At least three Presbyterians were among the signers: Carmen Fowler (editor of the Layman), Dr. John H. Huffman Jr. (of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in California), and Rev. Tim Keller (of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York). I don't know any of these individuals personally and so I will assume them to be people of impeccable character and virtue. This is not a comment about them as individuals.
I am curious, however, about how their theology interacts with their ideology. Most Presbyterians I have known who wade in conservative waters have been absolutely insistent about the primacy of a particular method of reading scripture in making moral judgments or constructing sound theology. They would find statements like the following to be highly problematic:
"We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person."Setting scripture alongside reason and nature as means of knowing the truth about God's will seems to be a primary objection of Presbyterian conservatives I know to almost anything a progressive says or does. Read this article about Achtemeier on the Layman to see what I mean. Using feelings, experience, reason or observations from nature to arrive at the truth is inherently suspect from their perspective. So I wonder if the Presbyterians who signed the declaration, or those currently applauding it around my denomination, have considered the theology of this document closely.
I really do wonder, because the more I read it (I've been through the whole text 5 times now), the more convinced I am that there is almost no theology to be had here. Certainly not a sound Biblical grounding.
In their discussion of "Life" where is the biblical notion that to be gained it must be given away? Where is their commentary on war, militarism, poverty, prisons, or injustice? Can one even read the Bible in reference to "Life" and not touch on these matters?
In their discussion of "Marriage" why don't they even so much as mention the volumes that Jesus and Paul had to say on the subject? They once again commit the mistake of making marriage the foundational institution and thus subverting the place of the church.
And what on Earth does "Freedom of Religion" have to do with anything? Do they have such a stunted ecclesiology mired in the bankrupt ideology of christendom that they must receive their license to be religious from the state? Did they really say they refuse to render unto Caesar what belongs to God and then miss the irony in their own statement? Point me to that which doesn't belong to God.
There isn't anything to this declaration from a theological perspective at all. So what could be so attractive about it to conservatives in my denomination? I have a hunch that it isn't the theology. It's the ideology. I suspect they would agree with any document that was anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion regardless of the theology, exegesis, or community behind it. Because at the end of the day their theological commitments aren't as deep as they claim, but their ideological commitments are deeper than even they know.