Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration and Its Fundamentalist Parallels

Dave Doran argues persuasively and, I believe, quite correctly that Al Mohler and other signatories of the Manhattan Declaration create "confusion about the real meaning of Christian." I believe they've imprudently dodged foundational theological differences in an attempt to speak prophetically with a united voice to the culture. They're concerned about serious moral issues, but they err in elevating those moral issues at the expense of gospel clarity.

Ironically, I'd be more comfortable if they'd expanded their reach to include Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and any other willing group. They could have skirted the problematic mutual affirmation of Christian status and simply called themselves "people of faith." But I'd be most comfortable if they adopted John MacArthur's conviction that "the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel." I've written more times than I can remember about evangelicalism's obsession with cultural transformation at the expense of the centrality of the gospel (and this certainly applies to many fundamentalists as well).

But I really want to make another point. In his earlier post, Doran said about the declaration:
At the least, it substitutes a sociological-historical definition of Christian in the place of a biblical-theological one. At the worst, it runs the risk of minimizing the biblical message of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
As I read that comment, it occurred to me that much of fundamentalism has done essentially the same thing. I'm preparing to argue that fundamentalism has displaced and marginalized the gospel. This has happened by disconnecting the transformational power of the gospel in progressive sanctification, and by replacing the gospel with moralistic do-it-yourself reform and uniform standards of behavior and association.

In other words, fundamentalism, by and large, has prioritized a culture—a narrow set of parameters for the practice of personal and ecclesiastical separation—over the gospel. And in so doing it has redefined what it means to be a fundamentalist, every bit as much as the Manhattan Declaration has redefined what it means to be a Christian. Both errors have theological roots. And both errors strike at the gospel.

10 comments:

Lou Martuneac said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

Lou,

Nothing you wrote is remotely germane to the point of my post. You have a blog. Please say all you want to say there. I won't bother you there; of that you can be sure.

Lou Martuneac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lou Martuneac said...

No Ben, it was spot on in its Scriptural application to what is going on with Mohler.

Run interference for the "conservative" evangelicals if you want. The Scriptures, however, play no favorites as you clearly do.

I won't be back to waste any more of the Lord's time or mine here.


LM

Ben said...

Lou,

That's asinine. Read my first sentence and explain how I'm running interference. My point isn't that Mohler's right. (That's why I said the exact opposite. My point is that many, likely most folks in your camp do the same thing. Distort my point or post off-topic again and you're done here.

Lou Martuneac said...

ben:

Did you read my previous comment? In the common language it means, "You can't fire me; I (already) quit!

Done.


LM

Ben said...

Folks, I'd delete that off-topic comment as I promised, but I just love irony too much.

James Kime said...

Ben, I would like to thank you for rescuing your original post from Lou. Many bloggers have failed in the past at that. You are an example to many.

Chris said...

It's like an bug-bite that itches sooooo badly! You know you shouldn't, but you've got to! Lou just had to come on and comment again! No surprise there. :) Very ironic, indeed.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

I believe, more than anything, fundamentalism and evangelicalism practice classic Pharisaism by minimizing God's commands to the point where they can keep what He said on their own. They reduce the commands to the "greatest" to keep them in their own strength. It is a pernicious left wing kind of legalism that is proud of a kind of cheap grace, turning the grace of God into a garbage can for their disobedience.

This is also at the root, I believe, of certain post modern interpretation and behavior. If you can't keep it, then that must not be what it means, so we can't be sure what it means. They dumb down affection to sentimentality and love to toleration. They don't rejoice in Christ Jesus, worship in the spirit, or place no confidence in the flesh. They still have some serious interest in dung.