‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ – An Evangelical Celebration’

On 10 June I received details of the latest ‘agreement’ involving ‘Evangelicals’ to be publicly revealed in the June 14 issue of ‘Christianity  Today’. As I downloaded the details via The Internet I felt that if Solomon were here to day he might be tempted to write, “of making many agreements there is no end” – see Ecclesiastes 12:12. This latest agreement is entitled

‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ – An Evangelical Celebration’

Hereafter I would intend to refer to it as ‘EC’. What is intriguing about this document is that it has been endorsed by a number of ‘Evangelicals’ who signed the controversial ECT 1& 2 documents of 1994 and 1997 [such as Charles Colson, Bill Bright and JI Packer] and ‘Evangelicals’ who publicly challenged and criticised their endorsement of those ECT 1 & 2 documents [such as RC Sproul, John MacArthur and D James Kennedy].

There are a number of helpful statements in this latest document which deal with areas which I and others felt were not fully dealt with or were in fact ‘fudged’ in the ECT 1 & 2 documents. In ‘EC’ under the section headed THE GOSPEL’ we read ‘As our sins were reckoned to Christ, so Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to us. This is justification by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness’. Then later under the section headed ‘AFFIRMATIONS AND DENIALS’ we read under Point 12 ‘We affirm that the doctrine of the imputation [reckoning or counting] both of our sins to Christ and of his righteousness to us, whereby our sins are fully forgiven and we are fully accepted is essential to the biblical gospel[2 Cor.5:19-21]. We deny that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ infused into us or by any righteousness that is thought to inhere within us’. Point 13 ‘We affirm that the righteousness of Christ by which we are justified is properly his own, which he achieved apart from us, in and by his perfect obedience. This righteousness is counted, reckoned, or imputed to us by the forensic [that is, legal] declaration of God * as the sole ground of our justification’. [* I would have liked to have seen the words ‘at the moment of our regeneration’ included here].

Such affirmations about ‘imputed righteousness’ and ‘forensic justification’ were roundly rejected and anathematised by Rome at the Council of Trent and its [Trent’s] proclamations were re-affirmed in the 1960’s by Vatican 2 and even more recently in the 1994 Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church.

Another helpful statement is found again under Point 14 of ‘AFFIRMATIONS AND DENIALS’ – ‘We affirm that while all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are in the process of being made holy and conformed to the image of Christ, those consequences of justification are not its ground’. When this is linked to the last part of Point 13 which reads ‘We deny that any works we perform at any stage of our existence add to the merit of Christ or earn for us any merit that contributes in any way to the ground of our justification  [Gal.2:16; Eph.2:8-9; Titus 3:5]‘ it is to be hoped that this is a total rejection of the following Trent Anathema recorded in Section 6 Canon 24 – ‘If anyone says that the justice received is not PRESERVED and also not INCREASED before God THROUGH GOOD WORKS but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained but not THE CAUSE OF ITS INCREASE let him be anathema’.

Under a section headed ‘UNITY IN THE GOSPEL’ we read ‘we cannot embrace any form of doctrinal indifferentism, or relativism, or pluralism by which God’s truth is sacrificed for a false peace’ *. Firstly I would have liked to have seen the words and must separate from and repudiate any attempt at such included at the end [where indicated *]. Secondly I cannot think of a better example of ‘doctrinal indifferentism’ than ECT 1 which gave credence and legitimacy to ‘baptismal regeneration’.

Just a few brief general comments. Under ‘UNITY IN THE GOSPEL’ we read ‘Doctrinal disagreements call for debate. Dialogue for mutual understanding…’. In my view this is not applicable when dealing with unregenerate people who tenaciously promote a false gospel. We should remember how “Cain talked with Abel his brother and it came to pass when they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him” [Genesis 4:8]. We should also remember the parting words of Paul to Timothy on the subject of dealing with those who would not “endure sound doctrine” – he did not prescribe ‘debate’ but rather he commanded “Preach the word”. Under ‘THE GOSPEL’ we read ‘The gospel assures us that all who have entrusted their lives to Jesus Christ are born-again children of God [John 1:12]’. I have met Mormons and members of other false groups that claim to be Christian who would claim to qualify under such a statement and have in America happily gone along to and with Promise Keepers. This statement would have been better worded ‘All who have been truly born again entrust their lives to Jesus Christ and are the children of God [2Tim.1:12; 1John3:2].

Time for some closing thoughts. Personally I would not have considered putting my name to any ‘agreement’ also being signed by ‘Evangelical’ ECT endorsers until they did 2 things. [1] Submit this new ‘EC’ document to the Roman Catholic ECT endorsers for their approval [please remember that in ECT 1 all who signed gave unambiguous assent that ‘Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ…we thank God for the discovery of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ’] and signature. [2] Publicly repent of signing ECT 1 & 2 [as requested by the resolution passed at the recent Ex Catholics For Christ conference in Dallas, March 1999] for undoubtedly those 2 documents constituted ‘doctrinal indifferentism’.

By going ahead and issuing this new agreement in the absence of the 2 steps I have outlined being taken I believe that the ‘Evangelical ECT endorsers’ have been ‘let off the hook’ by former critics. I believe this new ‘agreement’will be used to rehabilitate those who erred in 1994 and 1997 without them having to admit or ask forgiveness for their error. As things now stand their endorsements of ECT 1 & 2 and the documents themselves still stand in spite of the issue of this latest ‘agreement’. We are reminded again of James 1:8 “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways’. May God help us to be single-minded for His gospel and His glory.

Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed’ Ministries – 10th June 1999