You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me!

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

Recently more than 150 prominent Christian leaders signed The Manhattan Declaration, which, among other things, declared that unborn children should be protected, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman and that religious liberty is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.  You can read it here: http://manhattandeclaration.org/

What is incredible is that it has been under attack, not just by the secular left but by the ultra Reformed like John MacArthur and blogger Tim Challies because they believe it sends the wrong signal for leaders like Tim Keller, Wayne Grudem and Ravi Zacharias to join hands with Catholics and other non-reformed evangelicals.

Are you serious guys? Do you give your neighbors a doctrine test before you barbeque with them lest you should send the wrong signal to other neighbors? Do you only support politicians who are protestant Calvinists?  You’ve got to be kidding me!

Guys, as reformed as I am, actions like your criticisms of the Manhattan Declaration is one of the chief, and legitimate reasons, why most Christians can’t stand Calvinists!

With all due respect, grow up!

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Comments
  1. Garrett Craw says:

    My sentiments exactly.

  2. Matt says:

    Since when did Johnny Mac graduate to “ultra Reformed” status? Must have missed that memo….

  3. Byron Harvey says:

    Pastor Matt,

    I found your site by following a link from Challies, and with all due respect, I don’t find your reasoning vis a vis the barbecue particularly cogent. FYI, I don’t consider myself “Reformed”, per se–so at least some of us pastors who refuse to sign MD are doing so for reasons other than an “ultra-Reformed” perspective.

    I think, with all due respect, that you’ve misread the issue entirely, because you’ve misstated it–and that’s what leads to your faulty barbecue analogy, and your faulty presidential vote analogy as well. Here’s what I believe they’re saying: it’s not that they’d not “join hands” with others–it’s that they cannot do it under the auspices of working together with FELLOW BELIEVERS, when they (and I, of course) fundamentally doubt that assertion.

    That’s why I can have a barbecue with my neighbors without a doctrine test–because I wouldn’t bill it as a “Christians only” barbecue! That’s why I can support politicians who aren’t necessarily even Christians–because nothing whatever in voting for them says, “I am voting for you BECAUSE you are a brother in Christ”. That’s why if this document had not made explicit (and implicit) reference to the gospel, had not referred to all groups by terms like “followers of Christ”, etc., then I could have signed it–and my guess is MacArthur and Challies and others could have signed as well.

    Alistair Begg put it well: “The activity of the Christian as a citizen engaging in co-belligerency over civic and moral issues is not the same as the declaration of Christians mutually recognizing the reality of each other’s faith.” That, Pastor, is the issue here, that and nothing else. My friendly counsel would be that you reconsider your understanding of the entire issue–even if you choose to continue to join a whole host of fine men in supporting it–because right now, it seems clear that you really don’t understand the opposition to it.

    • Revolution says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I think you are overreading the analogy and I know that MacArthur at least would not sign the document with a Catholic or Orthodox believer regardless of what the document stated!

      But, back to your overall point, let’s say that you are…well…you and that one neighbor is Catholic and the other is not a follower of Jesus. You have your Catholic neighbor over for a barbecue for all the neighborhood to see and then you have your secular neighbor over and he asks questions about your faith. He asks, “so, just like Joe the Catholic, you believe that there is one God who is the creator of all that exists, that Jesus is his son and Lord of creation, etc.” And you say, “No! he is not a brother in Christ because…” Your neighbor objects, “You don’t believe he is a true follower of Jesus! But you guys socialize together, root for the same football teams, put the same politicians’ signs in your yards, etc.” You retort in an attempt to clarify the historic disagreements between Catholics and Protestants but your neighbor is simply confused and, in my opinion, he should be.

      However, you show an unbeliever the Manhattan Declaration and do you really think that would lead them to confusion?

      I don’t think so.

      I think all the fuss over the document by fellow Christians simply reminds unbelievers why they don’t go to church!

  4. JGD says:

    Nice post, Matt! I agree – moreso after reading “Why Gov’t Can’t Save You” by MacArthur. Yipes!

    Thought P. Andrew Sandlin’s response was excellent on this topic: Click here for his article.

  5. Byron Harvey says:

    It’s certainly possible that I’m overreading the analogy, I guess, but if so, it’s because it wasn’t clear to me. I don’t know; you could be right about MacArthur; at the same time, it seems clear that Alistair Begg would agree with me and sign under different circumstances–so that’s two out of the three of us! 🙂

    So…what you seem to be saying is that an attempt to speak in clear, precise theological terms, to demonstrate (and it would, of course, be in love!) to an unbeliever the differences between Catholicism and evangelical faith, would be a fruitless attempt because of the possibility of confusion on the part of the unbeliever? Are you saying that it’s not possible for an unbeliever to grasp the distinctions–and that he ought to automatically be confused even though I’d be willing, of course, to take as long as it took to lovingly explain sola fide, etc.? Or are you saying the differences aren’t really that important? I’m just asking to clarify, because your response has me really confused.

    Further, I’m not certain that the key issue here is what an unbeliever might think–and it strikes me as a bit dangerous to determine our theological positions, and which battles we will fight, on the basis of such. That’s of course not to deny the importance of reaching out to unbelievers, but to suggest that you’ve basically defended your point on pragmatic grounds alone. Is there no place for truth here, or does it all come down to pragmatism? Because I truly believe that it is truth that is at stake: nothing more, nothing less. When we jettison truth as our basis, water down the gospel in order to try to not be “confusing”, then it seems we’re on a very slippery slope. Now, if you want to argue that this does not constitute watering down the gospel, that’s an easier position to respect; Al Mohler, whom I greatly respect, has made that argument; I, of course, disagree. I would ask you to consider the “19 Questions for Signers of the Manhattan Declaration” over at http://www.teampyro.blogspot.com; how would you answer them, I would have to ask?

    And if you really believe that unbelievers don’t go to church because there are evangelicals who are willing to take unpopular stances, and not simply rubber stamp everything that comes down the line from groups of “Christian leaders”, well, I guess I’d just vehemently disagree that that is either A.) a real issue, or B.) germane to the topic at hand.

    Good discussion, though, and thanks for the forum. I’m going to read the Sandlin piece suggested above; I have posted on this topic on my blog (www.byron-harvey.com), and I’d invite you to consider posting there.

    • Revolution says:

      The initial reactions to the Manhattan Declaration were based on (1) calling something “Christian that included Catholics” and (2) that it sends the “wrong” message because it dillutes the Gospel, etc.

      I dealt with the latter because, frankly, I find the former so offensive that I thought it best not to touch it.

      I have read Johnson’s questions and, quite frankly, they’re exactly what I expected. I would like to ask them, “is Mother Theresa in heaven?” “how right does our doctrine have to be to be a Christian?” I agree that they have to be right about some things but is the issue of authority a salvation issue?

      As to pragmatic grounds, I do think that non-believers are more confused (or appalled) by our inclination to attack one another than to simply disagree lovingly. I do think that most unbelievers do have a hard time, at least at first, understanding the disagreements.

      Finally, I think non-believers don’t go to church for many reasons but, high among them, is our failure to demonstrate grace to others…as MacArhthur, and many others fail to do miserably!

  6. Byron Harvey says:

    JGD,

    Thanks for posting Sandlin’s thoughtful response. My short response is that for all of the things Sandlin correctly identifies–and there are many; I especially liked his distinction between redemption accomplished and redemption applied–I nonetheless think he misses MacArthur’s central point in objecting, indeed does not seem to address it. While we may all agree on the “redemption accomplished” points, it seems to me that the “redemption applied” issue IS the issue. Put another way, the MD begins with a given that MacArthur, myself, etc., are unwilling to grant: not that Catholics disagree with “redemption accomplished”, the historical work of Christ, but rather that we are truly brothers/sisters in Christ–for this rests upon a correct, and shared, understanding/appropriation of “redemption applied”.

    This would be my point, my ONLY point, by the way; I agree (and I honestly think Sandlin puts words in MacArthur’s mouth) with his points about the breadth of the Lordship of Christ, etc. I simply say, and see MacArthur, Begg, et al, saying, that we cannot speak AS brothers if we are NOT brothers, and if we gloss over the application of redemption–sola fide–then we may have basis for joint action–Begg makes this clear–but not for joint action AS fellow believers, and to suggest otherwise runs the risk of rendering sola fide optional, and thus neutering ultimately the gospel of grace.

    • Revolution says:

      I think it is possible for MacArthur to sign the document and simply state that he disagrees theologically with many of the co-signers but believes it is important to let the current administration know that if the government forces followers of Jesus to participate in or fund abortions, to wed same sex couples or to prevent anyone from sharing their faith that we will engage in civil disobedience. Would that be so hard?

      • JGD says:

        Byron,

        I don’t think the authors and signatories of the MD have glossed over anything. Take the final paragraph of the “Declaration” section:

        “We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences 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. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.”

        They have stated the common ground, acknowledged the “ecclesial differences,” but affirmed – despite those differences – each of their duties to work on these issues that are common to each group represented.

        One of the key mistakes MacArthur makes here is to view this document as a theological document, as the next Apostle’s Creed or something. While grounded in Biblical tradition, it is not a rallying point of doctrine. It’s a recognition of duty stemming from our common theological ancestry in the Judeo-Christian ethic. Each signature will have to determine how his group will so apply the doctrine, but all acknowledge the duty of cultural engagement – one that stems out of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

        But MacArthur’s bigger problem is that to sign this document would undermine 200+ pages of, “Why gov’t can’t save you.” With due respect, Dr. MacArthur, we never thought it would! MacArthur ignores through that entire book our duty to proclaim the supremacy of Christ in all things – including those laws to which we consent to be governed. In fact, I don’t think the word “vote” is mentioned in the entire book.

        So, for him to now acknowledge, “that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” or, as it says in the MD’s final paragraph, “. . .we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions . . .” to comply with unjust laws, would force him to abandon his hyper-Calvinistic approach to dutiful submission to government regardless of its (gov’t) banality. Whatever his statement about “brotherhood,” I think, is an invented excuse to justify his mistaken position.

        At the same time, I would think MacArthur would be pleased with the statement, “It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.” But, if I recall his statement correctly, he does not even give credence to that. Instead, he condemns the MD as being devoid of the gospel entirely – which is supremely odd, given that each section of the document is couched and introduced by Scripture.

        I respect Dr. MacArthur immensely, but he’s not the pope, nor is he God. He’s fallible, a fact he’ll admit readily. On this point, on a Christian’s duty to gov’t, he is incomplete in his doctrine. That incompletion, sadly, makes him wrong.

    • JGD says:

      One other thought, Byron, if the MD signatories could be classified as cousins and not brothers, would it make a difference to you? To MacArthur? After all, it is MacArthur – not the MD – who has deemed the signatories to be members of the immediate families.

      Matt, I guess that makes you the crazy uncle. Fitting.

  7. Byron Harvey says:

    Guys, with all due respect, your comments both seem to make the focus of this John MacArthur and his (alleged) failings. Granted, I guess he’s one of the biggest “names” not to sign (and to verbalize his reasons), but this isn’t about MacArthur, it seems to me. For myself, I’ve never read his “Why Govt. Can’t Save You”, and I’m not even a full-bore Calvinist, much less a “hyper”-one, so to me, his stance isn’t all that relevant.

    JGD, I would use the paragraph you’ve quoted as case in point AGAINST signing; let me illustrate: “We are Christians…our fellow believers…our duty to proclaim the Gospel in its fulness.” Question: do you agree with the “gospel” proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church? Again, of course, as I said yesterday, Sandlin’s delineations I found helpful and clarifying (but I disagree with his conclusion, of course). The “gospel” rightly understood, though, is more than the historical facts upon which we can agree; it also involves the sola fide response, else it’s not “good news” at all, but rather a works-entangled program of partial self-justification. I do not stand shoulder to shoulder with the RCC as “Christians…fellow believers”, sharing a duty to “proclaim the Gospel in its fulness.” How can I claim, as does this paragraph, a kinship in sharing that gospel, if I do not agree with some on what that gospel even is? Can you? How?

    Revolution, it’s not a matter of it being “so hard”; it’s a matter of theological compromise, at least in my mind, I think in Mac’s mind, and in the minds of many. Further, are there not other ways to express that truth? Why is it so critical that he, or I, or anyone else, sign that document if we have every intent–and I’m sure he does, and I do–of living up to the social/political ramifications of it anyway? Does anyone doubt that MacArthur agrees in principle with the basic substance of it, other than the “unequal yoke” that we perceive?

    Rev, I just realized that you wrote a response in between my two posts yesterday; let me respond briefly to it. First, I think that John MacArthur is a fine, though not perfect, purveyor of the message of God’s grace. It is not “grace” to gloss over theological error. It is not “grace” to declare “true”–or “irrelevant”–that which God has declared otherwise in His Word. It seems to me that to suggest that is to render the Reformation a needless little ecclesiastical skirmish, if taken to its logical conclusion.

    Further, your response to the Pyro site isn’t encouraging, IMHO. Is Mother Teresa in heaven? Beats me! But she isn’t there by trusting in a pseudo-gospel that includes one’s works–you’d agree with that, wouldn’t you? Further, your “we have to be right about some things” isn’t particularly encouraging; can you define what we have to be “right about”, in your understanding? I mean, I certainly submit that there are secondary issues tangential to the issue of one’s eternal destiny, but is sola fide one of these? Does not the RCC deny sola fide, in fact anathematize those who proclaim it?

    Finally, is John MacArthur “attacking” fellow believers? Maybe in your mind he is, but I’m sure not, and Alistair Begg sure isn’t, and Tim Challies isn’t, etc. Why do we so easily fall back on the old saw that suggests that honest and substantive disagreement, particularly in the area of doctrinal clarity, constitutes “attack”? Am I not, for instance, treating you with grace in my honest questioning (and refusal to attribute motives, call names, etc.)? Sure, when we don’t show grace, you’re right; it’s a turn-off, but it seems to me that we are too quick to equate “grace” with, I don’t know, warm fuzzy words or something. I love and appreciate those who are willing to wrestle with me over such issues, call out my bad reasoning, stand firm on Scripture, etc. That strikes me as the epitome of grace, and an unwillingness to do those things, to smooth over substantive differences, to not be grace, but rather a poor counterfeit.

    • JGD says:

      Byron,

      I see one significant error: you have assumed that all people who attend the RCC share complete loyalty to RCC doctrine. There is a reason that I am a protestant and not a catholic, reformed and not dispensational, traditional and not pentecostal, but does that mean those who are catholic, dispensational, and/or pentecostal are denied eternity? I can’t judge those hearts, much like you are unable to judge Mother Teresa’s. I do know that many, on that final day, will say, “Lord! Lord!” but Christ will reply, “I never knew you!” Further, I know some of those that I think He would say, “I never knew you” to he might not.

      The point is that these were not denominations – apostate or not – signing the MD they were, in the words of the MD, “we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.” As individuals, though we’d assume they fall in lock-step with their denomination or creed, they may not. I don’t know! So, to that degree a bit of grace on your part is due the men who signed this document. In my mind, if they sign it and are wrong, they are the more to be pitied, for they have acknowledged one thing and believed another.

      But that still misses the point, doesn’t it? This is not a theological creed. It’s a document of recognition of duty stemming from our common theological ancestry in the Judeo-Christian ethic. Granted, that ethic has been, in my mind, misconstrued and misapplied by the RCC and others, but it is no less their common ancestry. And in matters of duty to government, we share common obligations. The same in matters of religious conscience. Both of which are the common ground upon which the signatories sign the MD.

  8. Byron Harvey says:

    Cousins? That’s a good one, dude. I’ll search the Scriptures for that designation among Christians. I mean, Paul was a “father” to the churches, and we’re “brothers and sisters”, but I’m gonna have to really look hard for “cousins”… 🙂

  9. Byron Harvey says:

    JGD,

    If I were making that assumption, I’d agree with you, but I’m not making it–at least, I don’t mean to be. I can easily clarify: when I speak of the Roman Catholic Church, I’m speaking, of course, in shorthand; just as it’d be silly and wrong to assume that all who call themselves “evangelicals” are bound for glory, so it’d be wrong to assume the opposite of all who are part of the RCC. Anything I suggested to the contrary–not that I meant to–is, of course, wrong.

    What I speak of is the fact that the RCC–and assumedly, those who are content to not only live under its banner, but who in this case, even as individuals, are individuals recognized as leaders by the RCC–espouse(s) false, damnable doctrine as regards salvation, by mixing in works. Sure, any number of the RCC signatories might themselves be saved by grace, apart from works–but since this is not the position of the RCC, the reasonable first question to ask any such person is, “why would you remain in a church that gets it wrong in such a fundamental way”? This isn’t a squabble over the mode of baptism or free will/God’s sovereignty; this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how one is made right with God, how one comes into the Kingdom, how one becomes His child eternally. This is an issue that is life/death, heaven/hell. Get it wrong on infant baptism, and you’ve got wet babies; get it wrong on salvation, and there’s hell to pay. If you know Christ by faith alone, get out of the Roman Catholic Church. Over and out. Don’t stay in it, be party to teaching false doctrine, sign the MD, and wonder why some of us blanch at joining you!

    So while I have no problem whatsoever accepting as a brother/sister in Christ anyone and everyone who has by sola fide accepted God’s gracious gift of eternal life in Christ, regardless of their denomination, and while I share no eternal bond with those apart from Christ, regardless of theirs, it is (as the beginning of MD states clearly) AS Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox (speaking “from their communities”, as you noted) that these signatories come, claiming not to make a theological statement (I agree), but claiming to be brothers and sisters about the same mission of sharing the gospel. To agree with this–that Orthodox and RCC folk constitute brothers and sisters in Christ AS Catholics and Orthodox in good standing, as the document is surely meant to suggest–is a bridge many of us cannot cross.

  10. Byron Harvey says:

    Or, I guess, DRY babies…don’t mean to offend any paedo-baptists out there…

    • JGD says:

      Ok, let’s try this.

      Yours (and MacArthur’s, et al) big argument against the MD is that it requires you to compromise the gospel by partnering – as brothers – with certain religious movements you (or at least MacArthur) deem “apostate.”

      Let me grant you that position for the moment and ask this question: Would you sign the same document if the only signatories allowed were those completely and entirely committed to sola fide salvation as you describe it above? Would MacArthur? Begg?

      Taking it a step further, why is it that this issue arises only in the world of politics? Would you partner with the Red Cross – a secular organization – to minister to the poor? Would you partner with the RCC’s disaster relief organization to minister to orphans? If you would, is this not a compromise of the gospel? Why would you allow yourself to compromise the gospel by partnering – as brothers – with such “apostate” denominations in the name of Truth?

      If you were a banker, do you only do business with only other Christian lenders? If an attorney, do you only contract with Christian clients? Where does your position end and why?

      It seems that MacArthur, and to a lesser extent you, are taking a dogmatic approach that sounds great, but is hollow in application. You’ve slimmed our dual citizenship to one of heavenly citizenship only – bringing to mind the famous adage, “you may be so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good!”

  11. Byron Harvey says:

    Thanks, JGD, but my concern is that most often, I’m personally so earthly minded that I’m of little heavenly good. Would you agree that that’s a bigger concern for most of us than the other way around? Just an observation…

    OK, to answer your question as briefly as possible: would I sign the document if there were some mechanism for ensuring agreement on the gospel (that’d be my way of putting it)? Absolutely, without a qualm. I’m sure Begg feels the same way; he attended the drafting meetings, undoubtedly willing to consider signing. I feel certain MacArthur would as well, though he’d have to answer for himself.

    As to the Red Cross and RCC disaster relief, couple of thoughts: one, the two are not alike. The Red Cross is not propagating a particular understanding of the gospel; they are simply doing relief work. Would I “partner with them”? Have to see the circumstances and the definition of “partner”–i.e., would what they’re doing be consonant with the purpose of the church. I can envision a scenario when it might, I suppose; at any rate, I would not have the same objection, and wouldn’t at any rate view working with the Red Cross as partnering with “brothers”, per se, given that their mission and makeup make no such claims as being Christian.

    It would honestly be a tougher call with respect to the RCC’s disaster relief work, and would certainly involve a deeper understanding of the circumstances, and again, what you mean by “partner”. I realize this sounds like I’m making things difficult, maybe even evading the question, but I promise you that’s not the case. My inclination is to say that I’d not partner with RCC to minister to orphans, that if our church decided to do such, I’d seek out an evangelical agency with which to partner.

    I do not inquire as to the spiritual status of bankers, attorneys, etc. The answer is simple to me: I’m not undertaking anything with my banker that presents to others the idea that we are laboring together as brothers in Christ set on the same mission.

    I’m not sure how to say it any simpler: the issue, the only issue for me, is that I can’t sign off on something that says, of people who I don’t believe to be brothers (again, with my caveat above), that we ARE brothers in Christ, that we are on the same mission of spreading the gospel when we are not, because even though the statement is not a statement of theology, per se, it is predicated upon those understandings.

    By the way, I did answer to your satisfaction the “one significant error” you saw earlier, didn’t I? Shouldn’t that mean that there are no more errors left, or if so, they’re very, very tiny? 🙂

  12. JGD says:

    I’m an attorney. I reserve the right to find more errors as arguments unwind. 🙂

    I appreciate this answer. One thought on the answer for attorneys, bankers, etc. – what if your church spawned a spin off ministry to orphans, would you only consider a Christian attorney? Why?

    You’re being consistent with your argument and, I think, it’s making difficult to live out, as I predicted (you might disagree).

    As for Begg, I think you’re right – and to that extent, I’d admonish him to organize a “MD take 2” with JUST protestant evangelicals. The more the merrier! Heck, I’d even be cool if 100 muslim clerics got together to do the same thing with other muslim clerics (not that I think they would). So, the question then becomes, why doesn’t Begg do so? Or MacArthur? It would seem better and more effective if Begg and others got together to form their own document, rather than sound like they’re whining and complaining about things that only make outsiders more confused.

    As for MacArthur, b/c the document said, effectively, we will not submit to gov’t even if it’s evil, I don’t know how he could possibly sign such a document – which gives credence to my earlier supposition that MacArthur is simply making an excuse to justify his untenable position. I’d like to be wrong, but, after reading his book, I cannot imagine how I could be.

    Finally, I agree with you immediately about being too earthly minded. Aren’t we both so affected by the fall! I share the cry of an eyewitness to Christ, “I do believe, Lord. Help me in my unbelief!”

    • Revolution says:

      Wow, miss a few days you miss alot! And I don’t have a lot of time now but Bryon, I would ask you to read the book “Holy Ground” re: an evangelical who is a former Catholic. Also, I agree it is not grace to gloss over doctrinal error but you can be ungraceful in the way you do it. Paul had a relationship with the Galatians and it is through one-on-one relationships that these discussions should be had. Public discussion normally turn nasty and both sides dig in deep. I am a fairly reformed evangelical and proud to be one but I have learned in 10 years of pastoral work that deep, potentially divisive theological issues are best discussed informally over coffee.

      I admire many things about Dr. MacArthur, but the point is not him but the way in which he debates these issues.

      Grace and peace, brothers.

  13. Byron Harvey says:

    I guess, Rev, that we’ll have to agree to disagree about the appropriateness of the way Dr. MacArthur might choose to disagree with others, but let me comment on what I see as a problem with your line of reasoning. What we have, with MD, is a PUBLIC document–and its merits/demerits ought rightly to be discussed in a PUBLIC forum. Yes, there’s of course a time to hash over such things one-on-one with coffee, but there’s also a time to confront error publicly, and it generally depends upon the public/non-public nature of the action in question. By your reasoning–and I’m sure you’d not take it this far–we ought to sit down one-on-one with Mormons to discuss their theology (rather than ever speak of it publicly); we’d need to gain an audience with the pope to go over our differences; we couldn’t ever publicly criticize the phony-baloney nonsense that Joel Osteen spews on a weekly basis!

    That said, of course we can either in public or in private handle such discussions without grace–just as we can handle them with grace. Discussion, either public OR private, can certainly turn nasty; I’m not sure either is more prone to that happening. But I don’t think that grace demands private, one-on-one confrontation necessarily, and certainly not in the case of something like MD, a very public declaration where evangelical pastors are being called upon to jump onboard. It’s only appropriate that a public stance is taken when public error is made–so long as it is done with grace.

    JGD, it’s fun sparring with an attorney. In my flights of fantasy, I fancy myself arguing before the bench…OK, I’m not quite sure what you mean about using an attorney in spawning a spin-off ministry to orphans, but I’ll assume you mean to draw up whatever legal papers were necessary. If that’s the case, no, I wouldn’t demand that the attorney necessarily be a Christian, because he’d not be acting in the role of co-propagator of the gospel, as a “brother in Christ”; he’d be drafting legal papers, and I’d want a competent attorney, Christian or no. There would be no expressed or implied sense that this person were necessarily a fellow worker in the gospel, any more than the person I buy my pencils from at Staples is a co-laborer in the gospel, though both would assist in what ultimately (it would be hoped) is an “eternal” task.

    I’m glad you find me consistent; I’m not sure what is difficult to live out about it, though; perhaps you can explain what you mean by that?

    I suppose that your idea about Begg, etc., drafting their own document is reasonable enough; I’m pretty sure that such guys tend not to be the primary drafters of such, but rather come on a little after-the-fact. One can’t do everything one might wish to; I guess Begg or MacArthur could encourage certain of their “underlings” (for lack of a better term) to craft something similar. I do take it with Begg, at least, that he invested some time/effort into this, but was disappointed in the end to find the final document unsatisfactory. One wonders how much time these folks have to give to something like you suggest, but there’s nothing you suggest that’s a bad idea–including the 100 Muslim clerics, for that matter!

    Finally, though I haven’t read MacArthur’s work that you cite, I am aware that he takes a pretty strong position vis a vis Romans 13, and I’m honestly not totally sure what I make of it. I think his Biblical reasoning is strong, but whether he takes it too far or not is a good question. To use a relatively contemporary example, was Rosa Parks justified in her actions? Good question…but we do have to remember that the end doesn’t justify the means, that however we argue, we can’t say, “her cause was right, therefore her actions were (automatically) justified.” I do think we tend to do that far too easily even as Christians.

    That said, would I hide Jews from Nazis? Darn tootin’…

    • Revolution says:

      Bryon, regardless of the type of document it is, I have yet to see a public debate, esp. involving divisive theological disagreements, not turn nasty. There is simply a time for wisdom. The public criticism of the Manhattan Declaration has mostly been sharp and grace-less. One may certainly proclaim truth but do so in such a way that is guaranteed to fall on deaf ears. I recently witnessed a street evangelist screaming at college students that they are going to hell and need to repent. True? Sure. Wise? Nope.

      Again, I don’t think that Dr. MacArthur or Pastor Begg or others are right but they are certainly welcome to criticize the document, but what is the best way to do it?

      If the hate crime bills being bandied around end up being interpreted by courts at they have been in Cananda and certain European nations as allowing pastors to be fined or even imprisoned (read Alan Sears’ new book “In Justice”) then do we really want to have spent this important time arguing about authority and how we are justified? These are important issues but wisdom may recquire that we have these discussion in settings more conducive to productive discussion.

      So, agree to disagree.

      God bless you.

  14. Byron Harvey says:

    I must be reading different public debate than you, Rev, because other than one clown posted on somebody’s blog somewhere, I haven’t seen it; then again, in fairness, I haven’t gone looking a great deal, either. Challies, Begg, and MacArthur all seemed, themselves, gracious and certainly not nasty. Of course there are always people who will be ugly–and call themselves “Christians”–that’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately. But must grace-filled public debate–such as it seems to me we’re having on this blog–be squelched simply because some people don’t know how to behave?

    I think it’s possible for differing brothers to have such public debates and not turn nasty; I’ve seen it, for sure. Can I ask you one thing briefly? I’ve answered some questions, particularly those posed my by our other friend; would you? Here’s the question: do you never urge your people to discern dangerous theological trends coming down the pike, such as, to use my examples, Joel Osteen-ism, health/wealth/prosperity “gospel”, cults, etc.? Just wonder how you’d handle such public things. Though it’s certainly not a theme of my ministry, or something I do with a whole lot of regularity, there’ve been times in my 20 years of pulpit ministry when I have “named names”, and that’s been when public figures were, in my judgment, leading Christians astray. I do the same on my blog–and frankly, you did the same, telling MacArthur and Challies, et al, to “grow up”. You chose a public forum to publicly criticize those brothers–and by the way, I don’t fault you for so doing, if you believe they are in error–but it does seem you’re being inconsistent. Can you help me understand that?

    • Revolution says:

      I have yet to see any of these public debates, especially those done so quickly and about subjects in which people are passionate either turn out well or, frankly, ever convince anyone on the other side to feel change their mind. Again, they simply urge people to dig in.

      I was angry with Challies, MacArthur, etc. and esp. the latter for his ongoing lack of graciousness and, to be fair, I just left a week with hundreds of evangelical Christians and, as anecdotal as it is, none of them believed MacArthur has been gracious about this and all felt that is par for the course with him. I have seen him roll his eyes and huff and puff like a child on Larry King and other venues. Frankly, he does need to grow up but, since he doesn’t read blogs…

      I do call out Christian teachings from time to time that I feel are heretical but I try to use wisdom when doing so. Ecumenical debates with those who differ with me on justification or authority are different from the health and wealth guys. I disagree with both but believe that the former at least has an argument even if I find it unpersuasive in the end. The latter, in my opinion, has no ground on which to stand.

      Again, I don’t think using wisdom in how to approach disagreements is being inconsistent.

      Blessings,

  15. Byron Harvey says:

    OK, fair enough; I do think there’s an argument to be made for your side–even if I find it unpersuasive in the end. I do hope that you at least understand that there are some of us who are taking what we believe to be a principled stand, not objecting just to object or being needlessly difficult. I also hope that through this conversation your attitude about us would not be limited to simply saying, “grow up”, that while perhaps in your mind there are some who need to, there are others whose differences are not issues of immaturity, but of what we believe to be principle, the principle of the gospel issues raised by this declaration. And I hope that the constructive nature of the debate that we have tried to hold here demonstrates to others that rational, non-nasty discourse can take place between differing brothers in Christ.

  16. Byron Harvey says:

    And to you and yours.

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