(See Dr. MacArthur’s statement)
Anyone who knows me knows of my deep love and respect for Dr. John MacArthur. Since being a young twenty-something in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970’s who visited Grace Church on occasion and listened to and read John at every chance, I have been mentored from a distance by this man in so many ways. So this in no way would indicate a lack of respect for his views. There are in fact, very close and dear friends of John’s who have signed the Declaration and remain dear brothers with him yet. Signing or not signing this document is no test of fellowship.
I have been asked why I would not take the same stance as he on this issue, especially by some who know of my commitment to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let it be said with no equivocation, in every way I agree with John on the Gospel. I agree that there are signers of the document who do not interpret the Gospel in the way that I do. I even agree with him that this document does not lay out the Gospel in clarity. In recognizing those things, I find the exact point of our differing views.
In a clearly secular analogy, The Manhattan Declaration is somewhat like The Declaration of Independence. In this birthing writing for our nation the signers called upon Nature’s God, the Creator, the Supreme Judge and Divine Providence. While there may be debate as to what each individual signer meant by those terms, a belief that this was a nation “under God” is indisputable. From that position they went on to firmly state their disagreement with certain practices of the governing authorities. They took their stand with what they believed to be “unalienable rights.”
I see The Manhattan Declaration in much the same way. It is a declaration of what we (the signers) believe so that there can be no doubt. Implicitly, there is (as there was with the Declaration of Independence) a personal willingness to bear the consequences this stand might bring.
This document, though put forth by those who claim to be Christian, is a call to all people in good conscience to heed these truths. The following excerpt from the Declaration sheds light on my position: "We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God."
But this does not mean that I see this Declaration as merely a secular document. In fact, I believe it is a statement that says, in essence, if one claims to be Christian, one ought to hold to these truths. For me, that is a given. I’m willing to bear the criticisms of those who disagree and to love them no less. But there can be no ambiguity here. I want my family, my church, my friends, my neighbors and my enemies to know where I stand.
I do not agree that it “relegates the gospel to secondary status.” My interpretation of the written words sees them as flowing from the Gospel rather than to the Gospel. Again, it is saying if one claims to believe the Gospel then one ought to believe this.
So, I am comfortable signing a document with others who “claim” to be Christians but who do not hold to a biblical Gospel. I will proclaim the Gospel of Christ and I will stand strong against the erosion of these truths, even in this type of public format. As I have said earlier, I signed it with a resolute heart and with a sadness that the times make it necessary.