New Articles | Why Dr. Al Mohler Should Not Have Signed the Manhattan Declaration

By: Rob Zins

I have read with interest an article written by Al Mohler on AlbertMohler.Com giving reasons why he, Al Mohler (President of The Southern Baptist Seminary), signed the Manhattan Declaration.

I do not know too much about Dr. Mohler but I know a lot about ECT, The Gift of Salvation, The Lutheran Accord, and other ecumenical statements that have come along in recent years. These statements are designed to press upon Christians, in very carefully crafted terms, that the differences between the Roman Catholic gospel and the Evangelical gospel are interesting and certainly many, and varied but not fatal. These distinctions are said to be minor in the light of the major. The major thing is to bring anyone and everyone who names the Name of Jesus Christ all together under one tent. So if you are a Roman Catholic, or a Mormon, or a Jehovah Witness, or a Muslim (according to Rome's Vatican II) you are in some way a Christian. After all, the tent is spacious and there is room for many different kinds of gospels, and ideas about Jesus, and salvation. As long as Jesus is involved in some way all ideas are welcome and should indeed carry the name Christian. And so it goes with the ecumenical crowd.

The Manhattan Declaration was released November 20th 2009. The document is a statement and proclamation of why Christians should take a stand for traditional marriage, sanctity of life, and the defense of religious liberty. It is hard to argue against any one of these social and moral foundations which have established our Western culture. Dr. Mohler labors hard to review and quote the prominent and significant portions of the Manhattan Declaration. He quotes the document liberally. He wishes to make sure we know why he feels justified in signing such a document. We also know that Dr. Mohler is keen to put distance between himself along with the Manhattan Declaration and ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together). He writes that he would not sign ECT. He goes so far as to say that he finds many of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church to be unbiblical and abhorrent especially as they define (for Rome) the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what is wrong with Dr. Mohler or any other Christian signing the Manhattan Declaration? Dr. Mohler explains that he is careful about signing such things. He is "not usually impressed with the effectiveness of such statements..." He says, "I prefer to stand on my own public statements."

As much as we want to climb aboard with Dr. Mohler on these social issues we fear his reasons for getting involved with the Manhattan Declaration are not equally as compelling as the issues themselves. In reality he has inadvertently inflicted grave harm to the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the first place it would not have taken much time or effort for Dr. Mohler and any number of Christian organizations to frame the argument, present the case, and write their own Manhattan Declaration without giving sanction to non- Christian religions. One wonders why this was not done. It could have saved a lot of troubling consequences. But let us put this aside for the moment and examine exactly what is wrong with signing the Declaration in the first place.

Evidently Dr. Mohler glossed over the preamble of the Manhattan Declaration. It is bewildering and troubling that Dr. Mohler can affirm in his reason for signing the following:

"My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent- and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground."

He says so despite the fact that the preamble to the Declaration lumps together Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Evangelicals as all being true Christians. Here is what it says:

"We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience 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."

It also says:

"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."

How does one sign a document containing such blatant ecumenical language, and affirming Roman Catholicism as Christian when he is convinced that the doctrines defining the gospel held by Roman Catholicism are abhorrent and unbiblical? How does one say with a straight face that the Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines?

In reality, the Manhattan Declaration does not have to attempt to establish common ground on these vital doctrines. It simply makes the case by stating the case. It presumes that Roman Catholicism, and the Orthodox are Christian. How could Dr. Mohler miss this? By signing the Declaration Dr. Mohler has implicitly and wordlessly approved the assumption. It is the very supposition that he denies so vigorously in his "Why I signed the Manhattan Declaration" defense!

I have argued in numerous places that the liberal end of confessing Christianity has long ago vaporized the heart of the gospel and put in its place the social ills of our age. Now it seems that the pull to correct the corruptness of the Western world has blinded the eyes of even otherwise sound and admired Christians who are in places of high esteem. Dr. Mohler gives a supplementary reason for signing the Declaration. He says that he signed it, in part, because "I lead a theological seminary and college, serve as a teaching pastor in a church, and am engaged in Christian leadership in the public square." I submit that this is precisely why Dr. Mohler should not have signed this Declaration. He has carelessly endorsed by affirmation the terrible lie that the Roman Catholic religion is a Christian religion and that they do in fact proclaim the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness. They do not. Dr. Mohler needs to take his name off of this dreadful and horrendous mishandling of the very gospel that he loves!

Robert M. Zins
Director: CWRC (A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism)

Print This Page