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I assume that if you’re interested in the issues of ecumenism related to this document, you’ve been keeping up with the intramural discussion. But if not, here are four men who do not think evangelicals should sign the document:

On the other hand, folks like Albert Mohler explained why they signed it in good conscience.

Now Ligon Duncan has posted a statement on behalf of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, at the Ref21 website. Here’s an excerpt:

The issue boils down to a matter of judgment, not a disagreement in principle, between those Council members who signed and didn’t sign. The non-signers believe that the content of the document and the associations of the primary authors imply an ECT-like confusion about the Gospel. The signers believe that the explicit assertions and emphasis of the documents relate only to areas of principled social-ethical agreement between evangelicals and non-evangelicals. Further, they believe that it is important for individuals from the major quadrants of the historic Christian tradition to speak on these pressing matters in solidarity.

From my perspective, one of the best documents on how and when evangelicals and Catholics should join hands and when they should separate is a post-ECT document, written by Michael Horton and revised by R.C. Sproul in 1994, entitled Resolutions for Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue. I’ll reprint it below.

* * *

The following statements of evangelical belief are offered as material for dialogue between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, following from the recent document, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium,” drafted by Richard John Neuhaus and Charles Colson, with others. We the undersigned offer this response in a spirit of irenic debate on issues arising from that important joint statement. As that document was crafted to encourage cooperation on the basis of a consensus deemed sufficient for the purpose, though confessionally incomplete, so the following statements seek to identify issues of concern to evangelical Protestants that the thrust of the document raises. What follows is intended to encourage further discussion of the possibilities and problems of acting together.

1. While both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics affirm the ecumenical Creeds, we do not see this catholic consensus as a sufficient basis for declaring that agreement exists on all the essential elements of the Gospel.

2. The doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone has since the Reformation been acknowledged by mainstream Protestants as “the article by which the church stands or falls,” and the tenet that distinguishes a true from a false church. While affirming an indissoluble bond between justification and sanctification, this doctrine insists that justification itself is God’s present forensic declaration of pardon and acceptance, and that the righteousness required for this declaration is neither attained by human effort nor infused or worked internally by God in the human soul, but is the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to those who believe. The Council of Trent anathematized those who embrace this doctrine, and all subsequent magisterial declarations, including those of the Second Vatican Council, continue to bind Roman Catholics to the conviction that this Gospel of free justification by faith alone, apart from works, and the assurance of salvation that springs from it, is not consonant with Roman Catholic teaching. While gladly noting in modern Roman Catholic exposition a growing emphasis on Christ and the biblical promises as objects of faith and trust, we see justification by faith alone as an essential of the Gospel on which radical disagreement continues, and we deny the adequacy of any version of the Gospel that falls short at this point.

3. Furthermore, while rejoicing in our agreement that God in the Gospel offers salvation in Christ to all who will receive it, we radically disagree with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that unbelievers may be saved by their good works, apart from faith in Christ.

4. The extent of the creedal consensus that binds orthodox Evangelicals and Roman Catholics together warrants the making of common cause on moral and cultural issues in society. Roman Catholics and Evangelicals have every reason to join minds, hearts, and hands when Christian values and behavioral patterns are at stake. Yet it is incorrect to regard such cooperation among Christians as common ecclesial action in fulfilling a common ecclesial mission. The mission of the church as such is primarily the fulfilling of the Great Commission of Christ through the ministry of Word and sacraments, and cultural, moral, political and social concerns in which Christians rightly engage must not be thought to determine the relationship of ecclesial communions, or allowed to become decisive in the setting of their respective agendas.

5. We affirm that Christ’s prayer for unity requires vigilant patience and diligence as we seek a greater visible unity. We deny that this prayer refers merely to the spiritual or invisible church. We further affirm that the unity we seek is shaped, bounded, and controlled by the teaching of the canonical Scriptures, the written Word of God, comprising the Law and the Gospel in its message of reconciliation with God and new life in Christ. To this Word the church must submit and by it must correct its understandings, so that its unity will be unity in truth. The Roman Catholic Church claims to be graced with an infallibility that attaches to conciliar declarations and Papal pronouncements ex cathedra, such that these are in principle irreformable, and must be treated as decisive guides to the theological interpretation of the Bible. We deny that the defined doctrines of the church’s infallibility, Papal primacy, justification according to Trent, transubstantiation and eucharistic sacrifice, and the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary, can be proved from Scripture, and we cannot accept any form of joint action that appears to imply agreement with them. Also, we deny that visible unity has been or can be achieved where a common confession of the Gospel in all its essential elements is lacking.

6. We affirm that individual Roman Catholics who for whatever reason do not self-consciously assent to the precise definitions of the Roman Catholic Magisterium regarding justification, the sole mediation of Christ, the relation between faith and the sacraments, the divine monergism of the new birth, and similar matters of evangelical conviction, but who think and speak evangelically about these things, are indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ, despite Rome’s official position. We perceive that the Roman Catholic Church contains many such believers. We deny, however, that in its present confession it is an acceptable Christian communion, let alone being the mother of all the faithful to whom every believer needs to be related.

7. We affirm that the Great Commission of our Lord requires every Christian and every congregation to be engaged in witness to Christ, and that this is concerned not merely with conversion, but with the catechesis, nurture, and discipline of converts. Therefore, we deny that is it advisable to imply that whether one is in a church where the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly (that is, biblically) administered is no longer important; and we insist that every Christian, Roman Catholic no less than Protestant, needs regular exposure to accurate, Christ-centered preaching and exposition of the Bible.

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39 thoughts on “Manhattan Declaration—and Evangelical Ecumenism—Revisted”

  1. Ken Temple says:

    But if not, here are three men who do not think evangelicals should sign the document:

    Shouldn’t it be Four men?
    You have four listed.

    The Resolutions Document is excellent! When did they write this?

  2. Danny says:

    Horton, really is a good writer. Gets his point across well. He’s almost as good as Kevin DeYoung.

  3. henrybish says:

    The one question I have not seen answered yet is how we can categorically call Roman Catholics ‘fellow believers’ as the Manhattan document clearly does.

    Does this not endorse Catholicism as valid Christianity?

  4. chris says:

    Nice bait and switch Ligon.

    1. No ECT confusion here: i.e., We are not all the same, we are distinct in belief.
    2. There are four quadrants of the historic Christian tradition: i.e., We are all Christians.

    I love paradox, but this is more like contradiction. There is little to no wisdom squeezed there between these two propositions.

    The reversals and glosses begin.

  5. Michael S. says:

    I don’t understand how some leaders who cite the “Gospel” to be central to all things (ie. parenting, preaching, etc.) are the same leaders who so quickly toss it aside to join for other issues (abortion, marriage, etc.) If the gospel is central to all things, then it cannot be the very thing that is minimized in order to join in these issues! Don’t write books saying how important the gospel is and then do things showing how it is easily cast aside. The gospel is not expendable, useful for books only! What I see is J. MacArthur and RC Sproul living out the books they write!

  6. Bob Dalberg says:

    I think to make it a “judgment call” as Ligon Duncan does is a truism. What I would like to hear is the objections of these four men patiently answered by Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan. These men have patiently posted their objections, let’s here others patiently respond and not push off clear answers by making it all a judgment call.

    This document had it 15 minutes of fame in the news media. It will mill around evangelicals circles for some time and then become an asterisk of history.

  7. donsands says:

    “To this Word the church must submit and by it must correct its understandings, so that its unity will be unity in truth.”

    I have unity with a Catholic friend of mine in that we both agree abortion is a heinous sin, and Barak Obama needs to come to see this. We agree on issues like these.

    When we speak of the Gospel, we agree that: Jesus Christ is God, and He died for the sins of the world, and that He rose again.
    But when we go further and begin to “unpack” all that Catholicism has added to this, then the friction begins, and the gospel of works is seen for what it is.

    The thing I’ve learned is to be direct, which isn’t easy at times, and talk about Rome’s teachings on their 7 sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, and penance.

    Thanks for posting this. Excellent statement from Horton and Sproul.

  8. Bob Dalberg says:

    I think to make it a “judgment call” as Ligon Duncan does is a truism. What I would like to hear is the objections of these four men patiently answered by Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan. These men have patiently posted their objections, let’s hear others patiently respond and not push off clear answers by making it all a judgment call.

    This document had it 15 minutes of fame in the news media. It will mill around evangelicals circles for some time and then become an asterisk of history.

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “… we see justification by faith alone as an essential of the Gospel on which radical disagreement continues, and we deny the adequacy of any version of the Gospel that falls short at this point.”

    Other noteworthy observations in the blogosphere:

    (1) “If salvation comes by faith alone, can Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc receive salvation simply by their repentance and belief in Christ’s death on their behalf and resurrection? If they believe that additional good works are also necessary, does this negate their faith? If they misunderstand the nitty-gritty theological underpinnings of justification, does this negate their faith?

    I guess what I’m getting at is, if salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, not by anything that we can do, does it not follow that there’s also nothing we can do that negates our saving faith? (Including being a part of a wayward theological tradition?)
    For example, were the Judaizers in the early church truly saved? Or did they negate their salvation when they insisted that the OT ceremonial regulations were still necessary?”

    (2) “I believe that faith alone saves a person, not an adherence to the belief in salvation by faith alone. Having said this, I believe that it is a primary part of the discharge of the Gospel to proclaim strongly and loudly that salvation is by faith alone. Those who deny such are in great danger in many ways. Paul exhorted the Galatians not to fall back into a worthless system of works. The means by which they were saved (faith) is also the means by which they are kept (faith). When man attempts to add anything to the faith, they have denied the Gospel by which they were saved. This is tragic.”

    (C. Michael Patton arguing that Sola Fide is essential for (Protestant) Orthodoxy, but NOT essential for salvation.)

    (3) “Protestantism’s false gospel: Justification by faith alone.

    Okay, now I’ve got some splainin’ to do, as Ricky Ricardo would say. At the center of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But some Protestants make such a big deal out of the doctrine of justification by faith alone that they would substitute this doctrine and place it at the center of the gospel. The result? One is justified by their belief in the doctrine of justification by faith alone rather than by their faith in Christ, alone. See the difference? Belief in the doctrine is superior to belief in Christ.

    I believe we are justified by faith in Christ. But this can be true without having a deep understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone as Protestant theologians have hashed it out. When we place upon others the burden of understanding something the same way we do, there is a tendency to discount their faith. The doctrine becomes our point of superiority. Our understanding of a doctrine becomes the object of our faith, rather than Christ as the object of our faith. I’m sure there will be many on Judgment Day who knew the doctrine of justification by faith inside and out, and believed it, but who really didn’t have faith in Christ. I hope that’s not true for you or me.”

    (Steve Scott in his blog “From the Pew”)

  10. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    I notice that the following men have signed *both* the Resolutions for Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue and the Manhattan Declaration:

    Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, & President, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

    Dr. Richard Land, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (Washington, DC)

    Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Pastor, The Moody Church (Chicago, IL)

    Dr. J.I. Packer, Board of Governors Professor of Theology, Regent College (Canada)

    Examples of affirming both.

  11. Mark Coppenger says:

    I had problems with ECT too, but I was happy to sign the Manhattan Declaration. I think the former had commitments the latter doesn’t. Maybe these four good critics could draft their own declaration on these vital and pressing matters, and I could probably sign it too. Until then, I’m inclined to say to them in the spirit of Spurgeon, “I like the way these Manhattanites have issued a declaration on this topic better than the way you haven’t.”

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      “I was happy to sign the Manhattan Declaration.”

      Me too!

  12. chris says:

    Why is it necessary at all? In signing what has anyone accomplished? What has actually happened?

    Is there apostolic precedent for it? Are there teeth in it? If one doesn’t sign, what does that say? They are for abortion? Will America suddenly make a reversal?

    It is a divisive and damaging thing, but it does nothing. So you are against abortion? Isn’t every Christian? You are against sodomy? Isn’t every believer?

    America is still recovering from Fundamentalism and the Moral Majority. Can these “pastors” and institutional leaders just sit down and knock it off, please!!

    Preach Christ.

  13. Brian Current says:

    I’ll admit – I’m probably like many others (?) who read through the document quickly when it was first announced here, saw the great names of signers, have a passion for the pro-life movement, and… signed it immediately.

    Then, the debate started. At first I thought the non-signers were overreacting, but I could see good points on both sides. I finally came to the conclusion that it would be best for me to request that my name be removed from the list. I made that request yesterday.

    I look forward to continuing to work through this issue and weigh the points each side is making, …but this time, unlike my first response to the doc and the names of men for or against signing it, I’m searching Scripture, weighing the arguments and praying through it.

  14. chris says:

    PS- Tim Keller denies that man was made in one day, and believes that evolution is admissible in the Genesis account. How can anyone affirm life when they see man as perhaps one step removed from a cockroach?

  15. chris says:

    Catholics, and many Evangelicals agree…

    This is why paper scraps are created, because if the Word is not enough, then we need to make sure that we, men, say something. We need to blockade the doors, because we believe the same things that created the mess in the first bloody place!!! Hitler, Margaret Sanger, and Peter Singer hold to the same foundations, they were and are just more consistent.

    Wake up ya’ll.

  16. Todd Hollback says:

    Today’s commentary from Andree Seu on the World magazine website is worth reading:

    1. chris says:

      Read it. Historically untrue. Persecution was never universal. It was always localized.

      Implied: to not sign is to avoid the hard-way. To sign is to do the hard-thing. Bologna.

      World mag used to be good.

  17. Josiah says:

    It is worth pointing out how Paul defines the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15–
    1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

    3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

    Paul doesn’t include justification by faith alone in this definition. It is instead based in the historic work of Jesus Christ. I am not denying the validity of justification by faith alone, from other parts of the Bible and Paul’s writings. But it is worth keeping in mind that Paul calls these historic events “of first importance.”

    Just to be clear, I respect the stand of respected Bible teachers like Begg, Sproul, etc. who did not sign. I think they have a legitimate point. But perhaps it is possible to unite with other historic church traditions who affirm the work of Jesus as salvific.

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      Josiah: “But perhaps it is possible to unite with other historic church traditions who affirm the work of Jesus as salvific.

      Yes. (Good Post Josiah.)

      Justin Taylor: “It’s a careful, thoughtful statement, worthy of study and acceptance. I encourage you to read it and sign it.”

      James Grant: “I do not have to deny the gospel in order to affirm the document, and I am a “catholic” Christian who believes we should seek common ground with others who identify themselves as Christians around the world. This document is a good way to do it. I disagree with what I would consider a sectarian view of Christianity that would require me to never agree on these issues with Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians. I had no problem signing it. I would encourage you to to read it and sign it as well.”

    2. Jason Engwer says:

      Evangelicals and Catholics disagree significantly over what “died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3) means. As the book of Galatians illustrates, the adding of works to the gospel nullifies what Paul summarized in 1 Corinthians 15. As he puts it elsewhere in 1 Corinthians itself, the gospel involves the sufficiency of the crucified Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul defined that sufficiency in a way that made the inclusion of works as a means of attaining justification a denial of the sufficiency of Christ and His finished work. Any understanding of 1 Corinthians 15 that makes the Judaizers orthodox is problematic.

      For an explanation of why the Roman Catholic gospel is false and why it should be considered to be under the anathema of Galatians 1, see posts # 94 and # 99 in the thread here.

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        On that same Challies’ thread which Jason Engwer links to, I should like to point out comment #90:

        Caleb, #80: “If we cannot agree that a true Gospel-affirming “Christian” must believe in sola fide, God help us!”

        Let’s examine this statement through several examples and see if it holds.

        (1) A young child comes to faith in Jesus Christ at an early age. The child then dies at 12 years old through accident or illness and did not believe in sola fide and did not confess or profess sola fide because they did not learn about sola fide. Damned to hell? After all, Caleb says the Christian “must believe in sola fide”.

        (2) Let’s say we have a special needs person whose reasoning capacity will never get better than a 2nd grader’s. This special needs person has faith in Christ but the doctrine of sola fide is not fully grasped. Damned to hell? After all, Caleb says the Christian “must believe in sola fide”.

        (3) Let’s say a person raises their hand at the end of a preacher’s sermon to become a Christian or comes forward at a crusade. The doctrine of sola fide is not explained to them. Before they have a chance to mature, they are killed by accident or illness. Damned to hell? After all, Caleb says the Christian “must believe in sola fide”.

        (4) In some churches people give their testimonies before they get baptized. Suppose the baptismal candidate does not give verbiage in their testimony to give some assent or acknowledgement of sola fide. Furthermore, let’s say the pastor who administers the water baptism does not make reference to the doctrine of sola fide. Is that baptized person damned to hell? Damned to hell? After all, Caleb says the Christian “must believe in sola fide”.

        I would suspect that there a number of people who neither affirm, nor reject sola fide. Are they all damned to hell? After all, Caleb says the Christian “must believe in sola fide”.

        If you say no, they’re not damned to hell, then Caleb’s declaration does not hold. And therefore, it must be rejected for over-reaching.

        1. Jason Engwer says:

          Truth Unites… And Divides,

          Would you explain how you think Caleb’s comments and your response to them are relevant to my post, to which you’re replying?

        2. Gary Rogers says:

          Truth, spot on and I’ll even add one more.

          Did the thief on the cross verbally afirm that he believed in Sola fide?

  18. donsands says:

    “Maybe these four good critics could draft their own declaration on these vital and pressing matters, and I could probably sign it too.”

    “It is quite common for people to view The Reformation as simply a disagreement between two groups of men. The protestant martyrs and their monuments testify to the fact that they died, not on account of ecclesial differences, but because the issue was the way of salvation. (Interestingly, exactly the same was true of the Roman Catholic martyrs!)”

    Is the Gospel of Roman Catholics the same as the Protestant Gospel?

    This is the fine line people are disagreeing on. The one true Gospel needs to be kept pure.
    This document seems to allow for some impurity, doesn’t it?

  19. Ray says:

    OK, Chris, you don’t like Tim Keller. We get it. I found out from the “Slice of Laodicea” crowd that both he and Al Mohler are “trators to the faith”. Now, go read their books and listen to their talks and sermons and tell me these men aren’t powerful influences for Christ.

    1. chris says:

      Actually, I think Keller is probably a likable fellow. But, there are many men who I like, but they are not right. I like Salman Rushdie. I think he is a great writer and very funny. I like Robert Plant. Great singer, great musician. Get my point?

      Keller is teaching false stuff, and his foundations are the same as any other evolutionist (as are many other men on the “big name” list). This is just a fact, not a matter of taste or the likability factor. When we abandon Scripture for Aristotle, for Democritus and Darwin, we are cutting off our own legs. We try and create paper ones in their place.

      I am not trying to convince anyone not to like Keller or any other teacher, but to deal with what they are really saying. The whole notion of popularity and influence is not an issue to me, and when it is made central to an argument, such as yours, I get the tingles on my neck.

      Who is Slice of Laodecia anyway?

  20. KK says:

    Mark Coppenger and others,
    You state my paraphrase that the critic’s should come up with their own document and then….
    I for one don’t see the need for a document on these issues The Word of God and most confessions address these issues and if you are a True Believer then a document is not necessary.
    I am thankful for the statements of those you consider critic’s and am sadden by those who do not see this as a vital Gospel issue. I still hold in high regard those who sign but still disagree with them greatly on this matter.
    I find it presumption you would speak for Spurgeon – it has a great deal to say about the “Papist”!

    1. KK says:

      I typed incorrectly – He has a great deal to say about the “Papist”.

  21. Mike Corley says:

    I agree with Chris and Henry Bish in their initial comments. How can I as an evangelical reformed Christian partner with the Roman Catholic Church, who I feel is clearly apostate? How? The answer is I can’t and remain obedient.

  22. Russ says:

    Look, I’m all for people standing for and on the Word of God. It’s essential for life (and consequently for death, too). But, can we all find a way to inject some grace into our thoughts and have less chest pounding? The self righteous and angry tones of these comments are a tad disheartening, given the fact that we KNOW unbelievers read this blog and are probably walking away thinking we all are saved by something other than God’s unchanging grace.

    1. chris says:

      Sometimes the defense of grace can look quite ungraceful. Before one can defend the value of life, one must come to terms with what life is, what is means to exist.

      For me the RC question is a closed one. I was raised RC and left when I was born-again. Many men, learned and good men, seem to be enamored with the RC as though it is a distant relative, with whom we hope to be reunited. This is confusing and at the same time angers me, as many of these men are looked at as leaders, or guides in how to handle and live the truth. They seem to be blind to the true nature of the RC, and are either ignorant or her teachings, or are enamored with her outward sparkly-stuff. Maybe both. It is not just an issue of soteriology either. It goes the very foundations of the faith — the Word of God v. Man’s autonomous reason.

      I would never deny that there are sincere and real believers in the RC, but at the moment that is not the issue. The evangelical signers on the “famous” list are institutional leaders (Mohler, Chapell, etc.); they are, for better or for worse, heads of their particular systems, and are looked upon as competent and thoughtful men, men whom other Christians are supposed to follow. They are wrong in doing this, regardless of how they frame their defenses. Ligon Duncan’s ridiculous explanation is a case of “oops, save some face”.

      I care about the testimony of the church, maybe as much as you do, but it is for this very reason that these men need to hear that the sheep are angry, and that they are causing more division than peace. This may be a public website, with many non-Christians listening, but that is very well and good, because they need to hear that there is not some monolithic-mind or group-think going on.

      Chris alone is Lord and Head of His church.

      Lord’s blessings,

  23. Russ says:


    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your response. I was in no way intimating that we should not be debating these points or even getting a little heated over the differences. My wife grew up RC and she sees the difference now and why I was (and remain) so passionate about the 180 degree differences in the theological diiferences in the two camps. All I was and am suggesting is that often times, self righteous tones can come across in reponses and thoughts. I think 1 Peter 3 says it best: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”.

    Hopefully this makes sense. I just think people get the first part right (and do it well) but sacrifice the latter.

    Standing with you,


  24. Todd Hollback says:

    Dr. Niel Nielson, President of Covenant College and an original signer of the Manhattan Declaration, posted his thoughts on the ecumenical aspect today:

  25. Dozie says:

    This whole discussion in Protestant circles does nothing but underline how fragile Protestantism is. This non-Church religion is so easily disturbed and while they shout about faith alone, seem to have faith in nothing. It is a shame. Why have Catholics basically moved on and no Catholic signer is making an apology why they did or did not sign the document. Shame on Protestantism.

    1. Gary Rogers says:


      Wow, I like your post! Good thoughts.

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