A Personal View

Why I believe the Frankfurt Declaration is necessary

Why I believe the Frankfurt Declaration is necessary
Tobias Riemenschneider
Tobias Riemenschneider Co-pastor of Evangelical Reformed Baptist Church in Frankfurt.
17 October, 2022 10 min read

In the spring of 2021, pastors from different countries came together to draw up a joint declaration in response to the Covid measures of many states. The result is the Frankfurt Declaration of Christian and Civil Liberties (‘Frankfurt Declaration’), which was presented to the public on 28 August 2022 near Frankfurt, Germany.

The Frankfurt Declaration can be read and signed online at frankfurtdeclaration.com

The Frankfurt Declaration was initially signed by fifty pastors and theologians from America, the UK, Europe, Australia, and Africa, including men like Dr John MacArthur, Dr James White, Tim Conway, Geoff Thomas, and others. In the meantime, more than 5,000 signatories from all over the world have joined the Frankfurt Declaration.

Even though the concrete reason for drafting the Frankfurt Declaration was the Covid measures, it is not primarily about these measures, but about the underlying spiritual reasons that led states to infringe so massively on the constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties of their citizens.

The signatories of the Frankfurt Declaration see this unprecedented disregard for rights and liberties as just one symptom of an emerging totalitarianism of the state over all spheres of society, including the church, that has been developing for years, even decades.

The Frankfurt Declaration seeks to address these threats with the timeless truths of God’s Word, through affirmations and denials derived from biblical principles. In this article I would like to briefly show how the statements made in the Frankfurt Declaration are relevant for our time.

Article 1: God the Creator as Sovereign Lawgiver and Judge

For centuries, the countries of the Western world have been moving further and further away from the biblical truth that God created the cosmos and everything in it, including man. Most people’s thinking is now strongly influenced by a radical materialism that assumes that all processes and phenomena in the world go back not to a personal Creator, but to impersonal matter and motion.

But if there is no creator God, then there is no divine lawgiver who has revealed his universal, immutable law to man, and there is no divine judge who will judge all mankind at the end of time according to this law. And if there is no heavenly lawgiver above the earthly state, then the state is the highest lawgiver, and its laws need not measure up to any higher standard. And if there is no divine judge above the human legislators, then they will not one day have to answer to him for their actions.

Thus, the state and those who govern it assume for themselves the role of God, freely determining what is good and evil conduct without being bound by a divine standard of morality. The result is devastating: unconverted people, corrupt by nature, turn the commandments of God into their opposite and call good evil and evil good.

There were many examples of this during the Covid crisis. For example, it was called evil and was forbidden to visit the elderly, the sick, and the dying, although Christ even says that it is precisely by this that one knows who is blessed of the Father and inherits the kingdom and who is cursed and must depart from Christ into everlasting fire (Matthew 25:31-46).

But the phenomenon of the state calling things good that have been considered sin for millennia is one we have been observing for years: the state facilitates divorce and sexual immorality, promotes homosexuality and transgenderism, and allows the killing of children in the womb. But not only does the state approve of this, it demands that its citizens do likewise. Even young children in kindergartens and schools are indoctrinated accordingly. Anyone who disagrees is considered backward, hateful, and a threat to society.

The Frankfurt Declaration affirms that God, as supreme lawgiver and judge, is the ultimate source of ethics, and that he has revealed an unchanging morality which is rooted in his own character and which determines for all people at all times what is good and evil conduct. It therefore denies that the state has the right to define morality and to demand unconditional obedience from its citizens when this contradicts God’s law, invoking the clausula Petri, that one ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

As C. S. Lewis once put it, ‘Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value.’

Article 2: God as the Source of Truth and the Role of Science

With the turning away from the truth of the Creator God, other truths also increasingly falter. As Christians, we know that God has ordered creation by objective truths, which man can discover through scientific observation. This knowledge is what made scientific endeavour possible in the first place. This likewise means that all scientific investigation is an inquiry into the works of God and hence cannot pretend neutrality.

When science no longer serves to glorify God, then science itself becomes a god. Many today are convinced that science can provide answers to all questions and instructions for the right action in all situations. This scientism overlooks the fact that scientific endeavour not only often leads to erroneous results due to the lack of data and the human propensity for error, but that it can in no way provide answers to moral questions.

Science can only say what is, but not what should be. Virology and epidemiology can say what measures might be promising to contain a virus, but they cannot answer whether a lockdown or other infringement on people’s rights and liberties are ethically justified to achieve that goal. However, this is exactly what happened during Covid: individual experts were considered to represent “science”, and their predictions and recommendations guided the policies of entire states.

As C. S. Lewis once put it, ‘Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value.’

Furthermore, since man has fallen into sin, all his thoughts, deductions and institutions contain degrees of corruption which tend to distort, manipulate, or suppress the truth. In the hands of ideologically driven people, truth becomes subject to change by their reinterpretations, and science is quickly perverted into an instrument of indoctrination and the exercise of political power through fear-mongering or propaganda.

Dissident voices are ignored, suppressed, or cancelled. During Covid, dissenting doctors and scientists, some of whom had been considered luminaries in their field for decades, were silenced and discredited and not seldom lost their jobs.

But we see this in other areas as well. For example, the state and the ‘scientific consensus’ have been propagating scientifically untenable theories, such as Darwinism, as proven truth for decades. Recently, we are being told that science has discovered that it is no longer possible to determine what a man or a woman is.

The Frankfurt Declaration endorses science which seeks to discover, through the scientific method and debate, the truths that God has built into the natural world, but it rejects scientism. Furthermore, it denies that governments, scientific experts, or the media are morally and ideologically neutral and that their presentation of ‘the truth’ should be trusted unconditionally.

Article 3: Mankind as the Image of God

If one no longer believes that there is a personal creator God, but that all processes are determined only by matter and motion, then man is nothing more than the product of an impersonal and ultimately purposeless evolutionary process without any transcendental purpose or value except to serve the ‘greater good’ of society.

The states of the Western world have promoted this view of man for decades, and we are now seeing the effects of it: this Darwinian view of man offers no protection of the individual against the abuse of power by the stronger.

During the Covid crisis, states have psychologically manipulated individuals by deliberately scaring them with predictions of horrific death tolls and agonizing death by suffocation, as internal government papers show and some governments have openly admitted. Distrust of others was promoted by portraying them as potential threats to life and limb.

In addition, many states imposed restrictions that infringed on people’s rights and liberties in ways that previously seemed unthinkable in the ‘free’ world. This happened even though such infringements are prohibited by the constitutions of most states. (To make it clear: the issue is not whether or not certain measures make sense from a virological or epidemiological point of view, but whether or not the state has the right to forcefully impose such measures and thereby infringe on the rights and liberties of its citizens.)

According to the biblical worldview, on the other hand, God created man in his image and likeness, whereby all human beings have an inherent dignity and worth from which derive God-given, inalienable rights and liberties that the state must respect and protect (cf. Romans 13:3-4).

These rights and liberties include the right to in-person relationships, vocational employments, medical self-determination, and participation in the important events of human life such as witnessing the birth of one’s child, marrying in a public gathering, and fellowshipping with others.

When the state deprives a person of these rights and liberties or makes them contingent on compliance with certain mandates, it dehumanises them and makes them a mere object of state tyranny. This is a direct attack on the image of God, which we have seen time and again, especially in anti-Christian systems like communism and socialism.

The Frankfurt Declaration therefore affirms the inalienable worth of every individual as made in the image of God and hence opposes the state’s infringement on their God-given rights and liberties by lockdowns and mandates, which usurp the innate value of mankind by subjecting them to manipulation, enforced segregation, and other unjust deprivations of rights and liberties.

Article 4: God-given Mandates and Limits of Authority

If one neither believes in a God who has supreme authority over all spheres of life, including the state, nor in human beings as created in the image of God, then the way is paved for a totalitarian rule of the state over all areas of life. In reaction to the growing nihilism that is the result of this turning away from the Christian faith, the modern state will try to invent pseudo-religious beliefs to keep people under control.

Hence the new religion of multiculturalism, diversity, health, climate, planetary salvation, and impending doom unless we are saved by the central planning and control of the highest remaining power – the new god of State, who now assumes the role of ultimate lawgiver, provider, priest and saviour, thereby creating an authoritarian society in which the state is absolute.

In this system, dissidents cannot be tolerated because they threaten the narrative on which the legitimacy of this statism and totalitarianism is based. The state thus tries to centralize beliefs and conduct for their citizens.

Therefore, the state also has a special interest in gaining influence over the children as early as possible in order to indoctrinate them according to the state ideology and turn them into ‘loyal’ citizens. The state thereby engenders an ideological intolerance which seeks to silence, cancel, re-educate, and punish those who disagree.

We have seen this not only with Covid, when the state elevated its narrative to absolute truth and interfered with the family by forbidding them to fellowship and care for each other, and interfered with the church by forbidding it to worship or sing praises, but with a variety of ideologies, such as feminism, sexual and gender identity self-determination, and climate change.

This totalitarian statism, however, is contrary to the divine order of things. All earthly powers draw their authority from God to whom all must give an account, and he has established different spheres of responsibility: the family, to whom the rod is given to train the children in the ways of the Lord; the church, to whom the Word is given to make disciples of all nations; and the state, to whom the sword is given to punish evil and reward good. In doing so, God has at the same time set limits to the authority of these institutions.

The Frankfurt Declaration affirms that the family, the church and the state are granted limited authority by God only over their respective spheres. It thus denies statism and the totalitarian ideologies of governments which do not recognise the boundaries of their authority and usurp the authority delegated by God to the church or the family.

Article 5: Christ as the Head of the Church

The fact that the state no longer recognises the God-given limits of its authority and no longer has any fear of God and what is holy is increasingly having an impact on the Church. The state no longer recognises the spiritual importance of the church but increasingly views and treats it like any other association or event of people, even as a danger to the state’s own ideologies.

This was clearly demonstrated during Covid. Whereas in the past, churches were usually full during national emergencies because people understood that ultimately only God can save them (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14), this time worship services were banned for several weeks or months in large parts of the Western world.

When worship services were allowed again, there continued to be severe restrictions, such as capacity limitations, distancing, mask or test requirements, or restrictions on the administration of the ordinances.

The state even ordered the congregational singing of God’s praises to be silenced throughout the countries for several months. And sadly, most churches obeyed these mandates. But we also see this in other areas – for example, when pastors are arrested or have to answer in court for preaching the Word of God.

According to Scripture, however, the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church. He commands us not only to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but also give to God what belongs to God, thereby establishing the functional independence of the church from the state.

The church must therefore not withhold from God his worship and praise, or keep his blood-bought children from worshipping him and receiving his grace in the Word and ordinances.

The Frankfurt Declaration affirms that the church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ at the cost of his life, and that it is accountable to him alone in all matters of faith and practice, and that therefore the activities of the local church, insofar as they are essential acts of worship, are to be regulated by Christ alone.

It denies that any other authority has jurisdiction over the church to criminalise, inhibit, or regulate any of its affairs in matters of faith and practice, or to relegate its activities to a non-essential status.

A Call for Respect, Repentance and Resistance

The Frankfurt Declaration ends with an expression of gratitude to those civil authorities who respect these Christian beliefs and the rights and liberties of each individual, and with a call to repentance to those civil authorities who have disregarded these freedoms, lest in the abuse of their God-given authority they become liable to God’s wrath.

It also encourages Christians to steadfastly and faithfully obey the Lord rather than men and stand by one another and pray that God would give us the grace to remain faithful and persevere to the end.

The Frankfurt Declaration is not a politicisation of the gospel (quite the contrary!) nor is it a call for strife and division in the church or for unlawful rebellion against the state. It is meant to provide light and strength for Christians for a faithful witness to Jesus Christ in our time. May God graciously use it in this way for his glory.

By Tobias Riemenschneider

Pastor of the Evangelical Reformed Baptist Church of Frankfurt, Germany, and co-author of the Frankfurt Declaration of Christian and Civil Liberties.

The Frankfurt Declaration can be read and signed online at frankfurtdeclaration.com
Tobias Riemenschneider
Co-pastor of Evangelical Reformed Baptist Church in Frankfurt.
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