, Begg and others, I changed my mind and asked that my name be removed from the MD (a few weeks ago). To date I have received no response.

I get the impression that the MD means to draw a line in the sand on issues of great importance to Christians and to say we will stand up and forcefully declare and defend a Christian point of view on these matters and will not back down. Of course there is temptation to join in and say yes, let's make our voices loudly heard on these matters, and in today's political and social landscape it seems we need to be screaming loudly about abortion, marriage and religious liberty.

Yet I agree with the critics who have pointed out that the document blurs what ought to be the Christian priority in fighting these ills-- proclaiming and living out the gospel of Christ, primarily the message of Christ crucified for sin. The document is not precise enough about this gospel, and although it wants to avoid calling itself theological, it cannot avoid being so, as it is dealing with theological issues and proclaims itself a representative Christian document.

For this reason I believe it must get the gospel right by making the gospel front and center. I regret having signed a statement that doesn't do that and that defines the gospel mostly as social and moral reform.

On the other hand, I agree with Frank -- it seems to me that the impact of this document- regardless of who signed it and who didn't- will prove to be entirely negligible. And there's a reason for that-- it's the MD's lack of focus on the heart of the gospel message, which of course is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." The gospel of Christ Jesus is the only message with power to change hearts eternally and truly effect societal change.

Thanks to Dan and others for reminding us of that.

DJP said...

Alexander, I think you're exactly right. I might only tweak this: I am sure you correctly identify what motivated Duncan, Mohler and their like to sign it.

However I suspect the crafters had more in mind, as my post/analogy suggests.

I liked when the reviewer asked Ligon something like, "Was our position on those issues not known already?"

Alexander M. Jordan said...

I agree, Dan. I'm sure you remember that not too long ago another document, An Evangelical Manifesto, came along and had a somewhat similar intent. It was supposed to help re-capture the meaning of the term "evangelical", and to challenge the evangelical community to pursue a more broad agenda (an oblique critique of the religious right's methodology.)

There were those leveled the same sorts of criticism at that document that the MD has received-- namely that it was not a primarily gospel-centered call to action.

One of the writers on that document is also a writer on the MD (Timothy George). It does seem that both statements are suggesting an agenda that is more politically than theologically oriented. Or at least it seems the theology underlying them is one that is subtly veering away from the gospel of Christ-- changing hearts through the supernatural power of the changed lives. In its place is the social gospel of transforming society through networked, co-belligerent Christian activity in the political and legislative arenas.

Not that we ought never to be involved in these arenas, but as you guys have often stressed here, this isn't the critical Christian strategy.

stratagem said...

The Manhattan Declaration: Unlike the Manhattan Project, it ain't rocket science.