Sunday, November 29, 2009

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

When an invading enemy threatens to breach the defensive lines at a particular weak point, it must be reinforced lest the line is penetrated and the entire defense collapses. In 1934, at the advent of the Nazi usurpation of power, concerned and courageous Christian theologians met at Barmen, Germany to identify the breach and to stand against it.

The Nazis had been trying to promote the doctrine that Christians owed a double allegiance to both State and Christ. In their public life, they had to honor the State, while in their private life, they could honor Christ.

Recognizing that this stance represented the demise of the entire Church of Christ, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and other Christians stood in the gap and drafted the following words:

“We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him…

The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and Sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.”

They affirmed the fact that Christ had to stand supreme over all areas of life. The Barmen Declaration was consequently able to identify the breach and to enable what was then left of the Church to stand in unison against Hitler. Today, we have other serious breaches in our lines. We have capitulated to the false doctrines of our own society. We have compromised and hidden our light so as not to give offense or simply to “fit in.” In many cases, we have disdained doctrine, mimicking our culture’s disdain of doctrine. In other cases, we have simply discarded the requirement to be a light, in word and in deed, to our communities and have instead chosen conformity.

The Manhattan Declaration has done an excellent job in identifying some serious breaches that the churches are increasingly disregarding. It has done this with sensitivity, intelligence and doctrinal soundness, sounding the trumpet blast in hope of rallying us together in unity, readiness and in consideration of a great and common threat against the integrity of our Church and the future welfare of society in which we serve as watchmen and agents of peace.
It concludes this way:

“Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.” (

Please read this Declaration in its entirety and consider signing it. It entails a cost, but that’s what following Christ is about. And do not dismiss its plea because it’s political and we will be disdained for our political involvement! If we do, we might as well pass Lazarus by at his beggar’s-gate (Luke 16) or the bleeding, unconscious victim who the Good Samaritan brought to the inn (Luke 10). To pass by our responsibility to raise our voice is to allow the gas chambers, the abortions, and death by Aids. As James warned: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (James 4:17).

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