Dear Guests of IDOTG:
Today’s offering is a reprint of an article I wrote for FrontLine magazine. It appeared in FrontLine’s March/April 2010 edition.
The Manhattan Declaration:
Is This Another Step Toward the Supra-Religion?
Predecessors of the Manhattan Declaration include the following.
*The Moral Majority, founded by Jerry Falwell in 1979. Falwell insisted the leadership include Catholics and Jews.
*Promise Keepers, founded in 1990 by Bill McCartney. Promise #6 raised the greatest concern, “A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.”
*Evangelicals & Catholics Together (ECT) I & II (1994, 1997), both documents authored by Charles Colson and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Commenting on ECT, Timothy George wrote, “There is enough commonality that evangelicals and Catholics with a living faith can recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with a common Lord and common grace that brought them together.”2 The ecumenism that George defines is given momentum and legitimacy when so-called conservative evangelicals affix their names to movements such as ECT and its first cousin, the Manhattan Declaration.
The intent of “conservative” evangelical signatories to the MD may not have been to “concede doctrinal ground,” but the result is tacit recognition of Roman Catholicism as an authentic form of Bible Christianity. Consequently, critical lines of distinction over the Gospel have been blurred. The Gospel has been compromised!
In the past true evangelicals were always great defenders of the Gospel, never selling out to error, no matter what the gains. If these stalwarts of the past were to reappear among us today, they would be appalled at the compromises of many evangelical leaders and teachers.”3Christians do not go to bed one night committed to the Biblical principles of separation from unbelievers and apostate denominations and wake up the next morning ready to embrace them. Over time, through small incremental steps, they move to a different position as, “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). From there it becomes much easier to embrace a full-blown ecumenicism, leading to the coming supra-religion revealed in Revelation 17-18.
What is the Biblical Answer to Ecumenism?
Dr. Roland McCune, in his scholarly assessment of the plight of today’s New Evangelical movement, said,
Alva J. McClain, my mentor in theology in seminary, had it exactly right when he commented on the rapprochement and dialogue with unbelieving scholars taking place in early new evangelicalism: Hobnobbing too closely with the enemy has always cost the cause of Christianity much more that (sic) it ever gained. I understand the desirability of an acquaintance with the program and ideas of our opponents, but we must never for one instant forget that they are deadly enemies with whom there can be neither truce nor compromise.4Our responsibility, according to 2 John 6-11 is to avoid offering so much as a welcome to, to shun showing encouragement toward, and to refrain from entering into any cooperative effort with unbelievers and apostate denominations. Otherwise credibility is given to deadly “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). Evangelical signatories to the Manhattan Declaration entered into a cooperative effort expressly forbidden by - and therefore in disobedience to - the mandates of 2 John 9-11; 2 Cor. 6:14-17; Eph. 5:11.
2 Thess. 3:6-15 tells us to avoid those who do not walk in an orderly way by “working not at all.” If we are to avoid people who simply do not work, we certainly ought to “withdraw” from those who are far more dangerous to the cause of Christ through ecumenical compromise. In Romans 16:17 we are commanded to “mark” and “avoid” those who have adopted a theology and/or taken on practices that are “contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.”
David Beale warned against those who bear the label fundamentalist but whose personal philosophy is essentially New Evangelical. ‘Unlike present-day Fundamentalists, they refuse to regard the militant defense of the faith and the full doctrine and practice of holiness as intrinsically fundamental.’ (In Pursuit of Purity, pp. 261-ff.) In other words, there are fundamentalists who are either becoming or already are New Evangelicals. Some are actually adopting New Evangelical philosophies while still proclaiming that they are not New Evangelicals. The basic problem is this: Many fundamentalists, when speaking of the New Evangelicalism, are referring to the original positions and writings of the early founders of New Evangelicalism such as Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga. They repudiate heartily the thoughts of these earlier leaders, but either in ignorance or willingly they fail to recognize the updated version, the “new” New Evangelicalism. It is always safer to berate the teachings of those historically farther removed than of those who are currently afflicting the church.5Evangelical signatories failed to recognize the MD as the updated “‘new’ New Evangelicalism” and are thereby “afflicting the church.” Sadly, “conservative” evangelical leaders Albert Mohler and J. Ligon Duncan chose to unite forces in the political arena for a common cause with those who deny the Scriptures. Our response to ecumenism and believers who forge ecumenical fellowships must be according to the Biblical mandates.
What is the Biblical Response to Ecumenism?
In an article written in the Spring of 1995 Dr. David Doran rightly observed,
The Fundamentalists’ compelling belief that separation was a thoroughly biblical command, coupled with a deep understanding of the sinister nature of unbelief, led to a militant commitment to separation from those who disobeyed God’s command to break with religious apostates…. It seems to me that those who want to rid contemporary Fundamentalism of its alleged belligerence should watch the pathway carefully. The last group of people to take that path found it to be a winding road which ends up in a theological wasteland.6Fundamentalists are known for and defined by our militancy; it is our heritage. We have been militant in defense of the Scriptures, the gospel in particular and have separated from all those who deny or lend support and/or Christian recognition to those who deny the Scriptures. If we relax our sense of militancy in separation, we lower our God-given defense against the allurement of ecumenism.
The MD has drawn together men who deny and/or disobey the Scriptures. Christians are commanded to “withdraw yourselves from…have no company with” the disobedient. This necessarily includes those “who disobeyed God’s command to break with religious apostates,” who furthermore rejected the admonishment of friends and refusing to repent of their forging ecumenical relationships through the MD. Faithfulness to God begins with fidelity to His Word (Is. 8:20). Biblical mandates are not open to selective interpretation or application.
What is the Application of the Biblical Response to Ecumenism?
What is a practical application of the Biblical response to the current Evangelical ecumenical movement? One application would be to refrain from sharing a platform with, endorsing, or attending the conferences, coalitions, and fellowships sponsored by conservative Evangelicals who have made the decision for ecumenical relationships with unbelievers and apostate denominations. Attending and encouraging others to sit under the platform teaching ministry of known ecumenicists, Al Mohler and J. Ligon Duncan, signals tacit endorsement of their ecumenism. While that may not be intended it is, however, the result. Fundamentalist pastors and teachers must determine to set the right example (Phil 3:17) for the next generation. Will tolerating and/or allowing for the trend toward ecumenism among the conservative Evangelicals, which Fundamentalists would never allow for or tolerate in their own ministries, set the best example for the next generation?
Could an ecumenism, which seems so abhorrent and unlikely to Fundamentalists today, ever become a reality for Fundamentalism’s next generation? It can if Fundamentalists in this generation relax and lose their sense of militancy.
1 Timothy George, From the Dean, Beeson Divinity School official website, Dec. 4, 2009.
2 Timothy George, cited in, Not All Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Christianity Today, on line article Oct. 29, 2009.
3 Dr. Peter Masters, Stand for Truth, p. 4, (formerly Separation & Obedience, 1996) Sword & Trowel, 2009.
4 Dr. Rolland McCune, Excerpt from A. McClain - Is Theology Changing in the Evangelical Camp? The Brethren Missionary Herald - Feb. 23, 1957; Promises Unfulfilled, p. 69. Emphasis added.
5 Dr. Ernest Pickering, The Tragedy of Compromise, p. 159.
6 Dr. David Doran, In Defense of Militancy, Sentinel 11:2 Spring, 1995.
Used by permission from FrontLine Magazine, March/April 2010. FrontLine is the official magazine of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.
Site Publisher’s Addendum:
In the current edition of FrontLine magazine you will find an article by Dr. Fred Moritz under the title A Certain Sound. The following excerpt appears under the subheading Conservative Evangelicals.
When men who believe, affirm, preach and unite to defend the gospel sign a declaration that proclaims Catholics and Orthodox as “Christians,” they betray the very gospel they affirm and they negate the good they are trying to accomplish. This kind of action is no different than the compromise we witnessed in the New Evangelical movement forty years ago.For Related Reading See:
Dr. Al Mohler serves as president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. We applaud his accomplishments of ridding Southern Seminary of theological liberalism. Yet Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration, chaired a Billy Graham crusade in his city, cooperated with theological liberals I that effort, and he honored one of his liberal predecessors, Duke McCall, by naming a new building after him. Obedience to Scripture on one hand and disobedience on the other sends an “uncertain sound.” (bold added)
Al Mohler Signs the Manhattan Declaration: Is This a Clear Case for “Gospel-Driven Separation?”
Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration, Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?
Kevin Bauder Discusses Al Mohler’s “Occasional Inconsistency?”
A Pure Church or a Pure Gospel: Does It Really Matter?