WARNING: I'm not a theologian. Though I occasionally attempt to play a feeble one on these interwebs. This would be one of those times.
This post was triggered by the response to the Manhattan Declaration on the part of many in the 5 Solas Camp(s) – those young, old, restless, resurging and reformed. For these folk, the only bona fide Christian is a Sola Fide Christian – justification by grace alone through faith alone.
For them, anything else, is another gospel. Any mention of works, immediately moves the purported believer into the non column, tarred with the Social Gospel brush, feathered with pages ripped from the Apocrypha. 'And there's absolutely no way we're gonna sign a Declaration with THOSE kind of people.'
I'd been a Christian for more than 20 years before I heard my first discussion of Sola Fide. (Ed: Bill think's he's a Christian, we won't know if he's one of the elect until the day of judgment, eh!)
As one whose theology is Wesleyan/Arminian, my understanding of soteriology (doctrine of salvation) is as a free will response to the prevenient grace of God, freely offered by Him to all – good works the natural and expected response after salvation. I believe Jesus' younger brother, James, when he says, 'faith without works is useless.'
Eugene Peterson poetically paraphrases Jesus words in Matthew 23 : 23-24,
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment — the absolute basics! — you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons? [Ed: emphasis added by that heretic, Kinnon]
I do NOT believe in a works-based salvation, but confess that I am more than a little suspect of those who make statements like this, (from an attack on J.I. Packer that Challies approvingly linked to)
the Manhattan Declaration represents another step toward accepting the false notion that being a Christian is demonstrated by doing something about social issues. [emphasis reflects author's original emphasis]
My friend, Jared Wilson (firmly Reformed in his faith), made this comment this morning @ the Boar's Head Tavern
I will go down swinging against the confusion of faith and works. But being a Christian IS demonstrated by doing something. Being a Christian isn’t accomplished by doing something. But doing something demonstrates we’re being something. This is basic James stuff. Basic “vine/branches” stuff. [emphasis added]
One wonders whether the Challies-friendly writer two quotes above would question Jared's salvation. Probably.
I found this Q&A exchange about Jim Belcher's book, Deep Church @ The Gospel Coalition rather telling
TGC: Speaking of the traditional church, you have gotten some pushback on your definition of the Gospel. Some contend that you have expanded the definition too much. How do you respond?
Belcher: I think they are right to point out that my definition of the Gospel includes more than justification. If they equate the gospel with justification then my definition is different; it is broader because the Bible’s view is broader. For example, for Jesus the Gospel is the announcement of the Kingdom and our call to be part of it. [emphasis added]
Let me give a graphic response to those who want to make the Gospel = Justification, full stop. (My commentary continues below.)
Jesus judges and separates the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25: 31-46. And perhaps I just can't find the secret gospel = justification message of Jesus in this passage, but it certainly seems that he's judging what we've done – and sending us to our appropriate rewards. (And yes, this passage scares the stuffing out of me. Oh. Wait. That must mean I don't have assurance and thus haven't been justified.)
Again, in my not humble but accurate opinion, Jared Wilson nails it when he says, "doing something demonstrates we’re being something."
This feeble studier of theology would suggest that there won't be a test on the day of judgment as to whether we have our doctrine all worked out.
[AS MONTY PYTHON MIGHT DO JUDGMENT DAY]
JESUS: [WITH POSH BRITISH ACCENT]
Oh my dear Bill. 2.5 Solas. I'm so sorry. Off to Purgatory with you.
HOLY SPIRIT: [ALSO WITH POSH BRITISH ACCENT]
Ahh, Jesus. We only send the Catholics to Purgatory. This one claims to have been a Post-Evangelical Anglican.
JESUS: [GRATINGLY POLITE]
Oh my. Well then. You'll just have to go to Hell, now won't you.
To those thoroughly middle class preachers who want to question the theology, in fact the salvation of your brothers and sisters in the trenches feeding the hungry, providing drink to the thirsty, befriending the friendless, clothing the naked, tending to the sick and visiting the prisoner; as Peterson paraphrases scripture above, "Do you have any idea how silly you look… nitpicking over commas and semicolons?"