December 10, 2009

Al Mohler Signs TMD, Part 3: Tolerance & Compromise Will, in Its Wake, Leave Casualties

In recent years Roman Catholics and evangelicals have made common cause in the political arena, uniting forces in struggles over the abortion issue, homosexuality, etc. These joint efforts have brought together leaders from both sides who had never worked together previously. Personal friendships have been formed, and, as a result, serious doctrinal differences have begun to be down-played. Since there is agreement on some social issues, and since these issues are so important in the life of America today, many leaders on both sides are willing to minimize doctrinal conflicts on the plea that we need to cooperate in ‘saving America’.1
Dear Guests of IDOTG:

The previous two articles in this on-going series dealt with The Manhattan Declaration (TMD) and in particular SBTS president Dr. Al Mohler having affixed his name as an original signatory. The series began with, Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Is This a Clear Case for “Gospel-Driven Separation?” I included this comment,
With Mohler being counted among the star personalities of the so called conservative evangelicals, whom Reformed Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) men have been eager to formalize fellowship with, his signing TMD must surely be problematic. Mohler’s signing The Manhattan Declaration to essentially hold hands with the Roman Catholic Church for social justice irrefutably “compromise(s) the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith.”2
I followed the first article with an expose on the historic pattern of Al Mohler moving in the direction of the ecumenical mindset in Al Mohler Signs TMD: Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism? From that article I documented that,
“Al Mohler endorsed, promoted and served as crusade chairman for the last half century’s high priest of ecumenical evangelism, the Rev. Billy Graham. Ecumenical evangelism may not be Mohler’s personal practice, but through his chairmanship of the crusade he did at the very minimum lend tacit support for and endorsement of Graham’s ecumenical evangelism.”
Commentary from both sides of the debate on TMD has continued at various Christian blogs. I have read many of them and left personal comments at a few. Yesterday, I left a comment at one blog under an article titled, R. C. Sproul Chimes in on the Manhattan Declaration. In the discussion thread I enjoyed a helpful discussion with another gentleman.

Earlier this week I was not particularly motivated to contribute any new articles toward the on-going controversy, but overnight I became motivated once more. For the balance of this article I am going to revise and significantly expand upon the comment I left under the blog article I referenced above.

In The Manhattan Declaration: Why Didn’t You Sign IT, RC; Sproul wrote,
Without question, biblical truth must be proclaimed and the gospel preached prophetically to our nation. But how could I sign something that confuses the gospel and obscures the very definition of who is and who is not a Christian? I have made this point again and again since the days of ECT. Though the framers of the Manhattan Declaration declaim any connection to ECT, it appears to me that the Manhattan Declaration is inescapably linked to that initiative, which I have strenuously resisted. More than that, this new document practically assumes the victory of ECT in using the term ‘the gospel’ in reference to that which Roman Catholics are said to ‘proclaim’ (Phil. 1:27).”3 (bold added)
I appreciate that excerpt from Sproul. He is correct in stating that TMD by virtue of its ecumenical nature “confuses the gospel” and that is a very serious matter. It has been my opinion that the Manhattan Declaration is a thinly veiled first cousin of Evangelicals & Catholics Together (E&CT). TMD was crafted to in part revitalize the raw ecumenism of E&CT under more subtle terms.

The Manhattan Declaration is a Trojan horse for full-blown ecumenism.

No man who believes in the biblical mandates for separation from denominations that propagate a false gospel, such as the Roman Catholic Church, should have signed on to TMD. Sproul followed his prior statement above with this commentary toward the men who did sign the TMD.
I think my friends were misled and that they made a mistake, and I want to carefully assert that I have spoken with some of them personally about their error and have expressed my hope that they will remove their signatures from this document. Nevertheless, I remain in fellowship with them at this time and believe they are men of integrity who affirm the biblical gospel and the biblical doctrines articulated in the Protestant Reformation.4
Men should obey the biblical mandates to “admonish” (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) brethren who did sign on to the TMD, which Sproul did. I am grateful for a few others who have. If TMD signers like Al Mohler refuse correction then believers have one option if they are going to obey the Scriptures, “withdraw” from him (them). Clearly Mohler, J. I. Packer, J. Ligon Duncan, et. al. will not “remove their signatures from this document.” Sproul is unwilling to make the necessary application of the biblical mandates that are irrefutably warranted. In his series on Gospel-Driven Separation Dr. Dave Doran wrote,
For the sake of the clarity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who compromise the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith (Rom 16:17 ; Phil 3:17-19 ; cf. 2 Thess 3:6-15 )… We cannot extend Christian fellowship to those who deny fundamental doctrines of the Faith. We cannot ignore the disobedience of those who do so. We cannot blur the line between the church and the world.”5
There are men in Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) circles who publicly affirm their fidelity to the biblical principles of Gospel-Driven Separation, including from brethren (2 Thess. 3:6-15; Rom 16:17). Like Sproul, however, they will tolerate a pattern of disconcerting actions of men like Mohler for the sake of fellowship with them.

Where does the Christian’s FIRST LOYALTY belong; to the Word of God or to his friends and their fellowships?

The direction and object of that loyalty is becoming increasingly muddled in this present day.

One can only imagine the outcry from IFB men who profess fidelity to biblical separatism if a Fundamentalist college president had signed the Manhattan Declaration, accepted the Charismatic sign-gifts as active for the church today or served in an official capacity for a Billy Graham crusade. We are witnessing a consistent pattern among some of our Reformed IFB men to tolerate, give benefit of the doubt and/or excuse things in the ministries of the “conservative” evangelicals that they (IFB men) would never allow for, tolerate or excuse in their own ministry or in a fellow IFB’s ministry.

I appreciate a clear stand for a balanced biblical separatism, which is a hallmark of Fundamentalism. The problem, however, is that when circumstances warrant, such as the signing of TMD, some men are highly reluctant to openly “admonish” and/or will not “withdraw” from the evangelicals who do these things.

Reformed IFB men have been and will in greater numbers continue attending the evangelical sponsored conferences. They will happily sit under the preaching/teaching ministries of Al Mohler, John Piper and C. J. Mahaney. IMO the glue that holds that desire for fellowship together, in spite of the obvious reasons to avoid certain conservative evangelicals, is their “mutual affinity for Calvinism.”6 They want the fellowship around Calvinism and will tolerate the obvious problems among the conservative evangelical Calvinists to have that fellowship.
There has been a steady increase of interest among Reformed IFB men with the evangelicals such as Mark Dever, Al Mohler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, et. al. Men in IFB circles have disagreed over Calvinism yet have shared fellowship in most cases. I cannot, however, recall a time when our separatist IFB brethren have been so willing to embrace evangelicals who demonstrate such obvious compromise.
The growing contemporary convergence of fundamentalists with evangelicals is a powerful force right now. Regrettably, it is growing into a force that is beginning to cause compromises that will eventually leave many without anchor, discernment or purity. This compromise will, in its wake, leave casualties.7


Please continue to the attached discussion thread for additional commentary.

With every step of compromise then next step becomes easier. See- Your First Step Won’t Be Your Last

1) Dr. Ernest Pickering:
Holding Hands with the Pope: The Current Ecumenical Evangelical Craze This excerpt, which was in response to Chuck Colson’s Evangelicals and Catholics Together (E&CT), is just as applicable to The Manhattan Declaration as it was in 1994 to E&CT.

2) Dr. Dave Doran:
Starting at the Right Spot, Part 1 from his Gospel-Driven Separation series.

The Manhattan Declaration: Why Didn’t You Sign It, RC?

4) Ibid.

5) Dr. Dave Doran:
Starting at the Right Spot, Part 1.

6) While this may not be a universal sentiment it is wide spread and has been confirmed to me personally by men who are among those in that movement toward
conservative evangelicalism.

7) Revised content from personal e-mail correspondence.

Please continue in this series with: Are We Recognizing the “New” New Evangelicalism?


  1. We are witnessing an on-going proclivity among some IFB men to give the conservative evangelicals the benefit of the doubt, if not an outright pass, for almost every indiscretion among them.

    *John Piper hosting a RAP artist in his church and his affinity for the Toronto Blessing.
    *John MacArthur’s Resolved (Youth) Conference that features the Rock music genre.
    *C. J. Mahaney and Piper’s promotion of the Charismatic sign gifts.
    *Mark Driscoll for his numerous disturbing actions, including speaking at Robert Schuler’s Crystal Cathedral.
    *Mohler sitting as chair for the Billy Graham crusade, honoring a rank liberal (Duke McCall) and signing the Manhattan Declaration.

    Mohler signing the MD gave, as Dave Doran noted at his blog today, “Christian recognition to people without a credible profession of the gospel.” To pass these actions (by Mohler in particular) off as merely “bad judgment is to ignore and sidestep the obvious “biblical obligations” toward what has been done by these men.

    When are men who claim to be biblical separatists going to give the Lord and His Word first benefit of the doubt instead of the conservative evangelicals who do these things and show no sign of retreating from doing those things?

    These things with the conservative evangelicals are not grey areas. We must arrive at our response to the actions of men like Al Mohler from the starting point of what does the Bible mandate for me, not what is in the best interest of keeping my friends and/or fellowships.


  2. Dear Guests:

    Tomorrow morning I am posting the next in this on-going series. The title is,

    Are We Recognizing the “New” New Evangelicalism?

    Yours in Him,


  3. Well said, Lou.

    This is one of the most concise and Biblical takes on TMD that I've read thus far.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

    In Him