The occasion of the Manhattan declaration has been one in which a number of evangelicals, the very active Frank Turk at Evangel, has decided that the primary reason he will not sign is that it was done in concert with Roman Catholics, and apparently even worse than that, with the Eastern Orthodox. His point of view, and in fact his very reason for not signing has a number of prominent bloggers and those who self-label as Evangelicals who share his point of view. He writes:

I’ve said it elsewhere, so it should be no surprise when I say it here that I am sure there are Catholics who are saved, and likewise for the occasional Eastern Orthodox you may run into who exercises an Evangelical (large “E” intended) understanding of Jesus and the consequences of Him; but to throw out the wide blanket and just call all of these groups “Christian” in an overly-broad sociological sense, and to call all of them “believers” in the sense required to make the rest of the reasoning in this document is much.

This, to my ears, sounds very Pharisaic. Here we have Mr Turk standing in judgement of the whole of Catholicism and Orthodoxy and finding them wanting … except those few who secretly are “Evangelical.” Well, fortunately (apparently) for me, Mr Turk is not my judge, for I have a Judge already. It seems to me the Gospel has a few things to say about those trying to put themselves in the place of that Judge.

But thankfully, Mr Turk’s bark is worse than his bite, when you get down to it. For he offers statements like:

“We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us”


The reasoning of the Gospel is this: because Christ died for sins in accordance with Scripture, and was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with Scripture, men are called to repentance which is not just a confession of past wrong but a second birth — a new life in which we are dead to the moral law and its condemnation and raised to new life in the kind of love Christ has and showed us by dying on the cross.

Hmm. The problem here is that this demonstrates two things. First, the statements offered as definition of the core of Christianity alas for his thesis, a statement which is one with every Catholic and Orthodox that I’ve ever met would affirm. It certainly seems problematic to claim that another is not Christian because he doesn’t affirm and believe statements {X} … and then find that the statements in set {X} are held by that other. The second part is that, it seems Mr Turk is must be completely, absolutely, and (to be frank) amazingly ignorant of Eastern Orthodox liturgy and praxis. Seriously, there are a lot of ways that someone from the Orthodox tradition might be react to being accused of being in a tradition that fails to emphasize repentance and turning to Christ; dismay, resignation, or ROFL come to mind. At the very least that seems weird for from a Byzantine rite perspective the Evangelical liturgy seems like a Jesus pep-rally and any hint of repentance seems wholly lacking.

There are two serious points remaining. The first is that there is in fact one principled Scriptural argument for not signing. Jesus offered that it is wrong to take oaths for let your yes be yes, and your no be no could certainly be taken as a good reason for not signing. That seems really the only reason not to sign. I think that there are arguments for and against whether how what Jesus said about oaths might apply to signatures on statements. That is for another time and place.   The second is that the doctrinal and ecclesiastical gulf between the SBC, Rome, and the Eastern Orthodox are real and should not be whitewashed. But you are not saved by getting the fine points of doctrine correct. Getting doctrine right is important in part because it’s one of the things that people working toward theosis (theosis is roughly how the East views sanctification) engages in but more importantly because salvation is of deadly importance and bad theology hinders people from finding God. Which is why the Pharisaic statements noted above made by Mr Turk aren’t just harmless dumb things said on a blog … but the devils work being done for him. When Peter and the early church wrestled with circumcision of Gentiles the question wasn’t “right doctrine” but getting people to the Gospel and to put it baldly, the statements made in judgement about the RC and EO are exactly like those who insisted that Gentiles eat kosher and get circumcised.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.OrthodoxProtestantismReligion

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