Christianity,  Culture

WaPo on Manhattan Declaration

Richard Cohen’s Op-Ed for The Washington Post this morning takes issue with The Manhattan Declaration. In particular, he rails against the Declaration’s stance on same-sex “marriage.” The bottom line of Cohen’s argument in favor of same-sex “marriage” is his own personal experience. He writes, “I know of children raised by same-sex partners and they seem no worse for the experience.” He also writes that “Some of the declaration is couched in religious terms, and with that I cannot argue. But it is its appeal to common sense that I find so appalling.” In other words, he argues that “common sense” and his own personal experience trump the religious basis for the Declaration.

Whether he realizes it or not, this is exactly this kind of logic that prompted the Declaration. Cohen only underlines why such a Declaration was necessary in the first place. As our society and its laws move in the direction of affirming same-sex “marriage,” the pressure will increase for believers to abandon Christ’s teaching for “common sense” and personal experience. Faithful Christians must not cave in to such pressures. If the law of the land ever commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands, then believers must disobey those unjust laws. The Declaration simply reminds Christians of this biblical responsibility.

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men.”


  • Joe Blackmon

    I have read arguments by people I respect who said they would not sign the Declaration. However, this guy’s reaction is the clearest example of why I signed it. Yes, the MD makes it seem that Catholics and Christians share a comman faith. Yes, it is not the most clear explanation of the gospel. However, it does make clear that homosexuality and abortion are both sinful and that Christians and Catholics stand against that.

  • Denny Burk


    If I thought the MD made it “seem” that Catholics and Protestants share a common faith, then I wouldn’t have signed it. If this statement were intended to give a “clear explanation” of the gospel, then I would not have signed it. I read the purpose of the statement to be fairly narrow. It’s a group of folks with a Nicene heritage who stand against abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and assaults on religious liberty. That’s the way I read it, anyway.

    I think that the most level-headed analysis of what the MD does and does not do is from Kevin DeYoung.


  • Joe Blackmon


    I probably overstated my case there a wee bit. I guess I meant that I’ve read where folks have gotten the idea that Catholics and Protestants share a common faith and I could see where they might have thought that. Anyway, I’m just glad to see something like this come out where people who have convictions against gay marriage and abortion come together to say so with one voice.

    Thanks for the link, btw.

  • David Vinzant

    Don’t worry, Denny. When same-sex marriage is legalized everywhere, no one will be forced to marry a person of the same sex or kept from marrying someone of the opposite sex.

    It is not the law’s function to enforce religious beliefs. Some religions teach that divorce and/or remarriage are not allowed or only allowed under certain circumstances. Is it the role of civil authorities to decide when a divorce or remarriage is scrpiturally justified? Some believe that Christians should not marry unbelievers. Should this be written into our law?

    I strongly encourage conservatives to read about Theodore Olson’s views on same-sex marriage. He was Bush’s solicitor general and is now fighting to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage.

  • russware

    If I thought the MD made it “seem” that Catholics and Protestants share a common faith, then I wouldn’t have signed it.

    I know I should not be surprised by this statement from Denny. But still. Wow.

  • russware

    In the previous thread related to the MD, the main point of the discussion was not ambiguity on the fundamental issue of homosexuality, but rather the ‘two kingdoms’ issue of how our Christian stance on such issues should influence civil law.

    Along those lines, this provides food for thought…

  • John Holmberg

    “If I thought the MD made it “seem” that Catholics and Protestants share a common faith, then I wouldn’t have signed it.”

    Wow indeed. I know some Catholics who love Jesus a lot more than I do.

  • russware


    I’m not surprised that you and Denny would hold the view that Catholics aren’t Christians. But I am taken aback by the specific comment that Denny made suggesting that, all things being equal, if he felt this document (which he so solidly supports) in some way implied that Protestants and Catholics shared a common faith, he would not sign on that basis.

    Now, I frankly don’t believe it… I think Denny’s political activism would trump his anti-Catholicism easily in this case, but it’s still telling that he would even make the comment.

    I wonder if he would like to clarify? Because, I think he might not have thought through the statement much before he made it. Or maybe I am misreading him.

    At the end of the day, if Mohler signs, Denny signs. 😉

  • Darius T

    What Joe said… with a caveat that there are plenty of Catholics who probably are Christians. Maybe it would be better to say that Catholicism doesn’t tend to lead people to Christ, and that any Catholics who are saved are only saved DESPITE Catholicism and not BECAUSE of their religion.

  • Darius T

    And for those who say “you just don’t understand Catholicism”… fine, maybe I don’t. But I do know some people who were saved out of it and view it as a heretical religion.

  • Joe Blackmon


    Council of Trent–How many anatema’s did they pronounce? And what were those anathema’s for? I quote from the Council of Trent Session 7-On the Sacraments in General:

    CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

    Um, they’re saying that salvation is not by grace through faith in Christ alone and that you have to do however many sacrements that they have made up (what is it, like 14??) to be saved. Now, since they don’t believe and preach the biblical gospel, they are not Christians.

    Now, having said that, as Darius pointed out, there may well be individuals who are Christians that happen to be part of the Catholic church. They do not believe that the sacraments save and trust Christ and Christ alone for their salvation.

  • russware


    You are clearly a passionate guy and a devoted follower of Christ. But what I have seen from you on this blog recently is a great deal of assumption and reckless characterization based on incomplete information. I know, for instance, from your comments, that you have a certain view of where I am coming that is quite inaccurate.

    So, for what it’s worth, in an effort to help…

    Roman Catholic doctrine recognizes 7 (not 14) sacraments. Sacramental Protestant traditions including Anglicanism and Lutheranism as well as Classic Reformed doctrine, recognize less than 7, which ones, how many, and the nature of them depending not just on which tradition, but which person you talk to.

    For instance, Lutherans traditionally recognize 2 or 3 (Baptism, Eucharist, and possibly Confession). However, you will also sometimes hear Lutherans refer to the ‘sacrament’ of marriage, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. In fact, I don’t have a significant problem with at least 6 of the traditional 7.

    The remaining three would be Holy Orders (ordination), Confirmation (the most questionable to me) and Anointing of the Sick.

    I also agree with the Catholic doctrine (expressed in Trent, but more fully in the Catechism) that the sacraments are not technically required for salvation. God can save whomever he wishes. The sacraments are God’s graceful gifts to us and normative means by which he desires to work by his grace in our lives.

    Catholic teaching supports the idea, for instance, that a convert who desires baptism but gets hit by a bus before he has the chance is by no means barred from salvation. God is not bound by the sacraments in this way.

    As a Baptist, what would you say to the man who claimed to have come to belief in Christ, but had no desire and, in fact, refused to be baptized?

    Trent is harsh and reactionary and must be placed in its historic context. Nevertheless, the intent of the quoted section is not a denial of the gospel, but rather a strong statement against those who would completely deny the reality of sacrament altogether. I (and Luther) agree.

    Do we not therefore not share your faith, Joe???

  • Darius T

    Sacraments have no saving ability. Nowhere in the Bible does God say they do. “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me”… just like the Passover supper was repeated not to annually save the Jews but to recall what God had done at ONE POINT in history. God finished it all on the Cross, no other work (read: sacraments) need to be done.

  • Denny Burk

    Russ (#7),

    I think we share a Nicene heritage in the Great Tradition with Roman Catholics. But I don’t think we share the same view of the Gospel. There are significant Gospel differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics, not the least of which is justification. This issue was the wedge of the Reformation in my view, and it still has not been resolved.

    Are there some Roman Catholics who are saved? Sure. But I think that they are saved in spite of the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church which does not hold to justification by faith alone.

    I don’t think the Manhattan Declaration aims to resolve these significant theological differences between Protestants and Catholics. In fact, the Declaration acknowledges that there are “historic lines of ecclesial differences” that still divide the different signers of the statement. As I said before, I read the statement not as a theological rapprochement on any of these issues, but as a coalition of folks claiming a Nicene heritage who want to oppose abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and threats to religious liberty.

    Hope that helps to clear things up.


  • russware


    Thanks for the response. I agree with you on the limited scope of the declaration and its intent. And I understand why you were able to sign it over and against the objections of others like Dr. MacArthur, whose apologetic regarding his rejection of the declaration I read today. I would like to think that your willingness to sign the document reflects not just a better understanding of the document, but also at least a somewhat greater degree of understanding towards Catholicism than that reflected by Dr. MacArthur’s polemics regarding such.

    My reasons for rejecting the declaration are gospel related, as are Dr. MacArthur’s, but in a completely different sense.

    Thanks again.

  • russware


    I am always up for a good discussion on sacramentalism and how, properly understood, it does not in any way represent works-righteousness (but rather quite to the contrary), but that would represent a rabbit trail off of a rabbit trail at this point. 🙂

    My point was that the dividing line of sacramentalism, if that is to be used as the example of how ‘we’ do not share the same faith, does not lie between Catholicism and Protestantism, but rather right through Protestantism itself.

  • BPRjam

    All this talk of sacramentalism, and no appearance by Mason?

    Despite his sometimes aggressive posture, as one raised in a non-sacramental tradition, I appreciate his perspectives on the richness of the sacraments.

    I agree with Russ – if sacraments are the dividing line, then we (as protestants) have a serious problem. Catholics, BTW, would point out that our lack of reliance on tradition (in this case, for the sacraments) would mean that we’ve always had a problem. In some ways, they are right.

  • russware

    Mason Beecroft, God bless him, may his tribe increase! He’s probably too busy actually doing ‘pastory’ things to keep up with the goings on here. Not sure I’d ever want to live in Tulsa… but if we did…

    I’ll give him props, since you brought him up, and this thread has already drifted as it is. Check out this great video from his church (Grace Lutheran in Tulsa):

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