Subscribe to Christianity Today
Robert H. Gundry
Why I Didn't Endorse The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration
It all began innocuously. Someone handed me "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration" in advance of its first publication in Christianity Today (June 14, 1999, pp. 51-6;) and asked for my opinion. I examined it without knowing the names of any of its drafters or endorsers and therefore had to interpret it in a vacuum. Designed as it says to unify evangelical Christians doctrinally for the new millennium, "Celebration" (as I shall call it from here on) contains much that I affirm; and it seems to me that much of what "Celebration" contains needs reaffirmation in view of currently noticeable tendencies to water down, if not wash down the drain, certain features of the evangelical tradition that are rooted in Scripture.
On an initial reading of "Celebration," however, some of its statements struck me as questionable, some as objectionable; and both I and others to whom I have talked in the meantime got the impression of a document strongly Reformed in tone and substance. Contributing to this impression were the anti-Roman Catholic statement, "We deny that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ infused into us" (p. 55, cols. 1-2) and the disproportionate amount of attention devoted to the doctrine of justification as compared with the amount of attention devoted to other doctrines in the soteriological universe of evangelicals. "Celebration" itself makes the point when referring to "our extended analysis of justification by faith alone through Christ alone" (p. 54, col. 1).
Now all evangelical Protestants would agree to justification by faith alone through Christ alone, and would deny the traditional Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by an infusion of Christ's righteousness. But "Celebration" goes on to demand no fewer than three times the contribution of Jesus' life as well as death to Christian believers' reconciliation to God and justification by him: (1) "Yet God in grace took the initiative to reconcile us to himself through the sinless ...