Saturday, December 5, 2009

A little more on the Manhattan Declaration (and Marinara)

I have taken some heat from various people for signing the Manhattan Declaration. I have read and appreciate all the various critiques of the MD. Some can be found here:

MacArthur's critique

Begg's critique

Batzig's critique

Horton's critique

There are others. Having read the MD several times along with these various critiques, I still remain at peace having signed it. I know some accuse signers of poor judgment and possibly hurting the cause of the gospel. I can only say that I would rather God strike me dead than hurt the cause of the gospel. My teaching is on wide display both here and in every recorded sermon, so I am confident no credible argument could be given that would prove I am weak on the gospel (by God's grace only). I have a faithful group of elders who would lay the proverbial smack on me if I strayed in such a way, for which I am grateful. I am sorry if some are disappointed with my judgment on this, I am certainly open to correction as I consider the matter going forward. To be clear and to save you from posting a frenzy of corrective comments- I don't need repeats of the arguments so thoughtfully displayed in the linked critiques, but rather I am letting you know I will keep thinking and praying about this issue.

When I signed the MD I saw terms like "christian" and "gospel" and even "church" in a very general light. I thought it was obvious that each of the three groups (Evangelicals/Roman Catholics/and Eastern Orthodox professors) have different technical definitions and understandings of these terms. Indeed, I would argue I have a different definition of the order of salvation (Reformed) than most of Evangelicalism (Arminian), if not a different understanding of the gospel all together (I don't understand how Arminians can think they "choose" God, isn't that a work? I don't believe works can save, etc., hence, do we have a different understanding of the gospel?). So, the definition of "gospel" in this document, being secondary (in my opinion) to the purpose of the Declaration, wasn't an area I stopped to parse. I still don't think the document is a theological statement no matter how much the various critics say it necessarily is. I don't see the document as a joint statement of agreement on these descriptive terms, but rather a call to conviction concerning the addressed issues. I understand many disagree, I am simply stating my rationale.

Further explaining my very general interpretation of the aforementioned terms, the fact that Roman Catholic signers had no problem with protestants/evangelicals being lumped under the "church" umbrella made me think we are using these terms in a very general, loose way. The Roman Catholics I know understand we (Evangelicals) have different technical definitions of the terms. They are no more agreeing with our understanding of the gospel in signing than we are with them. It happens to be a term that both entities use. If this is too close for comfort for some, and I know it is, I totally respect the choice to not sign. I applaud such conviction. For me as an individual signer, I understood (and still understand) the terms to be general and not technical and the cruxt of the document to be a call to moral conviction not doctrinal unity.

Suppose I called Italians to stand in unity by signing a public declaration addressed to all people calling for the use of only marinara sauce on pasta (instead of, say, alfredo sauce), what would you say is the purpose a such a declaration? Now, keep in mind, as a Sicilian I don't really think Northern Italians should have much say in this as they have not been faithful guardians of marinara. From the other direction many Northern Italians think we Sicilians are the dregs of Italy bearing no sense of wider European culture. Some Sicilians would balk at the notion of my having an Irish mother!!!(I love you mom!). But as it relates to the rest of the nations of the world, "Italian" is a label that people at large basically understand as a group of people that fall in to a certain geographic boundary. If a person looks closely at the "Italian" designation they will find some significant differences between those who call themselves Italian, but that's not the point of the declaration. The purpose of the declaration is to help stop the crime of putting a white sauce on pasta when God meant for tomato sauce to be applied. We'll save the "who's really Italian?" discussion for another time.

I see the MD in much the same way. The world basically sees the three groups who joined to sign this document as "christian" in a general way, inside "Nicene" boundaries we might say. The technical definition of christian isn't the point, it's the call to conviction about three important areas. The "Who's really Christian?" discussion is worthy and will not stop until Jesus returns, but that's not the point of the Declaration. I know some say the cause of the gospel may be hurt by this document because it blurs the necessary doctrinal lines between the three groups represented. I just don't see it that way. I can't see reading this document and saying "Oh look, the Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, and Eastern Orthodox have finally come to an agreement on the gospel and what it means to be Christian". Some are concerned such confusion might happen as a result of the MD, at this point I am not.

In addition to the above critiques, several of the signers offered explanations. Kevin DeYoung's response resonated sharply with me. He captures much of my sentiment concerning signing the document very well. You can read it here.

Here's a meaningful statement in DeYoung's post-

So where do I stand on The Manhattan Declaration? Well, I wish I would have listened to my initial hesitation about signing these sorts of documents. The Declaration does not need my signature to make it significant and I don’t need people to misunderstand what my support means. But having signed it (only as one of the crowd), I still agree with the Declaration and feel no pang of conscience for supporting it. If it comes out that the Declaration was meant to minimize the deepest divisions between Evangelicals and Catholics, then I will regret my support. But as it stands, I agree with Mohler’s reasons for signing the document and share his understanding of what signing does and does not mean.

Before you post any comments, let me try to reiterate my main point. This debate, at least among many of us in the conservative reformed world, is not a debate about whether there are essential core-gospel differences between Catholics and Orthodox on one side (who don’t agree either!) and Evangelicals on the other. So please let’s be careful before we blast each other for selling out the gospel. The debate is about whether The Manhattan Declaration implies that there are no essential core-gospel differences among us. After reading the criticisms that have come out I understand how the Declaration could be seen as minimizing our differences. I have great respect for those who read the document in that way. But I still think the Declaration can be read as a statement that simply says “We all as individuals stand in the tradition of Nicene Christianity and we speak together on these three crucial issues of our day.”

So, my dear Reepicheep readers-the critiques are clear enough, there is no need to hammer this post with comments that repeat their notable arguments. In this light, I'll resist responding to the comments that may come, don't be offended, it's a matter of available time. Frankly, save the "you're selling out the gospel" comments, I'm not posting those. I just ask the reader to appreciate a different angle on why someone like myself might sign such a declaration, whether you agree or not.

Finally, no matter what you make of signing the document, I commend the three different statements concerning the issues of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty to your consideration. I think they offer us a great tool to succinctly argue a biblical case for each of these critical issues.


Rick Calohan said...


I think if you went to Lidia’s of Kansas City, you would re-think your position on northern Italian cuisine which in my (Scotch-Irish Presbyterian grew up on the Italian Northeast Side of Kansas City, Missouri) opinion is superior to peasant southern cuisine of Italy/Sicilia. After all the Waldensians are headquartered where? That’s right Northern Italy in Torre Pellice, Piemonte, Italy.

Hough said...

You lost me at Italian food, now if the issue is Chicken Fajita or Beef Fajita then it all makes since.

Nathan said...

Whereas Kraft Macaroni and Cheese remains the all time best expression of pasta yumminess and
Whereas alfredo is closer in taste and texture to what I know is the best
Therefore I prefer alfredo.

tom kessler said...

Personally, I think Olive Garden has the best Italian food in the world. The option exists for both the Alfredo and Marinara option. Therefore, I have just fixed the feuding between the 2 factions.

Malcolm said...

I don't begin to know enough to argue with these saints. I agree with the Italian analogy. Even an American anology would work. We all don't pronounce pecan the same way but we will all enjoy the pie.

What Paul said: Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love,(AC) knowing that I am put here for(AD) the defense of the gospel. 17The former proclaim Christ(AE) out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

He was for the message being preached regardless of the motive. If the MD makes non believers aware of the issues regardles of whether we can refine the theology down to a gnat's eyebrow, then so be it.

I am not much of an Alfredo fan, but love linquini with clam sauce. What's the geography on that one?

Also, please rebuke Kessler and consider banning him from your blog forever for the Olive Garden reference.

jeff said...

Nathan - Heresy! I call for an exorcism.

Bolognese is where it's at! Or, perhaps, Fra Diavolo.

Woody Woodward said...

I am proud that you represented me in your signing of the MD. No further explanation needed for me to stand with you. Can't wait to hear your careful exegesis next Sunday night. And as for me and my house, "Garozzo's" Rules!

Anonymous said..., somehow I think the point was missed by the writers here (most likely purposely, I hope). While the point and thoughts of this blog's post are understood by me, the signing still resonates as light collaborating with darkness to me (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

On the marinara thing...Is that a picture of marinara on this post? Looks more like a picture of Contadina tomato paste to me (which I've enjoyed). Isn't marinara thinner and chunky?

We get Lidia's Italian-cooking show on one of our local PBS stations. But, she's not set-up shop in our area. I can't watch her show without wanting to jump throught the tv and hoping to get an invite for dinner. After watching the show, I have to have Italian food, even if I have to go out to an Italian market for it.

Olive garden...I only eat there because friends and family like it. One time I got one of their pizzas, and it was wet on the bottom (probably frozen). I've worked at Old Country Buffet, and their food is much better (more from scratch)(though not Italian). OCB doesn't use micowaves, their sheet cakes are baked and iced on site, they use real whipped cream, which I believe they also make there. I used to make, "omelets-to-order," banana splits and OCB's version of Dairy Queen's "Blizzards" right in front of customers,..and I could go on. Besides, Olive Garden doesn't even come close to the taste and consistancy of homemade Italian food made by an Italian mom, made by an Italian gramma, or even made by an Italian grampa.

Maybe the guy who likes Olive Garden should try Lidia's, in Kansas City, as the first writer suggests. Though, the second guy should be ready for a steep price increase from Olive Garden prices.

Todd said...

I like the picture of the deer in your page header. Where did you get it from?

Regarding the topic of the thing that confused me about the MD was the intent of the document. Is it to influence lawmakers? the culture at-large? or is it some sort of line-in-the-sand/quasi-confession to be used in Christian circles (like the Chicago statement). I was wondering how you saw it.

BTW, Old Country Buffet will give you heart disease faster than you can say "mmmmmm, butter".

...mmmmmm, butter....

Rick Calohan said...


I only submit this not to hammer another thesis on the door but to give R.C. Sproul's perspective since his ministry is important to many of our congregation.

Here is a side of R.C. to go with your Marinara.

"The Manhattan Declaration confuses common grace and special grace by combining them. While I would march with the bishop of Rome and an Orthodox prelate to resist the slaughter of innocents in the womb, I could never ground that cobelligerency on the assumption that we share a common faith and a unified understanding of the gospel."

Reepicheep said...

I appreciate Lig Duncan's comments on his signing the Declaration here:

Dr. Duncan is an important and faithful leader in the PCA. I think he gets it right.

Rick Calohan said...

I believe Dr. Duncan’s comments only reflect his office as President of the Alliance and as a co-belligerent singer of MD in one accord with Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy. While sharing information on MD with my friends and family two of my Roman Catholic friends similarly asked, “What’s the big deal about MD, we Roman Catholics are Christians just like you are.” I guess Trent is no longer taught in RCIA classes.

I find it akin to what former President George W. Bush repeatedly stated about Islam. Since his office made him a President of all Americans including Islamic Americans, he was able to say in so many words Islam believes in the same God as Christians.

December 10, 2002
President Bush: Koran is God's word

Islam traces its origins back to God's call on Abraham. And Ramadan commemorates the revelation of God's word in the Holy Koran to the prophet Mohammad

President's Greeting for Ramadan - November 5, 2002
Islam is a peace-loving faith that is practiced by more than one billion people, including millions of American Muslims. These proud citizens contribute to the diversity that makes our country strong, and the United States is grateful for the friendship and support of many Muslim Nations that are vital partners in the global coalition to fight against terrorism.
The Qur'an teaches that Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayer, worship, and contemplation. Muslims observe this month by renewing their dedication to caring for those in need, doing good deeds, and strengthening family and community ties. These actions reflect many of the values that Muslims share with people of other faiths across our Nation and around the world, including courage, compassion, and service.

October 11, 2002
Islam is a faith that brings comfort to people. It inspires them to lead lives based on honesty, and justice, and compassion."
September 10, 2002
Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It's a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It's a faith based upon love, not hate."
November 15, 2001
"The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God, as revealed through The Holy Qur'an. It teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace."
September 28, 2001
[I know] that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.
September 17, 2001
"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."
No wonder we are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan eight years after September 11, 2001, because we do not understand our enemy, because we view them as a people of a peace loving religion.
While we are at it there are many non-believing Christians such as Mormons who are believe in the same core believes exposed in MD, oh wait they don’t believe in the deity of Christ like we do. But is a peaceful religion is it not?

MD like ECT states in so many words we believe in the same Gospel.

I guess should President Obama lose in 2012, we shall be delivered by whom Mitt Romney should he have Chuck Colson as his Vice President, and all these social evils shall come to an end, because mankind and not the Gospel can make a difference.

Reepicheep said...

Bryan Chapell has also given his rationale for signing-

Rick Calohan said...

Thank you for posting Dr. Chappell’s commentary, while I respect Dr. Chappell and those like yourself who signed the document, I still have confusion as to why such a declaration had to be with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox in order to garner any attention.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to label those evangelical Protestants as Papist, or that they betrayed the Gospel or the Reformation, however at least from a Reform Theological standpoint does it not negate “Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda”: The church reformed and always to be reformed?

Because to me MD on the surface makes the Church not only of like minded reformers and evangelical protestant, but also Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. At last check I do not see either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox preaching a similar Gospel.

Did not Paul and yourself preached these same words?

Galatians 1: 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

True or false do Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have/preach/teach the same Gospel as Reformed Protestants?

If you answer true then why does Rome have anathemas towards those outside of Rome? i.e. why until Vatican II those outside of Rome were Heretics & Schismatics only later to be called Separate Brethren?

If you answer false, then one of the groups has to be right and the other wrong?