The Manhattan Declaration-A Call to Conscience or Compromise?

By on 11-29-2012 in Politics, Theology

The Manhattan Declaration-A Call to Conscience or Compromise?

The Manhattan Declaration is a formal “call to arms” to all Christians asking us to engage in the major issues that are shaping our modern society. Following is the summary of this declaration.

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

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. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Human Life

The lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are ever more threatened. While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Although the protection of the weak and vulnerable is the first obligation of government, the power of government is today often enlisted in the cause of promoting what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” We pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.

Marriage

The institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted. Marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. Where marriage erodes, social pathologies rise. The impulse to redefine marriage is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil law as well as our religious traditions. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. Marriage is not a “social construction,” but is rather an objective reality—the covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize, honor, and protect.

Religious Liberty

Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized. The threat to these fundamental principles of justice is evident in efforts to weaken or eliminate conscience protections for healthcare institutions and professionals, and in anti- discrimination statutes that are used as weapons to force religious institutions, charities, businesses, and service providers either to accept (and even facilitate) activities and relationships they judge to be immoral, or go out of business. Attacks on religious liberty are dire threats not only to individuals, but also to the institutions of civil society including families, charities, and religious communities. The health and well-being of such institutions provide an indispensable buffer against the overweening power of government and is essential to the flourishing of every other institution—including government itself—on which society depends.

Unjust Laws

As Christians, we believe in law and we respect the authority of earthly rulers. We count it as a special privilege to live in a democratic society where the moral claims of the law on us are even stronger in virtue of the rights of all citizens to participate in the political process. Yet even in a democratic regime, laws can be unjust. And from the beginning, our faith has taught that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust laws or laws that purport to require us to do what is unjust or otherwise immoral. Such laws lack the power to bind in conscience because they can claim no authority beyond that of sheer human will.

Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.

Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.

Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

You can read the entire declaration available for download from their website.

Who Signed It

There are literally hundreds of thousands of signers to this Declaration, but below are a few names I recognized from the main list of supporters.

Randy Alcorn
Founder and Director, Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) (Sandy, OR)
Kay Arthur
CEO and Co-founder, Precept Ministries International (Chattanooga, TN)
Gary Bauer
President, American Values; Chairman, Campaign for Working Families (Washington D.C.)
Ken Boa
President, Reflections Ministries (Atlanta, GA)
Timothy Clinton
President, American Association of Christian Counselors (Forest, VA)
Chuck Colson
Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, VA)
Rev. Daniel Delgado
Board of Directors, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference & Pastor, Third Day Missions Church (Staten Island, NY)
Dr. James Dobson
Founder, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO)
Dinesh D’Souza
Writer & Speaker (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)
Dr. Wayne Grudem
Research Professor of Theological and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary (Phoenix, AZ)
Rev. Ken Hutcherson
Pastor, Antioch Bible Church (Kirkland, WA)
Rev. Tim Keller
Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York, NY)
Dr. Richard Land
President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (Washington, DC)
Josh McDowell
Founder, Josh McDowell Ministries (Plano, TX)
Dr. Tom Oden
Theologian, United Methodist Minister and Professor, Drew University (Madison, NJ)
Marvin Olasky
Editor-in-Chief, World Magazine and provost, The Kings College (New York City, NY)
Dr. J.I. Packer
Board of GovernorsÕ Professor of Theology, Regent College (Canada)
Dr. Ron Sider
Director, Evangelicals for Social Action (Wynnewood, PA)
Joni Eareckson Tada
Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center (Agoura Hills, CA)
Paul Young
COO & Executive VP, Christian Research Institute (Charlotte, NC)
Ravi Zacharias
Founder and Chairman of the board, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Norcross, GA)

Here are my questions:

  • What do you think of this declaration?  Is it a genuine call to engage the Christian conscience or a compromise of our faith?
  • Will you sign the declaration? Why or why not?
  • If you sign it, would you really follow through with the call to civil disobedience and risk imprisonment?

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for other young leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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  • Mark Alan Williams

    I think it is a great call to action. I signed it.

    Signing it only affirmed i would act in a biblical manner–preaching the Word of God without compromise.

    • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

      Hi Mark, but there is a call to civil disobedience in the second to the last paragraph which reads.

      “Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.”

      So would you risk jail if what you preach is found to be “hate speech”?

      • Mark Alan Williams

        Joe–how could I NOT risk jail or whatever for preaching the Word of God? That would be following in the tradition of the early apostles, and many others throughout the ages who said “we must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

        • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

          I am with you brother… I see that time coming, and pray for our brothers and sisters that we remain strong no matter the cost. Bless you!

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