15 July 2011

Documentiasis

A Manifesto against Manifestos
by Phil Johnson

Another silly manifesto has been issued by some "top evangelical, Catholic, and mainline" officials, outlining new rules of engagement for missionary and evangelistic work. The document is full of ecumenical argot and liberal gobbledegook. It employs the most passionate special pleading for pluralistic, postmodern, and politically correct values—urging Christians to "cooperate with other religious communities engaging in interreligious advocacy towards justice and the common good and, wherever possible, standing together in solidarity with people who are in situations of conflict."

But the document never once shows the slightest concern for getting the content of the gospel message correct. It is, in fact, a denunciation of evangelical principles; it is by no means a valid statement of evangelical mission.



hy are front-row evangelical leaders so enthralled with drafting formal statements and grandiose-sounding declarations? Virtually every year since the release of the first "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" statement in 1994, some group or another (usually consisting of self-appointed "evangelical" strategists and Christianity Today contributing editors) gets together to repudiate evangelical principles and discuss post-evangelical strategies—while pretentiously laying claim to leadership in the amorphous evangelical movement.

In the end, with great fanfare, they invariably issue "a historic manifesto." The profound historic significance of their work is typically declared by the drafters themselves in the lead sentence of all their press releases. And for some reason or another, Chuck Colson's name is prominent in most of the groups drafting these documents.

There was, of course, ECT II, "The Gift of Salvation" in 1997; ECT III, "Your Word Is Truth" in 2002; ECT IV, "The Communion of Saints" in 2003—and so on, all the way through ECT VII in 2009.

(There may actually be more ECT documents than that. I don't know. I've lost count, and I've lost interest.)

There have also been several non-ECT manifestos—most recently the highly publicized but quickly fizzling "Manhattan Declaration" (2009). That document aimed to garner one million signatures within a month. But almost two years after the PR campaign began, that charter still has not been able to acquire even half that many signatures.

1 Million?
November 2009



Nope.
July 2011


One can't help noticing the common thread in this growing quiltwork of documents: virtually all of them strongly promote an ecumenical agenda. And the urgency of the ecumenical appeal is inversely proportional to the level of enthusiasm for whatever few shreds of evangelical conviction (if any) are expressed therein. If I read the trend correctly, the ecumenical agenda being pushed in these documents is growing more brazen and more demanding with each new document.

For example, ECT II included this statement, carefully crafted to sound as if it were full of evangelical conviction: "In justification, God, on the basis of Christ's righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so." But, of course, the statement simultaneously solicited signatures from Catholic priests and others who formally disavow the principle of sola fide. So notice: that sentence (the best in the whole statement) purposely omitted any mention of imputed righteousness and gave just enough wiggle-room to permit, say, a Jesuit theologian to put his own spin on the words and sign. It was a subtle approach to undermining the central evangelical distinctive.

Twelve years later, ECT VII (titled "Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life") took a much less subtle approach. That document repeatedly scolds Protestants for their "neglect of Mary" and the supposed lack of evangelical reflection on Marian themes in their soteriology. The document goes on to make this promise: "We [evangelicals and Catholics] will seek together the mind of Christ about Mary." Then it states: "Evangelicals need to consider whether more reflection on Mary would strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ."



Now, does anyone truly believe these ecumenical diatribes are strengthening evangelical conviction? Isn't the real point rather to undermine the very truths that make evangelical doctrine distinctive, so that (quietly setting all such things aside) we can join hands with the Vatican in the name of brotherhood and unity?

No one who understands what historic evangelicalism is could possibly think that type of "unity" represents anything other than the wholesale rejection of everything that truly differentiates evangelicals from Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Christians, and the cults.

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what these statements are aiming for. Sadly, the evangelical movement is being commandeered by people who do indeed reject evangelical doctrinal distinctives and would like to see a brand of evangelicalism that can easily syncretize almost anything from Roman Catholic mysticism to postmodernized versions of Socinianism.

You know: Christianity Today-style religion.

The epitome of this, once again, is Charles Colson, a politically shrewd, worldly-wise, fully-educated, well-spoken man who nevertheless manages to sound stunningly clueless at times. For example, he claims to believe the Manhattan Declaration failed because people who are apathetic about doctrine were afraid of it. Anyone who paid attention knows the precise opposite is true. Those most outspoken voices against the Manhattan Declaration were conservative evangelicals who insist on being far more precise in their doctrine than the drafters of that manifesto want evangelicals to be.

But Colson said this in Christianity today:
An aversion to doctrine caused some thoroughly orthodox young evangelicals to decline to sign the Manhattan Declaration (which defends human life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty), even though the document is rooted in Scripture.


So the latest document being peddled to evangelical leaders is "Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World." It's nothing more than old-style ecumenism re-stated in the patois of postmodernism.

Describing what's wrong with the document, one of my favorite fundamentalist bloggers, Dave Doran (president of Detroit baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church) writes:

To me, the wrongness of this project is magnified by its uselessness. "What's valuable about the document is that Christians are letting the world know that they are intending to be respectful, loving, and transparent in their approach to missions and that they do not intend to be seen as violent or coercive," claims Craig Ott from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Seriously? Publishing this document will do that? Is "the world" really reading documents put out by groups like this? Why do evangelicals keep chasing after the elusive dream of getting the world to think differently about them? Why do they keep chasing that elusive dream with ecclesiastical tokens like documents and statements?

The view from the separatist ghetto looks like this: professing evangelicals keep getting hoodwinked into publishing documents that never accomplish their purpose, but do in fact erode the boundaries of the faith. The world will not even notice this document, but the World Evangelical Fellowship and the World Council of Churches will feel better for playing nicely with each other, and Rome is happy that they are doing [it] on their way back home.

Hard to think of any argument against Dave Doran's analysis. In fact, it would be hard to sum up any more succinctly than that all the problems with the past decade's torrent of ecumenical manifestos.

Phil's signature

21 comments:

Thomas Louw said...

Let’s all get together and hammer out a document that declares ice-cream to white soft a sweet.

Sitting here in South Africa I really don’t get the reasons for these documents, basically who cares about them? What purpose do they serve in the wider world?

I think we might use them to help us discern who is a trusted brother and who’s not.

If I look at the Chicago statement of Biblical Inerrancy and Westminster documents, now that’s worthwhile stuff.

Maybe some truth hardened, Bible saturated guys should get together and make the statement of what saving faith is and what our responsibility is towards it. Make it a in your face statement, no wiggle room. To make the other voice heard.

A document that does the same for evangelism, as what the Chicago statement did for view of the Bible.

I might have, and probably have my history wrong but, wasn’t the Chicago Statement drafted before South Western Seminary and others returned to the correct view of scripture?
Was it the consequence of the renewal movement or an out flowing of it?

Thomas Louw said...

Oh yes the graphic’s are out of this world.

The bears symbol of the guys tearing the gospels to shreds or Phil, Dan and Frank doing it to the heretic’s case?

Hope there is no PETA guys reading today.

Frank Turk said...

Cue TUAD in 3...2...1...

Thomas Louw said...

Frank.
TUAD? explain.

donsands said...

"..Charles Colson, a politically shrewd, worldly-wise, fully-educated, well-spoken man who nevertheless manages to sound stunningly clueless at times."

I really like this brother. He is a well spoken man.

I heard him say a few years back on the 700 club(I think it was on Robertson's show), that he was upset that John MacArthur didn't think Mother Theresa was a Christian. He was quite firm that she was, no doubt about it a Christian.
And I thought how at that same time my pastor shared from the pulpit that according to Mother theresa'a own words, she was not a Christian.
Now, she is controversial for sure, but I was very thrown back by Chuck's statement about Pastor John.

Chuck has a mind-set that I just don't get.

Thanks for sharing this. There's this deadly ecumenicalism that we need to know about.
And there is a good ecumenicalism as well.

Have a great weekend in our Lord's grace and truth, especially this Lord's day!

Sola Scriptura,
Solus Christus,
Sola Gratia,
Sola Fide, &
Soli Deo Gloria!

Tyrone said...

Dan you sound a little surprised,Why? we should rather get excited in that sense all it does is prove scripture.
The war rages on... But the gates of hell shall not prevail our King will have the last say!

Tyrone said...

Apologies should I say Phil.

trogdor said...

We should be "excited" the same way the Paul was excited about the Galatians succumbing to false teaching, or how Jesus was excited about Pergamum and Thyatira welcoming the Nicolaitans and Jezebel, or maybe how thrilled Jeremiah was to see the judgment coming on Jerusalem. All of these things "proved scripture", but nobody was exactly jumping for joy over them.

Sir Brass said...

I take it, Phil, that the octoball graphic is symbolic of opening a real wicked can of worms.... right? Right?

Anxious minds want to know (or we'll be forced to be satiated with Dan't H&T :P)

Good summary and I quite agree... WHO CARES any more. These "statements" aren't worth the paper they used to be printed on (or now the web server space they occupy). The World doesn't care when so-called christians pander to it. They only get riled up when we actually take a stand on what God's Word says... then the World gets vicious. And then that is when we must stand firm or capitulate and show that Christ is not, indeed, our foundation and we care more for the things of the World and the World's good opinion that we do about hearing Christ's "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master."

Frank Turk said...

Thomas:

"Truth Unites and Divides", tha handle of an anonymous commenter who has the disorder Phil has here documented, specifically regarding the Manhattan Declaration.

just watch.

Rhology said...

I agree that we'd all be on TUAD-watch, but he told me recently he's fasting from blogging for a bit.

BrettR said...

I know that there is 'mid-life crisis' where you dump your wife for a convertible and online poker, but is there an 'end-of-all-influence life crisis' where men with ridiculous comb-overs get together and craft vaulted documents as a way of marking their pedigreed fire hydrant?

Maybe we should start a list of useless things:

1. "Christian" bookstores
2. light beer
3. manifestos
4. singing birthday cards
5. ?
6. ?
7. ?

s.driesner said...

Per his book "Born Again," Chuck Colson was converted to Christianity via C.S. Lewis' book "Mere Christianity" whose soteriological umbrella would not of necessity exclude Mother Theresa or other Catholics. Chuck Colson has done tremendous work in ministering to prisoners and their families, and I believe should be commended for such, as well as his emphasis on how worldview affects the way we live and think (which reflects more clarity of thought than many in evangelicalism today). However, his interests in ecumenism, while rooted in a concern for the unity of the Church, are also rooted in a muddled soteriology which prevents him from seeing (or considering important) the inconsistency inherent in seeking to join together with those who do not adhere to a Biblical gospel. He's seeking after unity ultimately divorced from the Biblical Gospel, a unity that is at best useless and ultimately damaging to the cause of Christ.

Tom Chantry said...

Very funny, but only one day before Phil gives us this Manifesto against Manifestos, Paul Levy at Reformation21 issues his Petition against Petitions!

And they are both absolutely and hysterically right!

DJP said...

TyroneDan you sound a little surprised,Why?...Apologies should I say Phil.

Hahaha, that's one! Tyrone is now my official Favorite Commenter of the Day!

More seriously: the second and third graphics, in sequence, make me happier than any I can remember. Though <500K is still far too many.

stratagem said...

Today we have the luxury of ignoring these sellout manifestos, because they don't speak for us. But why do I get the feeling that someday soon the proposition will be that they will be deciding how we are allowed to evangelize, or else?

Stan McCullars said...

One of the HUGE problems I have with the Manhattan Declaration is the following quote from their FAQs:

So the signatories are happy to stand alongside our LDS brothers and sisters who have worked so heroically in the cause of defending marriage...

Troubling to say the least.

Solameanie said...

Amen, amen and amen!!!!!!

I think a lot of this is driven by foundational misunderstanding of Christ's command that we all "be one." They forgot the unity around truth part.

lee n. field said...

And what is it with these "evangelical leaders", not a one of whom speaks for me?

Robert Warren said...

...this growing quiltwork...

Reminds me of one of my favorite John MacArthur stories. Dr. MacArthur was travelling through a rural area and stopped at a house in response to a sign advertising quilts, thinking to buy one for his wife. The woman brought out an egregiously ugly quilt, proud that she had included a number of her family-historic pieces of fabric, oblivious of how awful they looked together.

The husband was in the den surrounded by books from many religious perspectives from J-Dubs to WoF to Easy-Believists to actually sound teachers. When MacArthur commented on the eclectic nature of the collection, the man stated, "Yep, and there's some goooood in ever one of 'em!"

The good pastor then realized that the wife was quilting her husband's theology.

Boerseuntjie said...

Well, I would like to know if anyone else whom has confronted such "co-operation for good" (Even "defending Biblical values"); in the Church and amongst their Elder~Pastors have had to leave the place where their "unity" was found...
And what happened afterward (Especially when there where no faithful Ministers or Churches avaialable)?

What then? I am waiting for a happily ever after to cross my path in life; because I know that the Way in narrow and few there be who find it ~ yet I look by the gift of faith to see the Fulfillment thereof in the latter days...

Anyone?