The Quest

Further Follow-up on Manhattan Declaration

We’ve had a lot of discussion on the Manhattan Declaration. Here’s another follow-up with a helpful discussion guide put together by John Greening, who has been mentoring younger pastors. You might want to check into that. :)

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

Drafted Oct. 20, 2009
Released Nov. 20, 2009

Preamble 2; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible.4

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes—from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace,6 the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.


We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians,8 to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person.10 including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion12 and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.14 to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.16 both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.


So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro- abortion ideology prevails today in our government. Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense. Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views. The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible some limited restrictions on abortion. The President says that he wants to reduce the “need” for abortion—a commendable goal. But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors. The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth.18 described as “the culture of death.” We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable. As predicted by many prescient persons,20 that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion. We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children. Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.22 will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination. The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves24

Our concern is not confined to our own nation. Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and “ethnic cleansing,” the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS26 for all humans in all circumstances.


The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23–2428 that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society. Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits—the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where30

We32 Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce34 we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is,36 as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. 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 procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards38 and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to “a more excellent way.” As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage.40 and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit. This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being. Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies. The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual— on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense,42 as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being “married.” It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No. The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized. Second, the rights of parents44 the last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is.

And so it is out of love (not “animus”) and prudent concern for the common good (not “prejudice”), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage46 What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for48 view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded. Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one’s own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of [Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America]. Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority.50

Drafting Committee

Robert George
Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Timothy George
Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Chuck Colson
Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, VA)

Commentary by John Greening

  1. The possibility exists to use this document as a learning exercise. Design a learning environment in which there can be interactive communication. Give each person a copy of the document in advance. Ask the group members to read the document and write comments in the margin. Lead the class in guided discussion, carefully steering the group toward wise assessment. The objective with this learning exercise is to 1) teach the skills of careful theological and praxis of discernment and 2) ground the church theologically.
  2. Teach the Biblical concept and Baptist distinctive of the separation of church and state.
  3. It is imperative that the gospel be fully defined. It is important to note that some who originated this document would define the gospel differently than our definition. This is a major flaw in this declaration.
  4. These are strange bedfellows. What are the Biblical guidelines for forming relationships? See the originators of this declaration at the end of the document. This is an opportunity to teach Biblical separation.
  5. It is important to teach a Biblical epistemology. Is this statement proposing a three-pronged approach to determining truth? What is the role of Biblical authority in determining truth? Emphasize sola scriptura.
  6. What are the instruments of coercion? This is an opportunity to reinforce the Baptist distinctive of individual soul liberty.
  7. Are there affirmations that must be made prior to these? The gospel must always be seen as a prelude to righteous living.
  8. Consider this idea that surfaces in Acts and 1 Peter.
  9. These are legitimate concerns. How should we respond? Are there alternative ways to make our convictions known apart from signing this document?
  10. It may be necessary to explain some of the language and the ideas in this paragraph.
  11. Take the opportunity to explain what we have done in our circles; e.g. Baptist Children’s Home, Baptists for Life.
  12. How will a church deal with premarital pregnancy?
  13. What role does the government play? What role does the church play?
  14. Note the clear usage of a Scriptural foundation.
  15. There are many vivid illustrations of society’s ills in this paragraph.
  16. Mention the failure of the Catholic Church in child sex abuse.
  17. How do we teach the subjects of marriage and divorce in our churches? What positions do we hold?
  18. How do the drafters propose doing this? Are these the church’s responsibilities?
  19. What is the meaning of “disposed towards”? How does that tie in with a Biblical theology of sin?
  20. Emphasize the importance of apologetics as a study. How do we express and defend the faith?
  21. Explain this view that some hold. This is an opportunity to reinforce a sound approach to hermeneutics.
  22. How should we equip parents to deal with these matters in the school system? Are we equipping parents to know how to properly and confidently talk to their children about a Biblical view of sexuality?
  23. How is this to be done?
  24. This paragraph does serve to illustrate the action that believers must take when the government inappropriately imposes demands that violate the conscience of believers. A possible learning exercise might be to create case studies to use in asking how your church would respond given the set of circumstances posed.
  25. This is an important paragraph to understand.

4 Responses to “Further Follow-up on Manhattan Declaration”

  1. 7) These are strange bedfellows. What are the Biblical guidelines for forming relationships? See the originators of this declaration at the end of the document. This is an opportunity to teach Biblical separation.

    The Manhattan Declaration is a statement of Christian conscience, a confession of religious conviction supported by followers of Jesus Christ from the Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical families of faith…. It cuts across political as well as denominational lines….” (Timothy George, From the Dean, Beeson Divinity School official website, Dec. 4, 2009)

    Signatories to the MD include nine Roman Catholic archbishops, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, African Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola, R. Albert Mohler president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and J. Ligon Duncan.

    Mohler and Duncan signed this document, which is a blatant act of ecumenism. The Bible forbids this kind of unholy alliance with unbelievers and apostate denominations.

    The true “opportunity to teach Biblical separation” to those who desire to live in fidelity to the Word of God is to obey Him by marking, avoiding (Rom. 16:17) and withdrawing (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) from Mohler and Duncan who have given tacit credibility to the enemies of the cross (Phil. 3:18). The best expression of fidelity would be to refrain from attending or supporting T4G and the Gospel Coalition. Mohler and Duncan sit in leadership of and/or have the platform of the organizations.

    I suspect, however we’ll have some professing biblical separatists ignoring the Lord’s mandates in preference for fellowship they’ll find with the MS signers because they are likeminded on Calvinism.


  2. Josh Gelatt says:

    The more I read this document the more I am impressed with it. Still not sure if I will sign it (honestly, since I support what it says I don’t see the need to…I probably fall more in line with Sproul’s thoughts on this matter), but I fully affirm its moral stance.

    I am amazing how many at my church are asking me about it—since I’ve never mentioned it. From teenagers to little old ladies, congregants are asking great questions and seeing the need to take a biblical stand on these moral issues. I think using it as a teaching tool as John suggest (irregardless if one thinks its appropriate to sign or not) is a great idea (from a practical standpoint, however, I think the document is far too verbose to be of immediate use—I sure wish the MD drafters would have been much more succinct.

  3. Gary L. Kurfman says:

    In all the discussions that have taken place regarding this document and the issues it addresses, here is a short 1.75 page article posted today at the I thought some might find interesting:

  4. Gary L. Kurfman says:

    Maybe this short cut will work. The other one did not seem to come out:

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