Thursday, March 15, 2007

Affirmations and Denials; Articles VII-IX

Here are the next three affirmations and denials from Together for the Gospel's document.

Article VII
We affirm that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man, in perfect, undiluted, and unconfused union throughout his incarnation and now eternally. We also affirm that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, as a sacrifice for sin, and as a propitiation of the wrath of God toward sinners. We affirm the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ as essential to the Gospel. We further affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord over His church, and that Christ will reign over the entire cosmos in fulfillment of the Father’s gracious purpose.

We deny that the substitutionary character of Christ’s atonement for sin can be compromised without serious injury to the Gospel or denied without repudiating the Gospel. We further deny that Jesus Christ is visible only in weakness, rather than in power, Lordship, or royal reign, or, conversely, that Christ is visible only in power, and never in weakness.

Article VIII
We affirm that salvation is all of grace, and that the Gospel is revealed to us in doctrines that most faithfully exalt God’s sovereign purpose to save sinners and in His determination to save his redeemed people by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to His glory alone.

We deny that any teaching, theological system, or means of presenting the Gospel that denies the centrality of God’s grace as His gift of unmerited favor to sinners in Christ can be considered true doctrine.

Article IX
We affirm that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s means of bringing salvation to His people, that sinners are commanded to believe the Gospel, and that the church is commissioned to preach and teach the Gospel to all nations.

We deny that evangelism can be reduced to any program, technique, or marketing approach. We further deny that salvation can be separated from repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Any thoughts?


PSzalapski said...

Sounds good to me!

Noah Braymen said...

This is a response to pastor Wayne's comments on Articles I-III at this link...

Wayne, good points. I hadn’t thought of any of this. I know that Scripture doesn’t teach that the Bible is the “sole” authority [placing it above God], but I think their point is that there is a presupposition that has to be in place in order to agree with the other affirmations and denials that they are going to be making. By saying Scripture is the “sole” authority, I don’t believe they are saying that it rules us [above God]. I think it’s saying that Scripture should be the foundation and source for everything that we do in the church…from what we believe about God to how we administer the Lord’s supper, to church government. Not that we all come to the same conclusions on all of this, but that they are derivatives based upon the Scriptures. We can agree to disagree on some of our convictions as long as those convictions have a sound Scriptural root…you know?

By saying “sole” authority I don’t believe the statement negates the secondary authority in the church [elders, deacons, etc.], or the actual “sole” authority of our triune God. Actually, I think that it opens up the opportunity of second authority…and opens the reality of a real "sole" authority from God on which the statement’s authority is based.

Regarding what you said, “Further, to leave "authority" so undefined it's exposed to criticism that this statement implicitly denies that Christ is the Lord of His Church.”

I partially agree with you…if the affirmations and denials ended here it would be a problem, but if you keep reading article VII covers this point by saying, “We further affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord over His church, and that Christ will reign over the entire cosmos in fulfillment of the Father’s gracious purpose.”

Also regarding what you said, “It appears that article #1 is attempting to ward off a Barthian position, which is fine. But it over-shoots and leaves our understanding of the church exposed to a raw biblicism (like that of independent fundamentalism) or something akin to Quakerism. (Remember Barth was wrong because he was only half right.)”

I know… Like Packer has said, “a half truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. (intro to Owen’s “Death of Death” pp. 2)” BTW, thanks for the clarification:) I didn’t think that by what you wrote you concurred with Barth. I agree that it is “fine” that they are rebutting Barth’s view on inerrancy as well…I believe his view is errant. Good point; however, this “over-shot” won’t necessarily lead to bible worship…but it would have been good if they would have addressed the tendency of some folks to swing the pendulum too far in that direction.

Further regarding what you said, “Much better is the affirmation in article #2 where the phrase "final" authority for all "doctrine and practice" is used. This is less problematic and it more closely echoes the confessional literature of Reformational Protestantism. But even here it could be argued that it falls a bit short. Contrast these two articles with the first chapter of the WCF and you'll note a slight contrast in that the WCF consistently refers to either "God" or the "Holy Spirit" in its use of the scriptures as the locus of authority (e.g. WCF 1:10).”

Wayne, I completely agree with you here. I think the Westminster Confession definitely trumps the affirmations and denials. The affirmations and denials aren’t meant to be the statement of faith of a local church though. It is an agreement written to appeal across denominations in order to unite under the gospel to display the gospel to our culture.

However, a statement like “We affirm that the sole authority, given by the One God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the Church is the Bible.” This would show a foundation of where the authority comes from. But this statement would presume that what the Bible teaches about God is where the affirmation that God is authoritative comes from…so I don’t think they were necessarily wrong to pin the word “sole” in a descriptor of Scripture. I think that the WCF would be a great foundational statement for a local church and the T4G could be used to go a long side as a “fourth authority” under (1) God, (2)the Bible, and (3) the WCF [without 28.4...and regarding immersion 28.3 I would say that the Scripture proofs do not mean to baptism to ONLY be by sprinkling and neither is baptism ONLY by dipping...that discussion may be for another day:)]

I think your comments are right…but like I said I think that these affirmations are good as foundation of unity across denominations to be used alongside the denomination or local church’s statements of faith. It should be made clear that this isn’t the statement of faith, however. I’d be curious to see Ligon Duncan III’s response to your comment, as he signed this along w/ the rest of the guys.

Thanks for the discussion! This is edifying for me.

In Christ

Wayne said...

Hey Noah,

Yeah, I was being sorta 'nit-picky' and to be honest, having a little fun with it. I agree that it's scope and purpose doesn't rise to the level of ecclesial confession and one can't expect it to deal with everything. This was the first time I had read it and so I thought I would try and look for possible objections. I tend to be sort of a curmudgeon when it comes to these para-church statements - maybe I'm just getting old.

I'm sure that Lig would say that his signature here doesn't rise to the level of his subscription to the Westminster Standards and, truth be told, I've agreed to statements with which I've been less than enamored (e.g. the statement of faith for DM Christian School where my oldest son attends.).

Heh, maybe Lig would say that he's taking a pragmatic stand against pragmatism. :-)

Noah Braymen said...