Justification By Faith Or Justification By Faith Alone? -- By: Mike Stallard
CTJ 3:8 (April 1999) p. 53
Justification By Faith Or
Justification By Faith Alone?
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA
When one considers the ecumenical dialogue that has transpired over the last couple of decades, an image of the perennial Star Trek nemesis, The Borg, comes to mind: “Resistance is futile—you will be assimilated!” There is no doubt that the winds of change in modern Western culture are blowing against the cherished convictions of many Bible believers who want to hold their ground on doctrine. Baby boomers, they tell us, do not like to make doctrine a divisive issue.1 In addition, the various trends and movements which make up the postmodern mindset seem to have come to full bloom during this time. This way of looking at the world gives the boomers a reason to downplay doctrine—there is no such thing as objective truth so why should we fight about any lines of demarcation between one religious group as opposed to any other?
There are some good points to be made concerning some ecumenical dialogue. We sometimes do talk past our theological adversaries and misrepresent them at various points. Integrity demands that we not oppose error for wrong reasons or in the wrong way. We must oppose error for right reasons and in the right way. Whether we are Calvinists debating Wesleyanism, traditional dispensationalists questioning progressive dispensationalism, or conservative evangelicals analyzing Roman Catholicism, we must not attack straw men, but must indeed represent them fairly, do our exegetical homework in the Bible, and with loving firmness share our convictions with no hesitation. Sometimes this process requires that we actually talk to those with whom we disagree.
However, much of ecumenical dialogue seeks a minimalist creed of some kind to rally varying denominational and theological traditions. In doing so, the end result is that we can say that we have dialogued but nothing beyond that has been accomplished. Consequently, any statements showing agreement
CTJ 3:8 (April 1999) p. 54
among the participating groups can easily be seen as an attempt to gloss over substantial areas of disagreement. It may also be the case that the disparate camps view the signed agreements as meaning different things. After all, postmodernism teaches us that the meaning of any written text is determined by the reader, not by authorial intent.
It is such concerns as these with respect to modern day attempts at ecumenicalism that leave many conservative evangelicals heartsick over the “faith once delivered to the saints.” A case i...
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