Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Back on November 20th, 2009, an ecumenical document called the “Manhattan Declaration” was released (full text HERE). Three prominent Evangelicals (Robert George, Timothy George, and Chuck Colson) constituted the “drafting committee”; many more Evangelical and Catholic “leaders” have signed the document (HERE).

However, as with the famous “Evangelcals & Catholics Together” document (full text HERE), some Evangelicals are not ‘happy’ with the “Manhattan Declaration”, and have used the release of the document to renew the tired, old, and patently false charge, that the Catholic Church is not a Christian church. The following are but a few examples:


R. C. Sproul

Mike Horton

John MacArthur

Alistair Begg


Seems that some things just never change…


Grace and peace,

David

9 comments:

Lisamck said...

Wow Dave.

I read the Declaration. I have a few misgivings. I read RC Sproul. I can see his point of view. Then I read the list of signers. Wow. What a mess of "strange bedfellows".

Today...I wouldn't sign. I am willing to be convinced. I suppose there is something in it to put off everybody. The worst thing was when they said that it didn't matter what American political party you supported. The Democrats have a far, far worse record on abortion. But here is what they said: 'Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as “the culture of death.”'

Who in America could pretend that since the death of Bobby Kennedy there has been about one pro-life Democrat of note (mayor of Boston/ambassador to the Vatican)? I have a couple of other quibbles too. But the main thing is that I think I see why Sproul HAS to say what he does. It's hard to sign something that you see as being compromising.

I also don't believe that women's suffrage is founded on the same marriage principles they claim to support. If you want the family to be the primary institution that influences the nation, keep the vote with men. If we had never given the vote to women, neither Clinton nor Obama would have been elected. If you are for all the things that the document deplores, then support women's suffrage.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks for responding, you wrote:

>>But the main thing is that I think I see why Sproul HAS to say what he does. It's hard to sign something that you see as being compromising.>>

Me: Indeed, but my quibble with Dr. Sproul concerns the much deeper implications of his primary thesis: the Catholic Church officially teaches a false Gospel. If Dr. Sproul is correct, he is faced with historical evidence that strongly suggests “the Gospel” (as delineated by Dr. Sproul) has no known adherents in the extant corpus of post-apostolic authors/writings that have survived—in other words, from Clement of Rome until Martin Luther one will not find a single individual who understood “the Gospel” as does Dr. Sproul. (See THIS THREAD, and HECKEL’S ESSAY, for support of my assertion.)

In essence, if Dr. Sproul is correct, Irenaeus taught a false Gospel, Athanasius taught a false Gospel, Augustine taught a false gospel, John Chysostom taught a false Gospel, et al.; one is left with a view of “Christian history” as expounded by Cunningham, Darby, Orchard, Ruckman, etc., who IMO, are at least consistent.

Anyway, have you read Heckel’s essay yet? If not, hope you can find the time to do so—would love to hear your thoughts on this issue once you have had a chance to ponder the deeper implications each paradigm…

Grace and peace,

David

Randy said...

This is truly sad. But it is the way the world is. Christendom has no power because it has no unity. They can't even agree on a simple document focusing on what should be the easy issues.

What they can't agree on is what it means to be a Christian. What the gospel is. Yet people still say differences are mostly confined to minor issues. Dobson, George and Colson are pretty big names. Are they wrong about what the gospel is? Or is Sproul, Horton, MacArthur, and Begg wrong? It is a most basic question and the disagreement is obviously crippling. Why can't they just open their bibles and settle it?

Matt said...

Horton's piece was a bit more interesting, though, I thought. Of course, Catholicism doesn't *confuse* Law and Gospel. But I think there is a (rather beautiful) tension in Catholic thought in the ways that he talked about here. There is the axiom that grace perfects nature and does not destroy it (though this is a bit more complex than people often say). Therefore, it makes sense for me to say that the political community could be well-ordered according to the natural law, reason, etc., even if it will be imperfect because not informed by grace and divine charity.

On the other hand, Thomas also says that there is a natural desire for God such that man, at least in his concrete, historical existence, is oriented towards beatitude. Human beings have a supernatural destiny. Furthermore, we believe that Christ redeemed humanity (and, in a certain sense, the universe) in the Incarnation and in His passion and Resurrection. To reason about the human being and the human good without reference to these articles of faith, revealed by God, inaccessible to human reason, would seem to be quite problematic. As such, it makes quite a bit of sense to engage the political community according to our faith, even if we articulate our convictions in a publicly accessible way...

Anyway, fun stuff!

But the comments on that blog were pretty tragic, as we see in the comments on these other sites. They are so quick to impute a false Gospel to millions of professing Christians (billions when one thinks historically!) and invoke the anathemas of Galatians! Alas.

David Waltz said...

Hi Randy,

Appreciate your comments, you wrote:

>>This is truly sad. But it is the way the world is. Christendom has no power because it has no unity. They can't even agree on a simple document focusing on what should be the easy issues.>>

Me: You are, of course, correct. But, allow me to ‘open up a can of worms’…I know for a fact that a number of Mormons have wanted to sign the MD, but I have been told that they are not allowed to sign it. It really opens up the question as to who is and who is not a Christian (I am not talking about the issue of the one, true, Church which is a separate, though related, topic.) This brings to mind the very interesting dialogue between Stephen Robinson and Craig Blomberg in the book: How Wide the Divide?. (See also Robinson’s Are Mormons Christians?.)

>>What they can't agree on is what it means to be a Christian. What the gospel is. Yet people still say differences are mostly confined to minor issues. Dobson, George and Colson are pretty big names. Are they wrong about what the gospel is? Or is Sproul, Horton, MacArthur, and Begg wrong? It is a most basic question and the disagreement is obviously crippling. Why can't they just open their bibles and settle it?>>

Me: Those are extremely important, and telling, questions; I would sure like to be able to sit them all down in a room, present the questions to all of them at the same time, and wait for a cogent response(s).

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Matt,

Some excellent reflections (IMHO), which pretty much need no further commentary—as such, I would like to shift gears, and focus a bit on the following from Dr. Horton:

>>However, it is just for that reason that I stumbled over a few references to the gospel in this declaration. It took me back to the old days of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” when I joined others in raising concerns with Chuck Colson, Richard John Neuhaus, J. I. Packer, and others that this 1996 document announced agreement on the gospel while recognizing remaining disagreement over justification, merit, and the like. Many true and wonderful things were affirmed in that ECT document, but the gospel without “justification through faith alone apart from works” is, as I said then, like chocolate chip cookies without the chips.

This declaration continues this tendency to define “the gospel” as something other than the specific announcement of the forgiveness of sins and declaration of righteousness solely by Christ’s merits.>>

When bright guys like Dr. Horton make such statements, I truly wonder if he is aware of the counter claims that have been made by fellow Evangelical scholars concerning the “official” Catholic position on justification by faith? I believe my threads under the label JUSTIFICATION (especially the two most recent ones), present some solid evidence that Dr. Horton does not understand the complexity and nuances of the Catholic position on justification by faith, including, of course, Trent. (Though, to be fair, I think a lot of Catholics have misunderstood Trent.)

BTW, what is your position on Trent concerning justification?

Grace and peace,

David

Matt said...

Hi David,

I think Trent is quite an impressive statement. I really think that most people have not even read the whole thing. When they have and still get very upset, I think it's because they assume that the positions being condemned are the positions that they hold. But this isn't always (or even usually) the case. The job of Trent was not to interpret Luther and Calvin; it was to proclaim truth and condemn error.

Otto Pesch did this a bit, but I think it would be fun to go canon by canon through Trent and see exactly what is being condemned, then see if that actually hit the target in the 16th century (and if it continues to hit the target). Then, it would be interesting to look at the ones that do appear to really hit the target and see where the source of the disagreement lies, arbitrate it with Scripture, etc.

The one real issue here in Trent is this "formal cause of justification" (which gets into imputation and double justification and all of these issues). But it is clear to me that the focus of these debates was on the non-imputation of sins rather than the imputation of Christ's righteousness. But, even so, check out this wonderful moment from Bellarmine (and Hodge) that I saw in that discussion of baptism you posted:

In like manner, Bellarmin de Justificatione, ii, c. 2, says: "We are justified on account of the merits of Christ;' and in c. 7 he says, "If Protestants only mean that the merits of Christ are imputed to us, because they are given to us by God, so that we can present them to the Father for our sins since Christ undertook to make satisfaction for us, and to reconcile us to God the Father, they are right." Which is precisely what we do mean.

WOW.

Anyway, these "if-then" statements and admissions of confusion are much more abundant in the 16th century then we have been led to believe. It's amazing that after 500 years, it takes this much work just to understand each other. But this was true even for those debating all of this in the 1530s and 1540s!

Randy said...

I don't think the Manhatten Declaration is about "What is the gospel?" or "What does it mean to be Christian?". These are questions others have brought to the fore. Can Mormon's sign it? Whi can stop them? The website is there. Will they be listed amoung the noteworthy signees? Probably not. They are noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. But they do agree with Christian morality with respect to live and chastity. They agree for the same reason evangelicals do. That is that they inherited the doctrines from the Catholic church and still hold to them.

As far as Trent goes. I find that charity in reading it is all that is needed. If you want to find something problematic in there you likely will. If you want to reconcile yourself with what it says you likely will be able to do that as well. The same is true of the bible. If you read it looking for reasons not to become a Christian you will find some. If you read it trying to believe it you will be able to.

So the question boils down to, do you want unity? Are you willing to let go of prejudice and tradition to make it work? I mean any serious attempt at unity means butchering some pretty sacred cows? Are you serious about that?

David Waltz said...

Hi Randy,

You asked the question: “Can Mormon’s sign it [the MD]?” Well, yes, technically anyone can, even hardcore atheists. But, anyone who does sign the MD is ‘counted’ as one of the following:

“We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them.”

Maybe Mormons wish they had been added as one of the groups listed (I am ‘out loud’ here).

You also wrote:

>>As far as Trent goes. I find that charity in reading it is all that is needed. If you want to find something problematic in there you likely will. If you want to reconcile yourself with what it says you likely will be able to do that as well.>>

Good points. In the selections from Dr. Hodge that I posted in THIS THREAD, he noted that Trent (concerning justification and the related condemnations) could be (and has been) understood in two different senses. However, to be fair to our anti-Catholic detractors, a good number of Catholic theologians have (and still do), taken the position that Trent cannot be reconciled with Reformers (magisterial – e.g. Calvin, Luther, Zwingli) doctrine of justification by faith alone. One the most notable current examples is the Catholic theologian Dr. Christopher J. Malloy—I am still trying to come to grips with the seemingly solid arguments he presents in his book: Engrafted into Christ.

Perhaps those who have read the book could share their insights with us…


Grace and peace,

David