By Faith Alone, part 11

This is an article by Gary Johnson, entitled, “The Reformation, Today’s Evangelicals, and Mormons,” subtitled, “What next?”

The article concerns itself with the definition of the category “evangelicals.” He starts off by asking, “What is an evangelical?” (pg. 191). The thrust of the article is (to my mind, anyway) a sort of ultimatum: either evangelicals get back to doctrinal orthodoxy (back to fundamentals, if you will), or else Reformed Christendom should perhaps escape from under the umbrella of “evangelicalism.”

Johnson gives several examples of how problematic and meaningless the term “evangelical” has become in recent years. Clark Pinnock describes evangelicalism as to be defined in “more sociologically than precisely theologically” terms (quoted, pg. 192). As evidence of the truth of this definition, penal substitution, a very theological concept which used to unite evangelicals, “is now openly disdained and considered detrimental by a growing number of today’s evangelicals” (pg. 192).

Johnson then critiques Bebbington’s and Collins’s definitions of evangelicalism as in need of revision. Their four sine qua non doctrines of evangelicalism are the normativity of Scripture, conversion, atonement, and evangelism (pg. 193). However, what makes this definition poor in today’s world are some other examples, such as Keith Fournier, who calls himself an evangelical Roman Catholic, and does not regard himself as a living contradiction (pp. 193-194). However, Fournier’s book is a rather unashamed defense of the doctrines of Rome (pg. 194). Another example which is briefly (but adequately) addressed is the Promise Keepers, who have abandoned doctrine as the definition of evangelicalism.

The next section discusses is some detail the issue of Robert L. Millet, a Mormon, who received the accolade of “evangelical” from Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary. Mouw believes that Millet is a Christian: “Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation” (quoted on page 196). Johnson then destroys Mouw’s position by examining the doctrine of Millet’s book, which has nothing to do with traditionally Protestant doctrines, from the Trinity (pp. 196-197), Christ’s person and work (pp. 197-199), salvation (pg. 198-199), and the fall (ibid). The doctrine of Scripture follows on pp. 199-202). Then Johnson explodes Millet’s claim that David Wells and Haddon Robinson endorsed his Christianity, by noting that Wells and Robinson were not satisfied by Millet’s (correct) answer to the salvation question.

The logical conclusion of the direction evangelicalism is taking is that Islam and other religions cannot really be excluded from its umbrella. This is a very incisive critique of modern evangelicalism. At first, after reading the article, I was puzzled as to how it fit into the book. Then I realized that NPP and FV are not the only targets of the book. Sola Fide is a doctrine, an unashamedly Protestant and (used to be) evangelical doctrine. All of this rejection of doctrine means that the Reformation will be swallowed up if we do not stand for its fundamental truths. I believe that this is the clarion call of the book (although it would not have been detrimental to the book had this been spelled out a bit more explicitly: it’s there, but the reader has to take the final logical step).

The afterword is by Al Mohler. He warns us against the dangers of claiming that contemporary thought is better over continuous thought withthe Reformation truth (pg. 206). He argues that “those arguing for the New Perspective have not escaped the bonds of tradition; they have simply come out on the wrong side” (ibid). The doctrine of imputation stands at the heart of the Protestant doctrine of salvation (ibid). Therefore, any attempts to undermine it will attempt to undermine Christianity itself.

He then argues that what we have today is a change in the audience. He says that “many of today’s evangelicals new demand a new drama, a new theology. To some extent, this is a reaction to a failure in evangelical demonstration. In other cases, it appears that a sense of theological fatigue has set in, prompting some to look for theological formulations that demand a lower level of defense in light of current controversies. Whatever the case, a new audience demands a different drama” (pg. 207). This is a call to be warned against the new theology, not to embrace it. “Otherwise, nothing genuinely evangelical will remain of evangelicalism.”

In conclusion to this review, I agree with Mohler’s claim about this book: “Taken as a whole, the book is an arsenal of theological arguments in defense of the gospel” (pg. 207). Amen, and may it convince the nay-sayers.

About these ads

41 Comments

  1. February 28, 2007 at 6:52 am

    I am in hiding. First I got the FV miscreants mad at me, now the folks at Fuller are none to happy with me as well as mainstream Evangelicals,add to that list of enemies the Mormons are hot on my trail.I just glad the Emergent conversationists aren’t discussing how to locate me- no, wait the book that Ron Gleason and I are doing goes after them! I am a marked man!

  2. February 28, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Go on, have a crack at the SBC as well. Move to Wales you’ll be safe there.

  3. February 28, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Martin
    You know that I could never face Carl Trueman if I made that choice.Besides, Wales is no safe haven from the FV hounds.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    February 28, 2007 at 11:22 am

    You have my utmost sympathies, Gary. Perhaps we can enroll you in the witness protection program. Some Kevlar, perhaps, might also be useful. We can take up a special offering for bullet-proof windows to be installed in your house. There are any number of possibilities…

  5. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 11:35 am

    “FV miscreants”

    Who exactly in the FV is a miscreant?

  6. David McCrory said,

    February 28, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Stewart, DW recently posted this on his blog,

    “I don’t see the relation of Christ to His people being different than that of the first Adam. I am in union with the first Adam, and his disobedience is imputed to me. I am in union with the last Adam and His obedience is imputed to me. But in either case, I don’t separate merit from obedience.”

    ~ I am in seemingly agreement with this statement. Do you disagree with it?

  7. February 28, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Steward
    You are new to this thing, am I right? My friend, and the head of the PCA study committee on this sensitive subject, Lig Duncan first used this term in reference to some of the individuals associated with the FV. I know it’s not a very flattering expression, but as Mark Horne once wisely remarked, the truth has to be told.

  8. Todd said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    So much for the tone of the debate.

  9. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    If Dr. Duncan did indeed say that, then I guess the charge the committee was engineered for a predetermined out come has some merit. Very sad.

  10. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    This does not bode well for the PCA. If the head of the study committee is engaging in this kind of name calling, then how are their findings suppose to be taken seriously?

  11. Steven W said,

    February 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Stewart,

    We only have to take seriously what the current magisterium tells us to take seriously.

  12. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Now I know why he didn’t try and stop me from leaving his church. I guess one less “miscreant” in your congregation is a blessing from God.

  13. Todd said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Here’s the offending paper:

    http://www.alliancenet.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID307086%7CCHID560462%7CCIID1660662,00.html

    “Second, there are evangelicals who are social conservatives but who are bent on Christianity expressing itself societally. Among these are theonomists, reconstructionists, “ex-theonomists and reconstructionists” and other miscreants. It is amazing how quick they are to discard reformational soteriological teaching in order to advance their neo-sacerdotalism, kingdom ecclesiology/eschatology, and dreams of Christendom.”

  14. Stewart said,

    February 28, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I remember reading this paper a few years ago. It looks like this is onld news, and at the time I think I was atending St. Paul Pres in Jackson, MS. It was one of those miscreant theonomists/reconstructionists church’s left over from the good old days. Things were simpler then. How I long for the days when all one had to do to be controversial was support presuppositional apologetics over classical…..sniff …sniff. There….I’ve gone off and made myself cry.

  15. Steven W said,

    February 28, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Yes, that paper is what made me start reading N T Wright.

    I figured if the amils and modernists didn’t like Wright, I most likely would.

  16. March 1, 2007 at 7:27 am

    Tone of the debate, huh? Oh, like calling down the judgment of God on Guy Waters, or trashing the PCA study committee after they were announced, calling it a kangaroo court, or ripping the OPC report and calling Dick Gaffin a back-stabbing turn coat? Really fellows, that is ‘ utter crap’, the tone of this debate was determined right from the get go. There has been plenty of flying elbows under the basket from both teams, so don’t play sore losers just because you are down by double digits in the last few seconds of the final period.

  17. David McCrory said,

    March 1, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I pray no non-Christian folks pass by this way.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 9:42 am

    The subject of the tone of the debate is closed on this blog entry and all future blog entries. It is completely irrelevant to the truth value of either side. I am calling a moratorium on all such comments, from either side. Is this clear to folks?

  19. March 1, 2007 at 9:46 am

    David
    Theological debate is nothing to be ashamed of, even when it appears unseemly to outsiders. You have read very little Church history if you think this little scrimage is somehow unbecoming because people express themselves tersely and with sharp verbal barbs. That is the nature of polemics. We are not making phyiscal threats and the like. A worst spectacle for the world to see is the kind of theological indifference that typifies much of popular Evangelicalism.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I should make a clarification: I am not trying to moderate the tone *itself.* By all means barb and stun-gun, poison the well, beat one another black and blue, call each other idiots. Hey, it’s fun.

    What I am trying to do is to focus the discussion on the actual theological issues, rather than talking about how we’re talking about it. Hope this is clear. I am sick and tired of talk about “how* we’re talking. Let’s just talk.

  21. Steven W said,

    March 1, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Rev. Johnson is correct about our history. If I were John Calvin I would be reprobating baptists and making fun of people’s names. If I were Luther or Dabney I’d use ethnic slurs.

    The problem with LDIII’s comments is that they confirm the suspicion that the Reformed World is run by an elite boy’s club that can write people’s theology off by appealing to sociological and pyschological factors. “Oh don’t worry about them, they’re just the miscreants.” While that may be cute, it only serves to make the younger guys dislike the reigning powers.

  22. David McCrory said,

    March 1, 2007 at 10:00 am

    The point is it’s completely unneccesary to in order to convey truth. A soft answer turns away wrath. If the “nature of polemics” is contrary to the “nature of Christian charity” I pray we make the right choice.

    “You have read very little Church history if you think this little scrimage is somehow unbecoming because people express themselves tersely and with sharp verbal barbs.”

    Even here your attempting to malign my character. Are you a minister of the Gospel? You don’t know how much church history I’ve read. Your grasping at extremes. We either have to be at each other throats or the we’re “indifferent” to God’s Truth. Simply becuase Church historty bears out the lack of love and charity displayed here is no excuse to sin so that grace may continue to abound. Lane, I’ll be back when things have toned down a little.

  23. Steven W said,

    March 1, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I actually do agree with David McCrory, though I am generally not disciplined enough to keep myself from falling into the same error. There are harsh words on both sides, but that just means both sides should confess their sins.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 10:19 am

    I am the moderator and owner of this blog. Did people not read comments 18 and 20? This thread is dangerously close to being closed. That goes for all posters.

  25. March 1, 2007 at 10:26 am

    David,

    Is it not the case that the NT uses warning language about false teaching and teachers? I’m just thinking about the profusion of metaphors (wolves in sheeps clothing, gangrene, wandering stars, foaming waves). It seems to me that this language was felt to be necessary by the Lord and the apostles because it functioned as a warning in words like a label on a bottle of hazardous chemicals does visually. What I am saying is that it does have a necessary pastoral function and is appropriate language. That said it is dependent on actually refuting the theology that you oppose. And that of course is a matter of exegesis, hermenuetics, theology, and history. Recognising this I guess may relieve us of feeling so offended when we are on the receiving end.

    So it would be appropriate when used appropriately would it not?

  26. March 1, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Sorry, I missed that warning!

  27. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 10:31 am

    No, it’s okay, Martin. I just want us to get focused back on the theological issues at hand, which will take quite enough of our attention, I would guess.

  28. Stewart said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Martin,

    It’s not appropriate for one Presbyterian minister to call another Presbyterian minister in his own domination a “miscreant,” which is what Dr. Duncan did.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Stewart! READ COMMENTS 18 and 20!

  30. Jeff Hutchinson said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Thank you, Lane, for doing your best to call folks back to the theological issues themselves. That, in fact, was/is the point (to my reading, I haven’t asked him) of Lig Duncan’s use of the term “miscreants” years ago now (thanks, Todd, for pulling up the actual quote).

    IF there are those who “discard reformational soteriological teaching in order to advance their neo-sacerdotalism, kingdom ecclesiology/eschatology, and dreams of Christendom,” then those folks are, in fact, theological “miscreants.” FV folks insist they themselves are not doing that–and that is for the royal courts of the Church to decide with due consideration–but most FV folks (I think!) would agree with the larger point, that sacerdotalism (whether neo and paleo) is, in fact, heretical.

  31. Stewart said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Sorry, Lane. I thought the tone of the debate was set by the category in which you placed it. (Federal Vision, Books (reviews and recommendations), Roman Catholicism, New Perspective on Paul, HERESY)

  32. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Well, Stewart, determining whether or not this is heresy is the point of the discussion, isn’t it now?

  33. Xon said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Lane, can I just ask a point of clarification regarding your moratorium? My understanding is that it’s okay to point out when people commit fallacies of reasoning. And certain complaints about tone seem to me to be objections to the logical structure of a person’s argument.

    So, for instance, if someone comes on and says that so-and-so shouldn’t be listened to b/c they don’t have a degree in such-and-such, that is a fallactious argument. Are we allowed to point out the fallacy, or will this count as violating your moratorium on comments about tone? Or is it that you want us to point out the fallacy in a more “clinical” and detached way without sounding “whiny” about the tone. Or something else…?

  34. March 1, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Stewart,

    I have known of an episcopal minister who warned his congregation a week before a visit from the bishop that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and they should not pay attention to what he was going to preach. Perhaps the issue there was over a clear cut example of heresy. As much as I can appreciate the need for due process will there not be times when failing to call a fellow minister in the same denomination a “miscreant” or worse is a failure of nerve? Error in the church is after all a subtle, deceptive matter.

  35. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Comments about a person’s tone have nothing to do with the validity of arguments. Saying “your tone is bad” is hardly a reason to reject what that person says. Therefore, I wish for us to discuss what is actually being said. I really don’t think anything more can be said about Lig’s “miscreant” comment. People will think what they wish to think. It’s there. Let’s get back to theological issues.

    It’s okay to point out a fallacy regarding anything. Logical argumentation is that on which this blog (hopefully!) thrives. Again, I don’t care if people’s *tone* gets whiny. If it does, people will see it for what it is. But let’s not talk *about* the tone.

    In other words, if someone says, “you’re a heretic,” I will not strike the comment. If someone says, “you’re wrong, because you’re saying I’m a heretic,” I will strike the comment. Hope this is clear.

  36. Jeff Hutchinson said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Martin,

    Exactly. IF folks are sacerdotalists, whether “ministers in good standing” or not, they are in fact theological miscreants and it is proper to say so. Until the Church says so, it is of course not proper to say so with any authority beyond one’s own best judgment, but it is still proper (and sometimes necessary) to say so.

    On this and on every one of Lane’s threads, we should just talk about what Lane wants us talking about: “Determining whether or not this is heresy is the point of the discussion, isn’t it?”

  37. Steven W said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    But one thing that these sociological observations show is that reformation is never just about the systematics. Luther appealed to doctrine for years, but it wasn’t until he hit on indulgences that the real controversy broke out. Likewise, had it not been for his political supporters, he would have been crushed.

    The Federal Vision debate is very similar. Doctrinal concerns are there in full, but the other factors are just as important in this whole debate.

    The Federal Vision guys have their history buffs (Garver) and their progressive doctors (Leithart), just like the critics have their history buffs (Clark) and their progressive doctors (Kline/Waters). They also have their rhetoriticians. There simpy wont be a “traditional” position at the end of all this. I think we could easily play on Warfield’s tale of two Augustines here and speak of the two Calvins.

  38. Todd said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Am I allowed to draw attention to a chronological issue? Duncan’s miscreant comment was apparently made/written before the original FV conference.

  39. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Point made, let’s move on.

  40. Jeff Hutchinson said,

    March 1, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Todd, he doesn’t name who he considered these “other miscreants” back then. He obviously had some folks in mind–feel free to ask him who. I myself haven’t asked him who he had in mind back in 2001, but he sure seems prescient now. But however and at whatever point they appeared on his radar, and their unhealthy influence became worthy of public mention, he publicly mentioned it. Pretty simple.

    Personally, if and when I ever teach theologically miscreant things, I sure hope godly men will call a spade a spade and call me a miscreant. And then I sure hope I will repent.

  41. Jeff Hutchinson said,

    March 1, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Sorry, Lane, it took me a few minutes to write my post. And thank you, let’s move on.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 353 other followers

%d bloggers like this: