"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Troubling Declaration

A new statement is making the rounds called "The Manhattan Declaration." It affirms, with Christians from diverse backgrounds (Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical) 3 points of public policy:

1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

While some of the content certainly has validity in a certain context, I think the document itself is a sign of what's wrong with American Evangelicalism. Yes, I'm picking on Evangelicals since the statement has gained some Evangelicals supporters (James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Timothy George). But this is troubling for the following reasons:

1. These manifestos/declarations are becoming a flavor of the month. Remember "The Evangelical Manifesto"? Of course not. It was a flimsy "vision statment" rather than a confessional document. It speaks in perceptions and generalities. The London Baptist Confession, the Westminster Confession, the 39 Articles, and the Augsburg Confession have been in use for hundreds of years. The Evangelical Manifesto is a year old and no one remembers it (nor should).

2. This is a stand for the Law as exercised in civil society. The question is: why should anyone listen to this statement? The first use of the law is testified to also in Natural Law. Honestly, civil government does not need special revelation. This also explains how Christians should live their lives ethically...to the world. Why should the world listen? First the Law must drive the sinner to Christ and His Gospel before they are conformed to the will of God in the Law. This is the cart before the horse.

3. This is a broad testimony to the Law in practice. This is not a stand for the Gospel. It wants to affirm something with broad "Christian" support, so the gospel is ignored.
The absense of the gospel displays the concern of evangelicals as moral and ethical, not...well...evangelical. Do we believe the world is evil? If so, they will abort their babies, marry and divorce who they wish, and persecute religious minorities. That's what evil people do. Is our message: how to be a better reprobate? Or is our message: The Law reveals our deep and desperate need of redemption in Christ? If we want a declaration of the Law, then I'm happy to wait for a declaration of God's wrath against sin. That's a good place to begin. Let that be the delcaration of the year, followed the next year by a declaration of propitiation in Christ. I'll sign those documents.

Are we as passionate for the repentance of sinners to Christ as we are for marriage amendments, abortion legislation and secular people being nice to religious people?To quote my pastor: "The deepest most pressing need in the world today is the gospel." Not civil law. Not ethics. Not winning the culture for the church and making it safe for the whole family. The most pressing need is death and resurrection, and the world needs to be told it needs to die before it is told it needs to live a resurrected life. Evangelicalism needs to learn to confess and declare the right things:

"Heb 10:22-23 - Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."


M. Jay Bennett said...

Nice work Jared. I agree.

Andrew said...

While I felt it was a little better than your diagnosis, I understand your point from a Reformed perspective. I laughed at the line about "how to be a better reprobate".

I personally was disturbed that my co-religionists would sign a document that triumphalized the advent of democracy and the overthrow of Absolutist Monarchy... it's a little foolish seeing as the Roman church was the legitimizer of Monarchy and in many ways condemns democratic principles.