We Got This Not

An academic institution where Protestants and Roman Catholics teach together sponsoring a conference about the Reformation is one thing, but a Presbyterian seminary holding a series of lectures on the Reformation that includes Roman Catholics and Protestants? That’s what’s happening at Covenant Theological Seminary this fall. The explanations do not add up:

“Though significant differences still divide Protestants and Catholics, there are real reasons to listen to each other, even learn from each other, so that we might give better testimony to Christ by loving one another across our differences,” said Ryan, professor of religion and culture at CTS and director of the seminary’s Francis A. Schaeffer Institute. “Our goal is to somehow get past lingering caricatures of each other’s positions to find the common ground we share as we seek to bear a more credible witness for the Lord before the watching world.”

Jerram Barrs, CTS professor of Christian studies and contemporary culture and one of the speakers at the lecture series, agrees. “It is important that we do not merely endlessly rehearse the reasons as to why the Reformation took place as if neither we nor the Roman Catholic Church have learned any more or changed in any manner since the 1500s.”

The lecture series will feature five speakers — two of them Catholic — discussing topics ranging from why the Reformation still matters today, to the pastoral legacy of the Reformation, to an evangelical and Catholic and Reformed view of faith and culture.

The part that stuck out to mmmeeeeEEEE was about “endlessly rehearsing the reasons as to why the Reformation took place.” Last time iiiiiIII checked, Protestants and Roman Catholics in the United States are seriously in need of learning the reasons for Luther’s original complaints and Rome’s rejection of Protestant proposals. Consider the following:

nearly half of U.S. Protestants today (46%) say faith alone is needed to attain salvation (a belief held by Protestant reformers in the 16th century, known in Latin as sola fide). But about half (52%) say both good deeds and faith are needed to get into heaven, a historically Catholic belief.

U.S. Protestants also are split on another issue that played a key role in the Reformation: 46% say the Bible is the sole source of religious authority for Christians – a traditionally Protestant belief known as sola scriptura. Meanwhile, 52% say Christians should look both to the Bible and to the church’s official teachings and tradition for guidance, the position held by the Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation and today.

When these two questions are combined, the survey shows that just three-in-ten U.S. Protestants believe in both sola fide and sola scriptura. One third of Protestants (35%) affirm one but not the other, and 36% do not believe in either sola fide or sola scriptura.

Pew’s findings corroborate Ligonier’s survey. (And Redeemer NYC’s outreach to skeptics isn’t doing much to put the sola in the Reformation.)

The thing is, works righteousness comes naturally to human beings. That’s why whenever you have the chance to bang the gong for the sufficiency of Christ and the insufficiency of human virtue (not to mention the sin of pride that virtue sometimes encourages), you take it.

14 thoughts on “We Got This Not

  1. A most excellent article on the current state of Protestantism appears in the most recent issue of Modern Reformation magazine. You’ll need a subscription to open and read the entire essay, but it’s well worth it if just for this article alone. Horton lays it on the line – just exactly how Protestants began to go in a deviant direction, even from the time of the Reformation itself:


    Liked by 2 people

  2. 3 in 10?!!!! What a fail. Although I shouldn’t be all that surprised considering I’ve come across people in Protestant eeeeeevangelical churches that have never even heard of the Reformation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 46% say the Bible is the sole source of religious authority for Christians – a traditionally Protestant belief known as sola scriptura. Meanwhile, 52% say Christians should look both to the Bible and to the church’s official teachings and tradition for guidance, the position held by the Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation and today.

    Poorly phrased survey qn. Sola is not solo, yada yada.


  4. I fully agree that works righteousness comes naturally to the human heart. That is why being pharisaical in judging others is. Behind the Pharisee’s prayer that exalted himself and condemned the publican was works righteousness. And from that parable, we can understand that a barometer for how we regard ourselves before God is found in how we regard others, especially those who are different.

    As I read the Ligonier study, it seems that modernity, not another faith or branch of Christianity, seems to be the largest source of corruption of evangelicals. And that is especially true the more educated a person comes. Some of that, however, might be the Church’s fault in terms of its history and how it has treated people. Post Modernism, which employs an outcome-based truth system, sees much in its history to warrant a rejection of its truth claims.

    So when we look at the results being cited here, it seems to indicate that though our works cannot save us, they go a long way in tetermining how well others will listen to the Gospel.


  5. Curt Day says: our works cannot save us, they go a long way in determining how well others will listen to the Gospel.

    so, cont. other post, re: reasons one might pray about revival…
    8. that the gospel not come in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction- the word of the Lord sounding forth- faith toward God going forth- the report of example – many turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess 1)


  6. David Garner, Westminster Seminary –If you believe that sanctification grows only from gratitude for your justification, you just might be an antinomian.
    • If you believe that God loves you and that your ongoing sin or your incremental obedience does not in any way affect God’s love for you, you just might be an antinomian.
    • If you think that assurance of your Christian faith comes without consideration of personal holiness, you just might be an antinomian.
    • If you believe works are not necessary for salvation, you just might be an antinomian. The Holy Spirit infuses grace within us, whereby the Spirit motivates and empowers the believer unto Christ-like faith and obedience.Complementing the grace of imputation, infused grace for necessary good works is a Reformed doctrine! “Good works are not only the believer’s way of giving thanks to God, but also his duty on the way to salvation.” (p.66) We must do good works. That too is the gospel of grace.


    Moo, “Justification in Galatians”, p 172, Understanding the Times—The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification-stemming from Christ indwelling us by the faith the Spirit gives us.”

    Bradley Green, Covenant and Commandent, 2014, p 80 “The atoning work does not merely allow us to cross a line from death to life. The atoning work gives us real ability to obey”

    Schreiner, Romans, 2008, p 405—“The work of Christ on the cross creates the platform on which believers receive the ability to keep the law.”

    Rosner, 2013, IVP, p 123–“The fulfillment of the law is not only accomplished for believers, but also through believers.

    mcmark—They don’t get it, probably because they never had it. But let me quote one old dead guy who did get the importance of “the alone” instead of balance, perspectives and tension…

    Robert Haldane —The expression, walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, in the verse before us, is generally interpreted as referring exclusively to the practice of good or of wicked works. It is supposed that the Apostle in Romans 8:4 is guarding his doctrine of gratuitous justification from abuse, by excluding all claim exemption from condemnation, where there is not purity of conduct… But there are many different paths in the broad way; that is, many ways of walking after the flesh, all of which lead to destruction. Seeking assurance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by works, either moral or ceremonial, is incompatible with freedom from condemnation. This way of gaining assurance, is probably that by which the greater number are deceived. There is The fleshly wisdom, under the notion of a zeal for God and of regard for the interests of virtue, s sets men on the endeavor of the flesh…in the sense the word flesh is employed in the beginning of the fourth chapter of this Epistle. Flesh, in that place, cannot signify immoral conduct; for that Abraham was justified by wicked works could never be supposed. Flesh must there signify works,
    In the Epistle to the Galatians, the terms flesh and spirit are likewise used in this way ‘Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?’ ‘Having begun your Christian course by receiving the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, are ye seeking assurance of Christ’s indwelling by works?


  7. If you confess the WCF, you are going to need to define the word “sanctification” (Hebrews 19:1014), but if you are an “unionist”, you’re going to need to say if you mean “in Christ” or “Christ in us” and then explain how faith in the gospel comes before “union”.

    The “unionists” like Osiander who don’t want to talk about federal atonement for the elect argue that antinomianism is avoided if you “eat the person, not the benefits”.

    The most practical use of the word “union” for most Reformed is that it allows them to have an universal atonement which is then more narrowly distributed and imputed, because nothing legal happens until after regeneration (the word regeneration being used to show that the Holy Spirit gives some of the people for whom Christ died the person of Christ and His benefit). In other words, the Spirit gives Christ, instead of Christ giving the Spirit. And thus what happens IN US gets the priority.

    Letham—“Union with Christ in the Theology of John Calvin’, p 80, In Christ Alone: Perspectives on Union, ed by Clark and Evans—“Horton seems to imply that God’s speech-act of imputation brings about faith, which would be more of a case of justification by decree. It would also suggest that imputation effects union with Christ, which in turn would mean that imputation occurs before and without union.

    Mark Jones– “The position that faith followed imputation was not typical of Reformed thought but rather was associated with antinomianism….Any view that posits faith as a consequence of imputation (John Cotton) leads to antinomianism.
    Petrus van Mastricht—“We received the right unto eternal life through the merit of Christ alone. But God does not want to grant the possession of eternal life, unless there are, next to faith, also good works which precede this possession, Heb. 12:14; Matt. 7:21; 25:34-36; Rom. 2:7, 10.”



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