Evangelical/Roman Catholic Agreement on the Doctrine of Justification and its Ramifications for Grace Theologians -- By: Philip F. Congdon

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 13:1 (Spring 2000)
Article: Evangelical/Roman Catholic Agreement on the Doctrine of Justification and its Ramifications for Grace Theologians
Author: Philip F. Congdon


Evangelical/Roman Catholic Agreement on the Doctrine of Justification and its Ramifications for Grace Theologians

Philip F. Congdon

Elgin, IL

On October 7, 1997, a group of Roman Catholic and Evangelical theologians met in New York City to discuss and define a common theological stand on the issue of salvation. This meeting was called to build on the foundation laid by the Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (ECT) declaration on March 29, 1994. While the signers make it clear that they are not speaking officially for the various religious traditions which they represent, their sheer collective influence (among Evangelicals, Dr. Bill Bright, Dr. Harold O. J. Brown, Charles Colson, Rev. Max Lucado, Dr. Mark Noll, Dr. James I. Packer, and Dr. John Woodbridge; among Roman Catholics, Fr. James J. Buckley, Fr. Avery Dulles, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Mr. Michael Novak, and Dr. Robert Louis Wilken) makes it impossible to overlook their conclusions.1 These were made public in a statement entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Gift of Salvation” (TGOS), published for the first time in the December 8, 1997 issue of Christianity Today.2

All Christians should rejoice at efforts to clarify misconceptions and increase dialogue between various religious traditions.3 At the same time, all Christians should fervently insist on faithfulness to revealed

biblical truth. Unity gained at the expense of truth means defeat for all. The purpose of this article is to respond to some critical points in the TGOS statement.

Background: TGOS and R. C. Sproul’s Criticism of ECT

The meeting on October 7, 1997, and the purpose of the resulting statement, was to respond to the strong criticism elicited by the publication of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). When this original declaration was published, it was applauded for showing areas of common interest, such as abortion and education. However, it was criticized for glossing over important differences. No area caused more concern than the doctrine of justification. The conclusion of ECT was, “All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ.” R. C. Sproul responded to this inclusive statement in his book critiquing ECT, entitled Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification.4 In it he raised a numbe...

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