Marriage, Manhattan Declaration, and Misguided Critique

I had the great pleasure this past weekend of participating in the Big Sky Worldview Forum, where the keynote speaker was Eric Teetsel, Executive Director of the Manhattan Declaration.

Eric is a highly impressive, articulate, and winsome spokesman for the public, social goods of life, marriage, and religious liberty. Hiring Eric to take over this aspect of his ministry was one of the last executive decisions Chuck Colson ever made, and it seems to me it was an unquestionably wise one. It was a pleasure getting acquainted with Eric, and I want to encourage you to familiarize yourself with him and his work. The first thing to do is go to the Manhattan Declaration, read it, and, if you are so led, sign it.

The Manhattan Declaration is a "Here we stand!" kind of document. A manifesto that Christians of all stripes, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox can rally around concerning the three issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty. It was authored by Colson, Princeton professor Robert George, and Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, and is outstanding in its articulation of what Christians ought to believe on these matters. The purpose of the document is not to paper over the doctrinal differences among these communions. The purpose is to join together on issues of common agreement despite other differences. If we cannot come together to actually say we agree on things we actually agree on, I would say Jesus' words on the unity of the church (John 17) stands in judgment over us in a frightening way. Nobody is asking anyone to lie or compromise their convictions on issues of doctrinal divergence; if you cannot bring yourself to say you agree where you actually do, you're just being belligerent for the sake of being belligerent.

But belligerence is hard to eradicate in some sectors of evangelicalism. John MacArthur condemned the Manhattan Declaration early on, indicating an unwillingness to entertain any agreement with Roman Catholicism, apparently, on any topic. And he's still keeping it up, this week using the retirement of Benedict XVI to pen a vicious attack on Rome. He calls the attack a "timely" critique of Rome. I think there is nothing "timely" about it. As if there is nothing, nothing at all, to appreciate about Joseph Ratzinger? Manhattan Declaration co-author Timothy George, a Southern Baptist, by way of contrast, wrote a very nice article accentuating, shall we say, the positive.

Way back when MacArthur was originally trashing the Manhattan Declaration, my colleague Andrew Sandlin wrote a compelling theological response. You can read it here. And I think it applies equally well to MacArthur's latest screed.

But back to our forum this weekend. It was a surprise and delight that one of our local news stations, KTVQ, made an appearance and wanted to interview several of us. The story features my pastor, Dr. Alfred Poirier, Eric Teetsel, yours truly, and Jeff Laszloffy, Director of the Montana Family Foundation. You can view it here.

Brian Mattson