01 March 2006

Evangelicalism in disarray

by Phil Johnson
Note: Today at the Shepherds' Conference I'll be teaching a seminar analyzing the current evangelical infatuation with building ecumenical bridges to Rome. Here's part of what I'll be saying:

The comfy chair?
Have you noticed that no one defines evangelicalism in theological terms anymore? When a person says he is an "evangelical" nowadays, more often than not he is describing an experience, or a particular style of ministry, or an interest in the pragmatics of evangelism, or something like that. The word evangelical has been stripped of virtually all doctrinal content.

In fact, over the past decade, mainstream evangelicals have been assaulted with a number of trends and movements whose aim seems to be to make evangelicals let go of all their doctrinal distinctives.

  • There is the pragmatism of the church growth movement, which encourages pastors to downplay doctrine (because doctrine is "too academic") and focus only on the practical aspects of the Christian faith. In the worst cases, some preachers deliver material on relationships and success that is devoid of any authentically Christian message.
  • There is the anti-intellectualism that dominates large segments of the charismatic movement, which also downplays doctrine and suggests that experience is more important.
  • There is the neo-ecumenism of groups like Promise Keepers, encouraging men to seek unity by ignoring doctrine and doctrinal differences.
  • There is the intense pressure to lay aside our doctrinal distinctives in order to forge a political coalition with all who share our views on the great moral issues of the day.
  • There are various campaigns to redefine the doctrine of justification in Protestant circles. This is a common theme among many who are enthralled with "The New Perspective on Paul," the sacramental presbyterianism represented by the Auburn Avenue Theology, so-called "reformed Catholicism," and other crypto-Romanist movements.
  • And now there is an infatuation with postmodern ways of thinking, which is flourishing in the Emerging Church movement, denying that propositions really matter and thus (in effect) rendering all doctrine moot in one violent act of epistemological suicide.
All of those things have worked to the detriment of sound doctrine among evangelicals. Now we have reached the point where evangelicalism, a movement historically defined in doctrinal terms, has ironically become a movement where doctrine is now often portrayed as something evil, divisive, and unbrotherly.

Mention the importance of sound doctrine in the typical gathering of mainstream evangelicals these days, and you are certain to be labeled contentious, quarrelsome, divisive—or worse.

The obvious casualty in all of this is the gospel.

Both Roman Catholics and Protestants have insisted for five centuries that their disagreement is a dispute about the gospel. If that is an accurate assessment of the debate (I think it is; and I certainly see no good reason to question 500 years of Catholic-evangelical agreement on that point) then we cannot possibly set aside our differences and enter into communion and fellowship with one another without also setting aside the gospel.

Phil's signature


art said...

I think that the NPP belongs in an entire different category that with those others (emergent, promise keepers, etc.) solely based on the fact that it is based on scholarship and exegesis...not preferences, philosophies, and emotions.
But that's just me.

Chuck said...

The NPP is not devoid of preferences, philosophies, and emotions- no school of thought can 100% claim that status. However, I think the NPP could get its own category only because it covers such a broad range of scholars. The fact that Wright, Dunn, Sanders, and even guys like Dr. Seifrid at Southern are all buying into certain aspects of the movement calls for careful thinking.
For the record, I don't like any of the NPP, and I am not going to defend it. I just see it as a much broader topic. Other than that (which is really less disagreement and more personal organizational preference), me likey.

Gordon said...

I certainly agree with your point on the difference between evangelicals and Catholics.

I would suggest to those who downplay the importance of doctrine, that the absence of doctrine is in itself a doctrine. (And not a very good one, either.)

Kent Brandenburg said...

All True. Solution: Separation--personal and ecclesiastical. Build walls around local churches to keep the truth. Church become outposts to preach the gospel (the true and only one).

Chris Meirose said...

It all comes back to the Sola's. All things change, all things remain the same.

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

Kay said...

No! Not the comfy chair!

I think the pragmatism thing is what I generally see the most of, practically speaking. Issues like abortion seem very significant, and so it seems quite proper to join with Roman catholics and paper over the differences, to make a 'bigger impact'.

Not much use saving little babies, though, if my silence on the gospel condemns all my co-workers to a Christ-less eternity.

Sven said...

I'm not sure why ecumenism is such a bad thing???

There can only be one body of Christ, and it is not expressed in the totality of either the Roman Catholic Church or Protestantism, but by those who share in Christ and the Spirit. A particular slant on a doctrine of justification is not the focal point for Christian unity, faith in Jesus Christ is.

As for the NPP, if even Carson and Schreiner agree (however reluctantly) that 1st century Judaism didn't teach a merit-earning style of works-righteousness then it needs to be taken seriously. In any case, the only real consensus on the NPP is on matters of historical context rather than church doctrine, and it is too broad a term to adequately describe trends in Christian theology.

Kay said...

A particular slant on a doctrine of justification is not the focal point for Christian unity, faith in Jesus Christ is

Yes, but you then have to explain what you mean by 'faith in Jesus Christ'. It's no small matter, and people do mean different things by it. And so we are back to square one.
Ecumenism is meaningless if one person is talking about apples, and the other person is talking about mung beans, even if they do use the same terminology. These things do matter.
You can't separate 'doctrine of justification' and 'faith in Jesus Christ'. That's a false dichotomy.

Phil Johnson said...

Art, Moonlight, etc.:

The point I'm making has nothing to do with whether NPP (or any of the trends I mentioned) is "scholarly" or "exegetical" or affirmed by a broad base of scholars, or whatever. The point is that it is contributes (in a big way, I'd say) to the erosion of historic evangelical doctrinal distinctives--especially, the long-standing evangelical consensus on justification by faith.

I'm aware of the arguments of guys like Mark Horne (and even NT Wright himself) who claim that their formulae are capable of a benign interpretation that is perfectly compatible with the WCF and other historic Protestant confessional standards. I don't buy that (even when Horne cites Nevin as if to suggest that NPP ideas about justification are well established among Protestant theologians).

There's undeniably been a clear erosion of evangelical clarity and consensus among those who are enthralled with the NPP, and it does contribute in a major way to the trend I'm talking about. And it is one of the big factors in the push for evangelical detente with Rome.

DJP said...

So here's my take on what you're saying, bro Phil.

The very word "evangelical" comes from the Greek euaggelion, which means good news, or, from older English, Gospel. Therefore the word itself focuses on a particular point of doctrine, not experience or practice. Specifically that point of doctrine is the Gospel.

And evangelicalism has always defined the Gospel as a matter of God saving sinners in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. Sins are forgiven gratis, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the believing sinner.

Therefore, consciously to shift away from that doctrinal core, and more specifically, to shift away from Gospel so defined, in a sane world, would also necessarily mean a shift away from being an "evangelical."

That it is not being seen as such is Clue #29578 that we are not in a sane world.

Am I on your point?

Very well-said, Phil.


Phil Johnson said...

Dan: Bingo.

Sven: For my answer to the question of why ecumenism isn't something I would uncritically embrace as a Real Good Trend, see the final paragraph of the post.

1 L Loyd said...

Good way of getting to brass tacks in the last paragraph. How can we attatch ouselves to someone, when their teachings are leaving people condemned to hell?

SJ Camp said...

Good word Phil.

When I posted my analysis of 2005—“evangelicalism, the year in review,” the big winner, unfortunately, was Romanism. Evangelicals turned out in groves even to support Romanism in the arts (2004, "The Passion of the Christ"); in conferences ("Purpose Driven Catholics"); and in local church held political rallies ("Justice Sunday"). Seminaries, churches, and evangelical leaders that we both respect gave kudos to Rome this past year by partnering with them in political gatherings, academic settings, by paying homage to John Paul II after his death or even giving merit (no pun intended) to Benedict the XVI’s conservative encyclical on “love.” Unfortunately, pragmatic concerns has eroded theological convictions; the lines are being doctrinally blurred at accelerated rates for a cultural unity on issues other than the gospel.

We are on The New Downgrade. I really believe that this spiritually inebriated alliance with Romanism is potentially more hazardous to the preservation of biblical Christianity in our day than even issues like Open Theism and Emergent postmodernism - as deadly as they are.

In the Turretin approach, it’s not enough to posit ‘what we affirm,’ but we must be willing to also say ‘what we deny’ in proclaiming what we affirm. I.e.:
-We affirm sola fide; we deny Romanism as a false church; led by a false pastor; occupying a false office; proclaiming a false gospel of semi-Pelagian works righteousness.

-We affirm sola Scriptura; we deny Romanism as a surrogate Christ that patronizes the Scriptures as being subservient to its own rule authority.


I will be praying for you today as you give this important message.

On a personal note, I am very disappointed that I am unable to attend Shepherds Conference this year (there are family and ministry commitments of more importance this week). Please give my warmest greetings to all the fellow bloggers there; and especially to John, R.C., Al, Mark, Steve, Rick, Jerry, and Lance.

Give 'em heaven,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Gryphonette said...

If the NPP belongs in a category all its own it's because unlike the other reasons cited, the NPP claims that the LORD deliberately permitted His church to be in error for 2000 solid years, due to Insufficient Anthropological Evidence.

This is, BTW, the precise same argument used by egalitarians to support their rationale as to why 2000 years of church teaching should be scraped together and dumped in the trash.

Is it a coincidence that Wright is both a proponent of the NPP and an egalitarian, considering his willingness in both cases to chunk a couple of millenia of church teaching due to Newly Uncovered Evidence?

Don't think so.

Great post, Phil, and if at the Shepherd's conference you should happen to run into a Mr. Klos, would you tell him Anne in Texas says "Howdy!" ;^)

Thanks ever so, and have a fabulous confab.

DJP said...

Steve and Clinging Vine -- what excellent addenda!


Darel said...

In my head, the following sounds like an innocent question. My skepticism tells me it's prolly not.

If we are on a slow decline from doctrine, can we not also be on a slow advance in doctrine?

Sort of like the slow and methodical stomping out of cigarette use in the U.S. Slowly, over much time, there are becoming fewer and fewer places for people to smoke, with the ultimate goal to bring it to a complete halt by inertia.

Is there some way in which this might be true for bad doctrine? That we ratchet slowly up until it's gone?

It's probably a stupid idea, but it just occurred to me when considering "ecumenism". Is our purpose to condescend in order to bring them up to where they should be? I don't know... it's likely hare-brained.

Steve said...

Thosse who have taken the time to read the conclusions the NPP scholars are reaching in regard to Christ, the gospel, and the New Testament will come to realize that some of those conclusions are in clear defiance of what the Scriptures teach.

For those willing to take the time to do their homework, I highly recommend the Fall 2005 Master's Seminary Journal, which includes some excellent articles on the problems with the NPP school of thought.

donsands said...

Great post, and great comments.
Doctrine! I love it. It's the teachings of our Sovereign Lord!

Truth. The Bible. The Scriptures. My heart swells with love and earnest desire for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us with all the precious treasures in the Holy Word of God.

Catholicism vs. Protestantism, yes this is the front lines, but there are many skirmishes round and about.

I argued with a prof at Notre Dame over the gospel, and he pronounced that I was in grave error. I said we are saved by the precious blood alone through faith, with the evidence of love, he said, we need to love our neighbor, and that by faith alone is wrong. We participate in our salvation: works vs. faith alone.

FX Turk said...

Wha ... ? The Gospel?!

Phil: you've gone mad with blogging!



you should listen to D.A.Carson take apart NPP before you start calling it "scholarship". It is an idea which was produced in academia, but like a sandwich made during the Faculty Senate meeting, that does not make it "scholarship".

I have a link to the MP3s here someplace ... you listen and see what you think afterwards.

DJP said...

Phil -- and now, as if to give a red-hot illustration to your excellent point, comes the report that that Jerry Falwell and other famous "evangelicals" (the word is used repeatedly) have decided that Jews currently have a second way to Heaven that doesn't require any faith in Jesus Christ.

NOTE: I stress it's just a report, until and unless Falwell himself directly makes this statement.


FX Turk said...


You just ruined my blogging week. Falwell comes out against solus christus? How am I every going to finish the 7th part of my nutter series when things like this keep coming across my desktop?

FX Turk said...


I found the PodCast link:


When I pulled up this page, items #21-23 were D.A. Carson speaking on NPP. This lecture is well worth your time to review.

FX Turk said...

and Dan's link says this:

Many Christian denominational leaders - who represent some 30 million evangelical Christians in the US - have expressed support for CUFI in writing. These include such names as Dr. Jack Hayford, president of the Foursquare Gospel Church; Paul Walker, assistant general overseer of the Church of God; international Pastor Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church; Benny Hinn; George Morrison; Kenneth Copland; Steve Strang; Matt Croutch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network; and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council.

Talk about a can of mixed nuts ...

DJP said...

Frank, what you do is you think of it not so much as a series as a lifestyle. (c;

I did say it was just a report, right? But there are a lot of names implicated there. Either they have a lot of 'splaining to do... or they have a lot of 'splaining to do.

Either way, they have... well, you know.

And I'd say this. Suppose this report had come out about MacArthur, or Phil. The knowledgeable world would say, "Yeah, right!", and wait for the certain disavowal.

That this isn't one's first reaction with these names certainly means something.

FX Turk said...

For the readers of TeamPyro, I have e-mailed Dr. Falwell and am eager to receive his thoughts on the topic of "dual covenant" theology.

Steve said...

Phil one other area is the rise of Landmarkism that you saw on Carlas reflections site the other day. Michael Ray said what some of the folks that post at Emergent No hold to as they follow Mike closely. They are really behind the "Landmarker" Baptist group that do away with all other branches of Christ Church and call them No church at all. The great Blogs on Emergent No seem hypocritical in light of this they will do what they need to do in order to promote their ONLY Church doctrine, and call you and James White no Baptist at all.

DJP said...

Great, Frank.

If (as I hope) the report is grossly inaccurate, it does indeed give Dr. Falwell a superb opportunity to clarify the Gospel.

coreywhit said...

Amen. The dumbing down of Christianity, particularly the "evangelical" end of things is maddening. Working with students, I see that they either want an "experience" or they want a list of to do's. We try to get them past that to autherntic submission to the will of God and real Love of the Lord. But we also try to educate their minds so that they have a sound faith , a firm foundation. Unfortunately a lot of adult evangelicalism is focused right back on lists ( seven steps to ten ways of finding the three secrets of 7th heaven) or experiential faith without doctrine. So somebody please keep teaching doctrine so my kids have somewhere to go as adults if they move elsewhere!

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...

I find it funny that Wright, Dunn and Sanders are so embraced by those churches that, in the past, were historically reformed. I had a friend from London over just last week, when questioned about the Bishop of Durham, said that he could not understand why Americans consider him a conservative. In the UK he is seen as liberal theologian-hands down.

Wright, for instance (I cannot remember the name of the book-someone help) says that the parable of the Sower and the Seeds is about Israel’s return from the Exile. He ignores the Divine interpretation of the parable and inserts an idea found in rabbinical Judaism. That is not good or sound scholarship. His exegesis ignores one of the principles of interpreting the Bible, namely the Analogy of Faith-scripture interprets the scripture and trumps the grammatical/historical. (I say this realizing that there are more nuances than this broad statement-but in principle this is a problem with NPP scholars and advocates).

You should have reservation about a movement who sees Schwietzer, and Barth as giants of the faith and dismiss Calvin, Luther and Owen as medievalists. The Doctrines of Grace where not something that the Reformers invented-Reformed doctrines and faith have always been historically believed by the confessing church.

Though a movement has many scholars involved with it (Wright, Seifried, etc) we have to be certain that we-especially the layman-do not give them a ticket to get in.

Look-to those of us who believe that Christians should and can think, that history, Greek, and careful exegesis matters-we should be most aware (REMEMBER OUR HISTORY) of the folly of learning. It is as infected and leans towards worldliness just as much as anything else Phil mentioned.

For some N.T. Wright fun, go see this blog by Steve Wood, a F.I.R.E member, You Never Know Who’s Lurking

Now that I have ticked of all the NPP sympathizers I will be called a simpleton. I will be told I have to look broadly at all of the evidence-that you can’t place the NPP advocates in one camp. But I have read a good deal of the NPP in their own writing, so I have a good idea of the movement. I have a question for all of you who lean towards, or support the NPP-Why do they all mess with the Doctrine of Justification? Why is it that they take so much effort to redefine that core teaching of Historic/Biblical Christianity?

Seth Huckstead

Momo said...

And here I was thinking that "evangelicals" were a political movement.

Steve said...

CenturiOn said: "Talk about a can of mixed nuts ..."

That made me laugh! Thanks, Cent.

Matthew said...

Hey Frank (centuri0n):

I've been trying to listen to that DA Carson lecture on the NPP, but am unable to get it to work - might you know where I could directly download it... legally, of course. :)

Dan Edelen said...

A few comments:

Anti-intellectualism, to me at least, is more rampant in Evangelical megachurches than it is in the charismatic movement, yet the charismatics get singled out for scorn here. Returning to the same whipping boy because some perceive him to be an easy target is not intellectually stimulating.

Let me also say that Evangelicals who blast charismatics for being anti-intellectual are highly selective in what they believe charismatics are being ignorant of. Charismatics would also claim that Evangelical intellectuals are ignorant of the very things that charismatics take for granted, so who becomes the true anti-intellectual in the final analysis?

Gotta be careful who we attack, lest our battle turn on us.

Momo said...

dan edelen, I usually send that bullet at the fundamentalists rather than the charismatics. That's because I've been one of the former, never one of the latter. However, I think evangelicalism as a whole is anti-intellectual (at least in the South) and that would include Pentecostals, would it not?

(Hey, if I pulled out my "some of my best friends are Pentecostals" card here, would it help?) :>)

Phil Johnson said...

Dan: Note that my comments are specificaly set in the context of a review of the major trends and influences of the past decade or so.

There's no question that anti-intellectualism is epidemic across the whole evangelical spectrum, and I have said so often.

But what I had in mind here was the virulent, radical anti-intellectualism of the "Toronto Blessing" and its derivatives, where people were often expressly told that they needed to suspend their rational faculties and enter a state of "drunkenness."

It's really hard to think of any parallel for that kind of anti-intellectualism outside the charismatic movement.

Sorry to step on your toes, but that WAS one of the major movements in the '90s that overtly attacked doctrine and conditioned people to think every attempt to gain any rational understanding of the truth is a Bad Thing.

Darel said...

Phil, isn't that the same as Catholicism? Just, whatever-the-priest-tells-you, don't-you-dare-open-that-bible-ism....

FX Turk said...

For those interested in the Carson lecture series, here's the original source:

Lecture #1
Lecture #2
Lecture #3

That's where I got mine, anyway. right-click to download.

Dan Edelen said...

No toes stepped on. I consider myself a charismatic and I didn't like the utter lack of discernment in Toronto, either. Some parts of the charismatic movement are a complete ruin, but that can be said of a number of "Christian" movements, right?

I got a kick out of your "some of my best friends are Pentecostals" comment.

Hey, Jack Hayford and John MacArthur are friends, right?

4given said...

>"Not much use saving little babies, though, if my silence on the gospel condemns all my co-workers to a Christ-less eternity."


>"Is our purpose to condescend in order to bring them up to where they should be?"

Condescend???? Speaking the truth of the Gospel in love is by far condescending. Divisive. Sadly, yes. But that should never keep one from proclaiming the true Gospel... even if you get e-mails from people telling you to stop making a fool of yourself. A "fool" for the true Gospel? According to the world , perhaps. A true fool on a path straight to hell... by the grace of God alone, not me.

David A. Carlson said...

But what is the gospel?

John 3:16?

Every word uttered by Spurgeon?

The Westminster Confession?

Nicene Creed?

What must we agree to in order to be fellow workers?

At which level may we have unity?

Must you agree with every point of the SBC statement of Faith? How about the Nazarene SoF? E Free?

I think that when we start discussing doctrine, we go to far - not that it is not right to discuss, but that we have a tendency to marginalize other believers because they do not agree with every jot and tittle of our doctrine.

So - what must we agree with in order to be a fellow traveler with the Pyro-ettes?

Momo said...

So are there only two options? No doctrinal distinctives at all or way too many so that everyone is an island to himself?

Methinks there is middle ground somewhere, probably with a sign on it that says, "Essential Christian doctrine."

FX Turk said...

First: for those interested by not following the waves of Christian blogging, Jerry Falwell has posted a correction to the JP story posted by Dan earlier today.

As I note at my blog, Dr. Falwell's staff also took the time to e-mail me personally in spite of it being me rather than someone reputable.

FYI -- it was a good question to ask.

FX Turk said...

For David, I don't personally believe you don't know what the Gospel is. Do you honestly believe that "Gospel" is just a noun, or is it a proper noun which designates something particular the apostles taught?

This is not snark or a set-up. If you don't know what the Gospel is, I am interested in discussing it with you.

Darel said...

4given, I didn't mean to be offensive in my use of the word. I meant, if we see error in doctrine, how far do we stoop in order to try to bring them to good doctrine? Or do we stoop at all? Do we simply post signs saying "Gospel this way -->"?

Mostly it is my musing. I suppose I should confine such things to my own blog....

David A. Carlson said...

CT - really more of a question to Phil - If you are going to discuss Unity, I think that it serves to define on what we must be united. There are many I will stand next to as a Christian - if we agree to this.

The Gospel is:

God has provided a way of salvation to people through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it.

Now there are things one must likely understand in order to get to that point - but that is the gospel in my book.

Doctrine is important, very important. But I do not have to agree past the Gospel to call another brother.

JS had a nice post on Calvinists, Armenians and Grace that I think was just right. And he also raises the key point that I was making (his is much clearer)

Methinks there is middle ground somewhere, probably with a sign on it that says, "Essential Christian doctrine."

To discuss unity, let us define that first - what must we agree to in order to be unified

David A. Carlson said...

For example - the Nazarene, E Free and SBC all have differing statements of faith.

Yet I would call all of them Brothers, and believe in most areas we are one in the proclimation of the gospel.

Most = enough

But what is "enough"?

4given said...

Condescending defined is to come down from one's position or dignity; to lower oneself; to patronize. I do not mean to be condescending in defining condescending... but it is truly not the intention of proclaiming the true Gospel to be condescending... What is condescending... or should I say damning and blasphemous is when one totally distorts the scriptures, taking them out of context to fit in their box, and then trying to get everyone to get along and work together on what seems like worthy projects at the expense of the Gospel.
As my husband always says, "The path to hell is paved with good intentions."
If we live out the true Gospel than than our lives would manifest the "Gospel this way" sign.
How about "Stop debating how many teeth the horse has and count them yourself."
If we actually did that there would be no need for such blogs. But we don't.
Again, look at all the ignorance surrounding, say, Benny Hinn... but yet, ignorance comes in many levels... including the subtle.
So the purpose of all this blogging can be incredibly fruitful. Why? Because "We have somehow got hold of the idea that error is only that which is outrageouly wrong; and we do not seem to understand that the most dangerous person of all is the one who does not emphasize the right things." --D. Martin Lloyd Jones

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...


I was I was at the Shepherds Conf. this year-maybe Ligon and RC are outnumbered, but this Presby is thinking of them:)

Maybe you remember me from the 2001 conf, I was that one guy, in that one seminar with male pattern balndness...sitting in the back of the GCC gym with that other guy. I had a shirt on.

Ahh the good times...

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...

I meant to say I wish I was...

Sorry for the fun grammatical errors

FX Turk said...

Since Blogger has been having technical swoons today, I am sorry to have come back to this thread 20 posts later than I anticipated.

I'm going to go on-record here without the prior consent of my fellow Pyros and say point-blank that I reject a "mere Christianity". I reject it and think it is a lie.

I think there is the Gospel, and then there is everything else -- including denomination. And I think there would be a lot more unity in the church if people spent more time trying to be conformed to and by the Gospel than what we have right now, which is people tryimg as hard as they can to sift through the Gospel and find the parts that don't offend us.

MacArthurFan said...


It seems Falwell is actually a part of CUFI:


This link was on CUFI's site.

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...


Though I am a Presby, I think your point is spot on. Those I know who have gone NPP or Emergent or whatever is the hot movement seem to think that Christianity is an orchard in which they can pick and choose any fruit they like and ignore what doesn't fit their tastes.

Though you and I would certainly disagree on certain aspects of polity and points of the sacraments, we both agree on the Solas. These are the truths of the Scripture. This is what all of these movements fight against.

The Pyro's may offend-but most of the time you guys are right!

Seth Huckstead

FX Turk said...


... now about your baptism ...

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...


A former GCC pastor (and still a friend of mine) baptized me-I am a new Presby, so I am...uh...a little...uh... wet behind the ears. So does my baptism count or is I gettin "re-educated"? :)


Sharad Yadav said...


It sounds to me like you're saying "the problem with evangelicalism is that it's not fundamentalism." Well . . . yeah. It's not. Thank God!

In regards to the Gospel, the Bible defines it as Good News about something that happened. In every instance Jesus used the word He said that it was news about the kingdom of God. Acts portrays it as an authoritative report about Jesus' defeat of sin on the cross and exaltation as Lord over the universe in His resurrection.

In other words, the Gospel, at least as defined by the Scriptures, isn't repentance and faith, it's not justification, it's not regeneration and it's not salvation. 1 Co. 15:1-3 says it pretty well, and Martin Luther summarizes it similarly: “The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s Son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell.”

There's a difference between what the Gospel IS and what it DOES (i.e. all the consequences of believing it - regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and all the other doctrines you'd care to name). Uniting around the Gospel means uniting around what it SAYS (the Good News), and all those who've believed what it says.

As for the statement that all of these trends you've pointed out necessarily set aside the Gospel, that's simply not true. Rick Warren, Jack Hayford, Doug Wilson and Dan Kimball haven't "set aside the Gospel" in their respective ministries. They're all working very hard in its cause, however they might variously misconstrue the doctrinal consequences of it.

Furthermore if Doug Wilson has "set aside the Gospel" in describing Catholics as Christians (i.e. members of the same covenant family), I'm not sure why you seem to have a much greater affinity for him than than the emerging crowd.

GeneMBridges said...


Apparently, Dr. Falwell is on the board of this group.

Now, this is rather interesting...Ergun Caner, anti-Calvinist extraordinaire, is at Liberty Seminary, attached to Liberty Baptist Church, an SBC church now, and Falwell is on the board of a group that seem to want to set aside the gospel for sake of Israel's security. I'm all for Israel's right to exist as a nation...but not at the expense of the gospel. It seems to me Falwell wants to play both sides of the street.

--And its the Calvinists that are a problem? I think not.

Friar Rick said...

Cent, if you keep posting strong opinions without my consent then I am going to have to "divorce" you.


donsands said...

dan edelen,

I am familiar with the pentecostal/charismatic portion of the Church. I was there for a few years. I had to leave because of doctrinal disagreement.
They believed you could be a more powerful Christian if you were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and they believed that a born again Christian could loose his election, and salvation, if he didn't keep himself sanctified. I came to be very reformed/non-charismatic, and we had quite the debate.
I left for these two reasons.

Since then i ran into Calvary Chapel, though Charismatic/Arminian, very solid in the Word. I think Chuck Smith has been used mightily by the Lord.
Also Jesus People USA is very solid in the Word. And you have Reformed Charismatics as well. PDI, C. J. Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, and there's one more, but I can't think of his name.
God bless you brother. And may His Holy Word continue to cut us deep to convict, encourage, and manifest His truth to us in greater and more powerful ways then we could ever have imagined, and if we ever twist His Holy Word, may we be accursed, and condemned. Amen.

stauf46 said...

Thanks for the Carson NPP links, Frank!

I have to put in my 2 cents (no pun intended)on the Gospel discussion too.

The Gospel is news and it is good news. It is outside of us (Gal 3:1) and it is not "do this and live," it is "this has been done for you - believe!"

The crisis in evangelcalism is the human factor - the 'do this and live' of the new laws. This is so deadly in the RCC and evangelical moralisms of various sorts.

However, we were not just given 2 or three verses but 66 books. Our task is to enjoy working out the implications of grace for the rest of our days.


stauf46 said...

BTW - Tim Challies has done a good summary of Phil's talk on challies.com

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...


The RCC subscribes to the same gospel you define-justification, sanctification, regeneration are essential to the proclomation of the gospel.

Reread 1 Cor 15:1-3 and see that it is about being saved as well as the proclimation of Christ is Lord. We have to define things here. That is what Phil is saying.


Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "As for the statement that all of these trends you've pointed out necessarily set aside the Gospel, that's simply not true."

It's also not quite what I said.

Centuri0n: "I'm going to go on-record here without the prior consent of my fellow Pyros and say point-blank that I reject a 'mere Christianity'. I reject it and think it is a lie."

THAT'S practically the very point I was making.

BTW, for those who have asked, my other seminar today was my answer to the question of "what is the gospel?" and I explained from Scripture why I have insisted that the principle of sola fide is the very nerve of the gospel and the distinguishing element of authentic Christianity.

MarieP said...

Steve said...

"Phil one other area is the rise of Landmarkism that you saw on Carlas reflections site the other day. Michael Ray said what some of the folks that post at Emergent No hold to as they follow Mike closely. They are really behind the 'Landmarker' Baptist group that do away with all other branches of Christ Church and call them No church at all. The great Blogs on Emergent No seem hypocritical in light of this they will do what they need to do in order to promote their ONLY Church doctrine, and call you and James White no Baptist at all.
6:47 AM, March 01, 2006"

I know Carla and Nina, and I know that they would not have any problem calling Phil Johnson and James White Baptists. What specifically makes you think they are Landmarkers? Please back up your claims with evidence, although I truly doubt you have any...

Carla Rolfe said...


just more misinformation. Whether in ignorance or deliberate, it's hard to tell anymore. Sad, eh?


Guy Davies said...

Bang on Mr Johnson,

The problem is the increasing aversion to doctrine in the Evangelical world.

puritanicoal said...


I agree with your post wholeheartedly.

I was travelling yesterday, so wasn't able to respond until now, but I just wanted to pipe in on an issue:

The whole NPP thing is a red herring, at best; an artifact on the radar of the true Gospel. Just because a bunch of 'scholars' buy into something, and just because they are DD's, does not in any sense give it the least amount of credibility. Comparing Dunn and Wright with Cranfield, Moo, and Stott, to name a very few, the "exegetical" argument is quickly dispelled. I would recommend before anyone jumps on the NPP bandwagon to actually read, in detail and analytically, Wright and Dunn, and compare them to the BPP camp (Biblical Perspective on Paul, my label). It's a fetal heresy in fad's clothing.

FX Turk said...


I think you misread 1Cor 15 by leaving off verse 4 as part of the things Paul lists as "of fisrt importance" to the Gospel he preached.

I think you also somehow overlook that vv.1-2 says something pretty important about that Gospel: the Gospel has a specific effect on those who do not receive it "in vain".

I think this is a very important point which is lost on many reading this passage in English because we have this Christianese magic word "the Gospel". Paul was using a word in the Greek here which means "good news from the front line of battle" -- not merely a greeting card of sentiment or "good" news in the generic sense like finding a gas station that has gas 10 cents cheaper than everywhere else. Paul was saying -- and this is borne out as you read the rest of the book of 1Cor -- that he delvered a message to the Corinthians which ought to cause them to do something in particular with their lives.

Apolo medal'd in the short track? Well, that's good news -- but so what? When Paul says, "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture, he was buried, and he was raised from the death in accordance with the Scripture", Paul has delivered good news that has consequences both eternal and immediate. In your view, those consequencecs are abstracted from the Gospel, but Paul does not think so.

In the first place, he says that the Gospel is the basis for separating the church from the world (he says this by saying the Gospel he preached was the Gospel "in which you stand", "you" being the church at Corinth). He also says it is the Gospel that saves. But importantly, he says that these things are true "if you have not believed in vain".

Let me submit to you that here, as James does in his epistle, Paul says that if the Gospel hasn't done anything for you right now, then the Gospel you possess is impotent and useless -- it's a vain belief. In that, Paul binds the particulars of the Gospel to the particulars of a regenerate life. It is impossible to say that the Gospel is one thing and the results of the Gospel are another if we take Paul at face value.

And this is why the matter of "mere Christianity" is such a travesty. There's someone in the blogosphere with whom I have had many run-ins, and his chief complaint about Babdists is that we disjoin the matter of the incarnation from the results of the incarnation, effectively boxing ourselves in as gnostics in theory if not in practice. If we accept the definition that the Gospel is some confession about Jesus that has no necessary implications in the life of the believer, and therefore in the life of the church, he's right.

Denise said...


Speaking of what is the gospel, I've noticed in some "Reformed" circles that the gospel doesn't have to have the resurrection of Christ our Lord proclaimed. Not all Reformers believe this and I'm by no means saying they are (I am a 5 point Baptist). However Dr. John Frame seems to think that the resurrection of Christ is not necessary for "all" believers to believe in order to be saved, if I understand him correctly. He appeals to the OT believers; the NT believers who were under the Old Law & hadn't heard of the resurrection of Christ, and infants (using the WCF)---saying Rom. 10:9 is not a prescription but description of ones already saved. Matt Slick of CARM also has taught this. He used Frame (who is his mentor apparently) and the WCF for his evidence. Others have agreed with their view.

Can you maybe delve into this issue? I think the gospel is often skewed and it worries me what folks are believing and trusting.

It seems today God's wrath is often ignored in proclaming the gospel for fear of offending the sinner.

So, all that to say, how about a section on what is the gospel, since you will (or have) taught on it at the conference? =) Pretty please?

David A. Carlson said...

Fundamentally, we are selfish beings. What we need to do is let God turn us into selfless beings.

Being selfless has more to do with loving your neighbor than it does with fighting over if Hewitts latest blog is the dumbest idea since KJV onlyism.

Being selfless has alot more to do with living a faithfull life than proclaiming how unfaithfull someone else is.

Being selfless is sharing the gospel with someone, not berating an Armenian because they think TULIP is a dumb idea. Not that berating an Armenian is a bad idea, but it comes in second to sharing the Gospel.

The Christian who had the greatest impact on my life is a Pastor who gave my family a car when we had none. I have spent 20 years living up to the example of his life - including his love for the whole bible, and of sharing the gospel. All of that came from he and his wifes selflessness.

Doctrine is fine. My first discussion with my pastor revolved around 4th century heresies. But you know, most of what the bible teaches is really very simple. Being an evangelical is to share the gospel.

So that gets me back to my original question - What does it take to become a Pyro-ette? What must I believe in additon to the Gospel that would allow you to call me brother?

Sharad Yadav said...


Sorry - that was an accident. I meant to include vs. 4!! But of course there's no need to stop there. The story goes on to verse 11. Excellent point about the meaning of the word "news". That's why I called it "authoritative news" about the kingdom of God. And I agree that one can't merely assent to it like assenting to the fact that many cheeses are yellow. It means commitment, submission and the obedience of faith to Jesus as God's crucified Messiah and the risen Lord.

In my view this response is what is demanded from the Gospel. If preaching the Gospel means also preaching the litany of effects which this response produces (i.e. justification), than Peter didn't preach the Gospel in Acts 2 and Paul failed to do so in Acts 17.

As to your point about James, very well said. The Gospel amounts to a life commitment to follow Jesus as God's crucified Messiah and the world's risen Lord. But the "particulars of a regenerate life" involve demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit, not consenting to tightly worded list of theological descriptions of the spiritual realities which objectively take place after one believes (with concomittant life commitment). One can, therefore, be "justified by faith" in fact however wrongly they might define it. It's an objective fact of conversion, which is effected by commiting oneself to Jesus in faith, not by commiting oneself to a formula of justification.

John Haller said...


Doesn't that guy's OT argument fall apart when one looks at Abraham? Abraham considered Isaac dead when he left for Mt. Moriah (interesting that it was a 3-day journey). What Abraham believed in was the resurrection, that even if he killed Isaac, he would be resurrected. See Hebrews.

Sharad Yadav said...


Maybe you could clarify. I took your statement "The obvious casualty in all of this is the gospel" to mean exactly that. The Gospel being a casualty "in all of this" seems to mean that it's "left out" or "set aside" etc. In any case, I guess my question is how Christians should relate to those who adopt the 40 days of purpose, imbibe anti-intellectual influences, are involved with Promise Keepers, appreciate the New Perspective, or subscribe to the Auburn Avenue ecclesiology. I'm unclear as to whether your post says that fellowshipping/communing with such individuals causes me to sacrifice the Gospel, whether being such a one causes me to sacrifice the Gospel, or both. I'm also wondering what this separation implies - are these people beleivers or unbelievers?

Jason Robertson said...

Raja, I knew you had problems when your first comment started with "it sounds like you said." What Phil said was clear. The problem today is that "evangelical" is no longer a theological description. "Evangelical" is no longer synonymous with "Gospel-believing." Phil did not say that we should seperate ourselves from evangelicals, but we must be aware of the shift in the nature of the the theological population known as evangelicals. And that change in nature is a sad testimony of the condition of Christianity in the Western world today.

BTW, thanks for sharing your discernment with us Phil.

SJ Camp said...

I don't know if this was already posted here or not, but the Falwell report by the initial story by the Jerusalem Post was not accurate. Here is the correction by Dr. Falwell...sort of. There is still some confusion. You may read it for yourself HERE.


Sharad Yadav said...


I thought that historically evangelicalism distinguished itself from fundamentalism in the 1950's in part for the purpose of preserving Gospel proclamation as a distinctive over against a the kind of doctrinal distinctives specified by fundamentalism. I was just saying that Phil's post sounds like a plea to return to fundamentalism (which might not be bad, if one has those leanings). Judging from most of these comments, it sounds like that's how his post is generally being read. Kent Brandenburg's logical conclusion to Phil's comments are what my comment was driving at:

Solution: Separation--personal and ecclesiastical. Build walls around local churches to keep the truth. Church become outposts to preach the gospel (the true and only one).

I don't think Kent misunderstood what he read, and neither have I. My comments began "it sounds to me as if" should be read with the rhetorical thrust of "this is the logical consequence of your post". Regardless, David's question is a good one, and the questions posed in my post drive at the very same issue, which is at it's heart the most practical question to ask in light of Phil's comments - how do these comments affect who I should fellowship with, and do they serve as criteria for identifying a true believer? If evangelical = christian and these views no longer describe evangelicals can we conclude that those holding these views aren't Christians? That's not a tangent, it's not rabble rousing, and it has real world consequences for Christian practice (not least when it comes to missions, as in the recent SBC controversy).

Steve said...

Surphing said...

Speaking of what is the gospel, I've noticed in some "Reformed" circles that the gospel doesn't have to have the resurrection of Christ our Lord proclaimed. Not all Reformers believe this and I'm by no means saying they are (I am a 5 point Baptist). However Dr. John Frame seems to think that the resurrection of Christ is not necessary for "all" believers to believe in order to be saved, if I understand him correctly. He appeals to the OT believers; the NT believers who were under the Old Law & hadn't heard of the resurrection of Christ, and infants (using the WCF)---saying Rom. 10:9 is not a prescription but description of ones already saved. Matt Slick of CARM also has taught this. He used Frame (who is his mentor apparently) and the WCF for his evidence. Others have agreed with their view.

Can you maybe delve into this issue? I think the gospel is often skewed and it worries me what folks are believing and trusting.


Surph the resurrection is not denied by Matt nor Dr. Frame. We know all infants that die and go to glory have not heard of the resurrection. Also here is my testimony and what happened to me as I was discipled. I never disagreed with the resurrection:

My Testimony and a "Frame Response"

My Open Testimony

I post my testimony here in the open in order for people to see the validity of my salvation or “to criticize" my salvation since some seems to think something was just not correct in God’s saving me in this manner. I do not seek to explain what God did on the day in 1977 that I was regenerated. The message I heard was that Jesus was light and I could be brought out of darkness. That night I repented of sin, and believed. I asked for forgiveness. I also in my prayer (no one helping me pray) said, "God whomever you are I believe you. Whatever you have done I believe it. Change my life or else I die".

The next day I went looking for someone to teach me - which I now know is called being discipled. I never denied the resurrection, or the Bible to be the word of God nor anything else. I was quite ignorant about Christianity. I did not know anything at that time so I had to learn.

That night I believed that God is and that he would help (reward me) and that is what He has done. I was blind but then I saw. Amazing Grace was granted to me that evening. As a child of God the Father I began to be taught as His son. Praise His Holy name. Now again that is all I know.

A Person the Holy Spirit worked with me as a person in my circumstance where I was at that time. I never did nor do I now deny the centrality of the resurrection nor the cross nor the precious bloods redeeming power. I had to learn about it. It took months of physical and spiritual training to remove the drug abuse issues and the false teaching I had received and believed in public education. Deprogramming me was not easy. I did not take things, nor do I usually take what someone says at face value. I read and look at things from all angles. As my wife says, "Steve you move slow and with focus reading way too much". In all of this God was with me and teaching me even through my being ignorant and steeped in false evolutionistic teaching.

I did not disagree with God nor what people said about what the Bible was teaching. I just did not know where total truth was so I had to look at all sides. My Father was kind and gentle and eventually I learned that all the Bible says is true spiritually and historically for it is written by God Himself, being God breathed.

This is my testimony and I am thankful for the salvation given me.For those that want to tell me God could not work in me this way I say, “Respectively, if you were not there you simply just do not know what God did in this situation.”

Respectfully, Your brother in Christ



Now some have questioned whether I was saved during this time. I say, hold and proclaim that I was. Some have said I was probably regenerated but salvation probably did not come to me until I understood the resurrection. Perhaps, I certainly do not think so since massive progressive sanctification was taking place and massive massacring sin was about to kill me. I was even persecuted during this time since I wanted to tell everyone that God had so changed my life. But, perhaps some may be closer to how God worked with me that I am. If so, so be it and God bless them!

I however do believe Dr. Frame has explained this possibility of my salvation better than I could have ever put it together myself. I am just to close to all that happened! Here is some of Dr. Frames comments regarding salvation without fully understanding the resurrection.

From Dr. Frame,
Q. Is it possible to be saved without knowing about the Resurrection of Christ?

A. “Sure. There were lots of Jewish believers in the first century who needed to be informed of the Resurrection by the apostolic proclamation. (Think of the people who "knew only the baptism of John.") I've no reason to believe that they were all unregenerate before they knew that Jesus was risen. So today, there may be people in whose hearts God is working, who haven't been taught the full truth about Christ. They may even profess that Christ is Lord, without knowing that the Resurrection is specifically physical. But when told in a godly way, they will eventually accept the truth."

A fuller comment on this subject by Dr. Frame on the resurrection and salvation:

“……..if I were publishing a comment on this issue, I would want to make more qualifications.
The point is that regeneration and salvation did not begin with the coming of Jesus. There were regenerate believers before the incarnation—Abraham, David, Simeon, Elizabeth, Anna, et al. Now although the Resurrection of Jesus is implicit in OT prophecy, it is not explicit. Did Abraham know in advance that Jesus of Nazareth would be killed and raised again? Certainly he believed in a God who was able to raise the dead, and his experience in Gen. 22 certainly confirmed that. But I don’t think Abraham had explicit faith that Jesus would be raised from the dead.

Now after the Resurrection, it was not the case that all old covenant believers suddenly became fully self-conscious new covenant believers. It took some time for the message of the Resurrection to get around. If an old covenant believer (say, in India) died before he heard of Jesus’ resurrection, was he thereby condemned to Hell? I doubt it.

How do I reconcile this with Rom. 10:9? Paul is writing to believers, assuring them that they are saved because they have confessed that Jesus is Lord and believed that God has raised him from the dead. He is not commenting on the kinds of people I mentioned above. Certainly you cannot derive from this statement that, say, Abraham, is not saved because he did not confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God had (would) raise him from the dead.

I also believe (with the Westminster Confession 10.3) that infant children can be regenerated and saved apart from any explicit confession. Rom. 10:9 is not talking about them. Nor is it talking about those the Confession calls “other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

So explicit confession is not a general rule for everyone. But Paul certainly is saying that if you do make an explicit confession of Christ and the Resurrection you will be saved.
John Frame”

donsands said...

I appreciate your testimony, and sharing from John Frame as well.

The Resurrection is God's sign to an evil and adulterous generation. I certainly believe our Lord has His hand of providence moving throughout the world to gather His elect, and He brings them to the gospel in the way He chooses, but He surely, and without doubt will bring them to the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Cornelius is a great example of this teaching, I would think. I'm sure you've heard it before. Cornelius was a god fearing man, and prayed to God, and God heard him, and then the Lord sent Peter to him, so that he could hear the gospel proclaimed, and God opened his heart, and brought him to Himself.

I'm sure Dr. Frame would be able to refute me, that's for sure, but I feel this slackness, or easiness, could open the door for so many others, who do not beleive in the Resurrection to think they are saved, perhaps Mormons, and Hindus, and so on. Maybe I'm going to far with my thinking, and I'm open for correction

The BOTTOM line is always Scripture. What does the Bible say clearly?
Have a great day in Christ our Lord.

Steve said...

An Open Apology

It was not my intention to malign anyone. I did however have the perception that the group on Emergent No is in tight with the doctrine of Landmarkism. I do find Landmarkinism and anything close to it to hold to strange views. So I am concerned about it and anyone close to it. I say this due to the a continuation of shunning others that hold the doctrine of the universal church Carla you have stated that you do not hold that position and that is sufficient for me to apologize to you. Also Surphing and Nina I make apology to you as well.

As to Phil and James White I have not desired to bring your name down in any manner. I really don’t know you guys but ask you accept the apology.

Please accept my apology and pray that all branches of Christ’s Church be united. Steve

Darel said...

The question is not whether they know about the ressurrection... it's whether they believe the news when they hear it.

Second, there should be no theological appeal to authority apart from Scripture. While there are things in Confessions and Creeds that I agree with, just seeing/hearing the phrase "Scripture and the WFC" makes my stomach turn....... it is tantamount to equating the two things in authority.

If make some soteriological point, or indeed any theological derivation based not on explicit Scriptural authority, but rather on some other document, and hold to it for that stated reason ( that is, because we believe in infant baptism, which is not found in Scripture, but is part of our Confession ), and we then interpret Scripture based on that view... we are leading the Ark on an ox-cart. ( 2 Sam 6 )

FX Turk said...

Raja --

I disagree with you that Acts 17 says Paul was not preaching the fully-orbed Gospel which includes "repent and be baptized" -- because I think the summary of his preaching in v. 3 is a summary and not the transcript. Paul did not walk around Thessalonica mechanically repeating the phrase, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” When you identify the pericope, you also need to qualify the pluriform aspects of the writer's desiderata in order to rightly forge your exegetical mcguffin. (c:

And I totally disagree that Peter did not preach the effects of the Gospel in Acts 2. When he concluded "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified," Peter then preached to these convicted men, "Repent and be baptized!" So we find ourselves at the place where we have to ask the question: what is the manifestation of repentence, and what is the meaning of baptism.

In those two words, Peter summed up all of the effects of the Gospel -- the turning away from enmity with God, and the joining together with God's people as a testimony to the work of Christ.

I would agree with you in the end, nevertheless, that it's not about how you describe what you are doing but that you are actually doing it. However, I would qualify that by saying this distinction is significantly imprecise. Being somewhat-foggy in your systematic theology is not the same as being heretical, apostate, or worse. So, for example, I could accept the assertion that a Missionary Baptist pastor is a brother in Christ even though his systematic understanding of the faith is arminian and not conformed to Dort or the LBCF.

As Doug Wilson is expert at saying, we are not saved by our perfect understanding of Christ's work: we are saved by the perfect nature of Christ's work. And thank God for that, becuase I am certain my understanding is not perfect.

Sharad Yadav said...


I'm enjoying your responses so much that I'm procrastinating on my Sunday School lesson (got anything on Romans 5:12-21?) --

My point in Acts 17 was that Paul never mentioned justification by faith, being born again, or the like. He, and the other apostles, do frequently call for repentance, faith and baptism as the appropriate response to the Gospel message, but it doesn't make sense to call that command "the Good News" in itself. It's the demanded response to the news.

I think your point about the fact that these aren't transcripts is completely valid and insightful - Luke is picking out the details in these exchanges that proves the theological points he's making. But his point is that the Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus preached is being continued through the Holy Spirit's ministry in the Church. For that reason it should be very odd if he decided to leave out crucial components of the Gospel in accounts where it is being preached. The same thing goes for Paul's letter to the Thessalonians.

Of course no one is arguing that Paul walked around chanting a mantra like “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” any more than he went around chanting "Justification by faith alone, justification by faith alone, justification by faith alone".

By the way, I'm putting this paragraph on my refrigerator in order to evoke my wife's knowing smile and mocking fodder:

When you identify the pericope, you also need to qualify the pluriform aspects of the writer's desiderata in order to rightly forge your exegetical mcguffin.

As for Acts 2, note that Peter concluded his message in verse 36. It was after hearing it that the crowd responded in verse 37: "What must we do?!" That's not to say that Peter didn't expect a response, imply that one was needed, or even demanded one - but it is to say that the only meaningful sense in which it is a "response" is to see it as a response to the Gospel he just preached in 2:14-36. In other words, it's not part of the "Good News" itself. So the distinction I've made holds very well in these texts. Note as well that if justification by faith, regeneration, election and the rest are necessary components of the Gospel either Peter or Luke left them out. But of course they didn't leave anything crucial out in their preaching of the Good News.

You say that in "repent and be baptized" Peter summed up all of the effects of the Gospel, but of course that's not really something the text says. It's also not something that the hearers would have understood, if one supposes that Peter packed the book of Romans into those two words. Your minimal definition, namely "turning away from enmity with God, and the joining together with God's people as a testimony to the work of Christ" nails it wonderfully - but that's a far cry from "penal substitutionary atonement", "justification by faith", and the rest.

I think our bottom line agreement, namely that "it's not about how you describe what you are doing but that you are actually doing it" is the most important one.

The distinction I've made bears itself out in these texts, as well as the Gospels. Preaching the Gospel isn't the same thing as explaining what Paul means by Romans 3-5 - it's preaching something more akin to Acts 2 and 17, with Romans 3-5 being a meditation or reflection on the theological consequences of that message.

Like your own, my theological understanding is far from perfect, but I'd probably modify your Doug Wilson quote by saying that we are not saved by our perfect understanding of Christ's work: we are saved by Christ.

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...

I have a question for all-and it is real-not rhetorical or combative or whatever the right phrase or word is.

(Raja-this is especially true of my asking this to you-I really don't want' to be your enemy-and publicly I am sorry for the mocking tone I published on Frank's blog-really, so I ask for your forgiveness. I have no idea who is taking your blog thoughts "to those higher up" nor do I care to know.)

I agree with statements-like those of Wright-that someone does not need to know the doctrine of justification to be saved-but what if someone is taught the doctrine of justification (for instance) and they reject it and make great efforts to do so? How should we respond? Are they not denying core Christian doctrine which is as important as the resurrection. "How one gets saved" distinguishes us from the Roman Catholic Church, and their apostate doctrines.

My statement to you was to clarify your position. I agree that the "Good News" is a proclamation that Christ is Lord and King of all the Universe-but that proclamation alone , I believe, does not constitute the whole Gospel. They need to know that they are guilty by penalty of eternal punishment and that they need to repent. They need to know that Christ came into this world to save sinners.

I realize the fear of some about the Reformed doctrine of Justification-that is allows, in theory, for someone to live like the devil. However-we know from the scriptures that is not true. The various aspect of the order of salvation repudiate the thought of antinomianism.

Anyways, this is a rather tangential comment so respond in like obfuscation. I again realize there are some simplifications to many of my statements.


Sharad Yadav said...

Hey Seth, thanks for your comments and kind apology. As this isn't my blog, it probably wouldn't be appropriate for me to derail comments on a tangent, but by way of a very simple answer to your question:

"What if someone is taught the doctrine of justification (for instance) and they reject it and make great efforts to do so? How should we respond? Are they not denying core Christian doctrine which is as important as the resurrection?"

I'd say: when theological explanations of the impact of the Gospel threaten to undo the essential message of or commitment to the Gospel, they are heretical and deserve to be dealt (welcome to Romans and Galatians!), even with through Church Discipline if necessary.

The compact proclamation of Jesus as King, when theologically unpacked, touches every passage in the Christian Scriptures. But when speaking of it as the Church's mandate to proclaim, it should be construed in the narrow sense of "kingdom news of what God has done in Jesus", contained in the Gospels themselves and demonstrated in the preaching we find in Acts. I'd agree that calling people to respond to the Gospel is part of our duty in preaching it. Teaching them implications of it as fellow members of God's family is an entailment of it. Dealing with heresy (insofar as it is treason!) may require discipline. But determining what sorts of claims constitute a denial of the Gospel is a difficult thing to discern, even within the NT itself (Paul sometimes concedes to Jewish rituals, and sometimes damns those practicing them as denying the Gospel). Maybe we could discuss it, among other things, over coffee some time!

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...


E-mail me and we'll set it up-(since I don't have yours available).

I appreciate the explaination.

Sharad Yadav said...

Several computer crashes later, I don't have yours either. Mine's yadavfamily at msn dot com. Thanks!

Jason Robertson said...

Raja, you asked, "If evangelical = christian and these views no longer describe evangelicals can we conclude that those holding these views aren't Christians?" The premise of your question has nothing to do with Phil's post. Phil asked the following: "Have you noticed that no one defines evangelicalism in theological terms anymore?" Notice that you replaced the issue of theological data with whether or not a person is saved.

Then notice that Phil says, "The word evangelical has been stripped of virtually all doctrinal content." Again Phil's issue is a theological issue not whether the person is saved.

Your questions and commentary are illustrative of the problem with some who do not want to deal with the important issues of theological certitude but would rather go straight to calling people lost or saved.

In all of this the gospel is being eclipsed, for we must get back to defining the gospel. Christians were once defined as evangelical because evangelicalism was once defined by the gospel.

Here is a question: When a news reporter introduces someone as an evangelical Christian, why did that news reporter use the descriptive "evangelical"? Does that reporter mean that this particular Christian is a Calvinist, or a protestant, or evangelistic, or conservative, or charismatic, or political, or what? He is not saying that the Christian is saved, that is implied by the word "Christian."

The problem is today that the "evangelical" descriptive has no real or definitive definition. How did this happen? This happened because evangelicals stopped defining themselves theologically.

Sharad Yadav said...


I have to say that I find the idea that Phil's post has to do with "theological data" not the status of Christians with God and with one another is either naive or misguided. The gospel is being defined in terms of doctrinal content which Phil is saying that certain groups within Christendom are forsaking. Defining what faithfulness to the Gospel look like in light of these concerns demmands an answer to the questions I raised. Reading the other comments make it clear that how Christians respond to Phil's diagnosis of evangelicalism necessarily involves making decisions about who you will fellowship with in order to preserve the Gospel as a theological definition. And that means that it necessarily involves talking about who's in and who's out with God.

donsands said...

Excellent observation. and I believe you've nailed it down. May the Lord help us grasp this reality of the Church, and begin the turning of the "doctrinal battleship" as they say henceforth. Amen.