Previous article in this series: September 1, 2010, p. 461.
As we pointed out in our previous article, although a good number of evangelical notables affixed their signatures to the Manhattan Declaration, expressing their solidarity with Roman Catholic clergy and all other citizens of goodwill who oppose the various anti-Christian evils being sanctioned in our day, a number of their colleagues (Dr. John MacArthur being one such representative) refused.
As MacArthur and others pointed out, by signing the Declaration evangelicals granted Rome and the Eastern Orthodox the right of claim to being valid representatives of the apostolic gospel and biblical tradition.
As we concluded last time, as serious as MacArthur’s and others’ criticism of the document was (and in our judgment, valid), the problems with the document go even deeper. This has been pointed out by a certain Richard Bennett in an article entitled “The Roman Catholic Agenda Embedded in the Manhattan Declaration.”
Bennett’s name is not unknown to the SB. We had occasion to quote him in a previous series of editorials dealing with Rome and evangelicals coming together (cf. SB, Nov. 15, 2008, p. 77ff.). Bennett, a former Romish priest who was converted from Catholicism in the 1980s, knows the mind and craftiness of Rome like few others. In a masterful exposÃ© of the Declaration, which he calls a most “cunning document,” Bennett lays bare how the whole document is governed by Romish terminology throughout and is one more step in Rome’s on-going strategy to bring her “separated (protestant) brothers” back into her fold—the “One Ring to rule them all” mentality. Bennett points out that the carefully chosen vocabulary in crucial sections of the document demonstrates that all the concessions have been made to Rome once again.
That is why the document, when describing the gospel that the signatories hold in common, describes it as “the gospel of costly grace,” rather than as “the gospel of salvation by grace and grace alone (sola gratia).” That is why it talks of a “speaking to and from ourcommunities“— because Rome refuses to acknowledge Protestant congregations as churches. There is but one institute holding that apostolic right according to Rome, namely, herself, the one true church.
The same goes for the recurring phrase “justice, human rights, and the common good,” a phrase used to express the social ideal to which all the signatories were committed. As Bennett points out, whatever the evangelicals might like those words to mean, these “are all buzz words for Roman Catholic far left doctrine as spelled out in the ‘Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the [Roman Catholic] Church.'”
That it is a commitment to the social issues of our day rather than to the authority of Scriptures that serves as the basis for the alliance forged must not be overlooked. Bennett reminds us that, back in 1970 (Vatican Council II), the Romish prelacy devised strategy to reach out and draw all of Christendom back to its bosom and under its authority again. When opportunity for ecumenical dialogue arose, Rome instructed its representatives to focus on the social issues of the day, because the ensuing ecumenical dialogue
…is not an end in itself…. Rather… it serves to transform modes of thought and behavior of those communities [non-Catholic churches]. In this way, it [ecumenical dialogue] aims at preparing the way of their unity of faith in the bosom of a Church one and visible: thus ‘little by little’…as obstacles to perfect ecclesial communion are overcome… all Christians will be gathered… into the unity of the one and Only Church again.
Talk about craftiness and laying open the heart of Rome. There it is. How men like J.I. Packer and Dr. Mohler can make common cause with Rome, while being fully aware of the above strategy of Rome, is troubling indeed.
And all of this in the context of the Declaration’s opening words.
Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.
Rome is to be numbered with the faithful who have a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word?
Why then the Reformation?
Yet, such those evangelicals who signed the document conceded at the very outset.
Rome must be smiling ear to ear.
And then to speak of a 2,000-year history of “seeking justice in our society [and] resisting tyranny.”
This in the teeth of “…the six hundred year reign of terror by the Roman Catholic Papacy enforced by its murderous Inquisition”? To use Bennett’s term, an irresponsible “whitewashing” of Rome’s history.
And add to that the “ethnic cleansing” of the Bible-confessing Albigenses in A.D. 1203, the slaughter of the Waldensians in the 1600s, and the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre leading to the slaughter of some 70,000 Huguenots in France, to name but some of the blood on Rome’s hands!
In light of the above, as Bennett bluntly puts it,
For Catholics, including Robert George [one of the three coauthors of the Declaration—KK], to claim a 2,000-year tradition of “seeking justice in our societies, [and] resisting tyranny” is simply a blatant lie.
But Bennett’s strongest reproofs are for evangelicals who cooperated with Roman Catholics in settling on such wording.
It is an outrage and utter disgrace that Timothy George (the evangelical co-author—KK), in particular, and Robert George, an educated man, allowed such whitewashing of the Roman Catholic Church- State’s bloody history be touted here.
By implication the same reproof must be aimed at all those leading lights who claim a Protestant and even Calvinistic background, and yet have affixed their signatures to the document.
Bitter fruit for the members of those churches who follow their leaders down this road is sure to ensue.
It did in the days of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, who thought he needed Ahab and apostate Israel for safety against Judah’s enemies. The fruit of that misbegotten alliance? The armies of Judah and Israel were defeated and scattered across the hills like sheep without a shepherd (as the prophet Micaiah foresaw). And do not forget Athaliah, who was brought into Jehoshaphat’s (and David’s) house to seal the newfound spirit of cooperation between spiritually weak Judah and thoroughly apostate Israel, leading to a royal line being nearly exterminated by that she-devil as a consequence and as the judgment of God.
And then there is Abraham Kuyper, who thought he needed Rome’s Catholics to further a Reformed political agenda in a Netherlands increasingly hostile to all things biblical in his day. No, he did not compose a document in concert with Roman Catholics that was quite so blatant as the Manhattan Declaration, acknowledging Rome and her ‘gospel’ as a valid brand of Christianity. But over a six-year period he did write a series of editorials in his denomination’s magazine to justify this necessary and proper alliance between Calvinists and Catholics to meet the social and political exigencies of his day, which articles were collected and published as a book entitled Gemeene Gratie.
What we find noteworthy is that Charles Colson, one of the three coauthors of the Declaration, makes regular references in his writings to that “great Calvinist theologian” Dr. Abraham Kuyper, but in almost every instance it is to the Kuyper of common grace in order to encourage Christians of a Calvinistic background to join with those of other faiths in political activism in seeking to stem the tide of state-approved lawlessness and in the interest of redeeming culture and society for Christ.
That is precisely the danger of a theology that in the end is dominated by this Gemeene Gratie. It posits the possibility of ‘redeeming’ for Christ our corrupted, anti-Christian society by political activism, a redemption, mind you, without having hearts addressed and changed by the gospel and its truths.
As if such a thing were possible.
But, more importantly, where such a spirit prevails one may be sure that in time it will be the gospel itself that will be compromised and betrayed.
Because in such a climate, if one were to maintain the gospel with all its distinctives, those others whom you want (think you need) on your side will be offended! And then where will one’s cause end up?
The sad reality is that from Gemeene Gratie to theManhattan Declaration is not that big a jump.
Be that as it may, in both abovementioned instances, namely, of Jehoshaphat and of Abraham Kuyper, however well-meaning they may have been, the ‘wisdom’ that prevailed was, safety in numbers at the expense of doctrinal integrity.
Now the question, did either attain for Christ’s church and righteous cause the desired end?
For God’s kingdom victory, seeking safety in numbers at the expense of doctrinal integrity never works. Church history has proved that again and again. When will Christian men ever learn!
Lest we be misunderstood, let us make clear what we are not saying by our criticism of the Manhattan Declaration and its signatories. We are not promoting world flight and isolation from society, politics, and life itself, though that charge is likely to be leveled at us.
We do not teach that believers are to be passive and silent when it comes to laws that sanction the wickedness of abortion and homosexual lifestyles, laws that in time will even forbid the church from publicly calling such activities sin and denying us the right to call to repentance those who practice such things lest they fall under the judgments of God both in this life and the wrath to come.
It is John the Baptist who is to be our model in Christian political activism (not Martin Luther King, who is cited by the Declaration as being the sterling example for twentieth-first century Christians and the religious conscience). John the Baptist, that man of God, boldly addressed none other than King Herod for marital unfaithfulness, the sin of taking another man’s wife, and suffered imprisonment and death as result.
John the Baptist was certainly interested in the sanctity of marriage, and in calling the attention of the magistrate to its importance.
And that, of course, raises a whole new issue, namely, until the leaders of and spokesmen for the Christian faith clean up the unbiblically-allowed divorce and remarriage mess in their own churches (reaching scandalous proportions amongst professing Christians, as ungodly society itself well knows) what weight can their charge that the State is threatening the sanctity of marriage carry?
Because modern-day Christendom has basically adopted the ‘nofault divorce’ policy of our adulterous society (not that of God’s Word by any stretch of the imagination), evangelical leaders are in the unhappy position of giving criticized politicians occasion to respond, “Before you instruct us to clean up our house, perhaps you should tend to your own!”
And not without reason.
Be that as it may, we do not discourage speaking against various social evils. It is to be known where we stand. It is to be declared from pulpits and taught in the schoolrooms. And one is free to write one’s representative and to sign petitions to place propositions on the voting ballots that seek to outlaw legalizing wickedness of various sorts.
Nor are we opposed to the church, as an institute, represented by its broader assemblies, addressing magistrates on both the state and national levels when legislation is being proposed that is certain to have adverse effects upon the life of believers and our liberties in this country. The PRC did that back in the 1940s. Our synod addressed a petition to the President himself in connection with legislation that favored closed (union) shops, as well as legislation that proposed that factories require their employees to work on Sunday in the interest of greater productivity for the war effort (cf. SB, vol. 17, August issue, p. 460 for the letter).
Today what is at stake for the believer is even more far-reaching, laws that threaten the very freedom of the practice of biblical religion itself.
We too are convinced that truehearted Christians are called to declare to the powers that be that “…we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in [matters that are condemned by the Word of God]” (cf. conclusion of theManhattan Declaration). With the apostles we publicly declare, “We will obey God rather than men, and we will not cease to speak in that one, only name by which men must be saved” (cf. Acts 5:29).
The question is not whether believers ought in the name of the Lord Christ to testify against the legalization of the abominations of our day. The question is, with whom will the Reformed believer identify himself, and with whom will he make common cause in the name of Christ? And will the primacy and purity of the apostolic gospel be maintained or compromised?
What is God’s Word to beleaguered believers? “Not by might, nor by power, but by [what is produced by] my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
How difficult it is actually to believe that, when the hideous strength of the Adversary is gaining the advantage on every hand.
But such is the test that faces every true-hearted believer who is committed to living by faith in these last days.
As we have stated previously, all the ecclesiastical tributaries these days are heading back to the Romish See. Due to the overwhelming evils being loosed on society today and the powers that would impose them, that current is proving hard to resist.
The Manhattan Declaration is one more proof that this is so.