I have professor friend, who teaches biblical studies at a large evangelical college, who last week presented a paper at an event called "Beyond Tolerance: Grace." This event brought together several speakers and allowed for some really good feedback from students and others. My friend stressed in his particular paper that racial reconciliation, in the light of Ephesians 2, Galatians 3 and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, was not just a good thing to pursue but rather an effort that required our involvement based upon the gospel itself. He argued that statements of both vertical and horizontal reconciliation are inseparable so that you can’t have one without the other.

In an email my freind asked me to pray for him as several members of the faculty had expressed the concern that he was confusing justification by his particular emphasis on reconciliation. As some readers will recognize this type of thinking is at the heart of one of the major aspects of the present debate over justification language in Paul’s theology. N. T. Wright correctly argues that justification includes the tearing down of the wall that seperates people racially and ethnically. He doesn’t deny forensive categories, contrary to what his critics say, but he does include more in the emphasis he makes. Simply put, this emphasis understands reconciliation in more than one way.

My friend reported to me that the students showed real hunger, inquiring and asking him good questions. But several faculty members expressed concern for what he taught, focusing rather upon the ordo salutis and how this precludes the vital connection he made in salvation language. For those who think that this debate is all a tempest in a tea pot try starting a serious discussion in conservative academic circles and watch the reaction. You will understand what my friend faced. Academics are often the last people who are willing to reform their theological conclusions by the Word of God. It never ceases to amaze me how we can adopt systems of thought and then stop, effectively at least, really listening to Scripture. We would far rather have a tame and acceptable gospel than one that mightily challenges our presuppositions and corrects our particular sins.

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  1. Mark Horne November 2, 2005 at 12:42 am

    “confusing justification by his particular emphasis on reconciliation”
    Is it even possible to define justification in a way that does not include or imply reconciliation?
    I really see this debate as a revelation of how words are expected to fin in a sort of cant rather than actually be *understood*

  2. Gene Redlin November 2, 2005 at 11:29 am

    This was part of what I taught last Sunday. The question I asked was: Is it possible to preach the Grace of God without the truth of the Gospel? I believe it is. The truth of the Gospel by our need to be born again is wrapped up in “I am the (Only) way, the (Only) truth and the (Only) life and no one comes to the father but by me (Exclusively)”. (Parens mine) This claim of Jesus flies in the face of what I see as a disturbing trend in many Churches and Colleges. There is being promoted a tolerance and acceptance of people dying in their lostness by following after other gods or other “Pathways” under the guise of God’s grace to all men.
    God’s Grace is fully extended to all mankind, that is certainly true. But the grace of God does not justify our sin other then thru the shed blood of Jesus. To promise or promote anything else is another gospel.
    I believe it is not only possible to preach the Grace of God without the Truth of the Gospel, I believe it is being done all the time. Maybe not in your church, but next Sunday I could take you to places where Grace without the cross is being taught. We are in deep weeds in Christian America.

  3. Mark Traphagen November 3, 2005 at 8:37 am

    If I understand you correctly, you are concerned about those who might be saying that it is enough to perform “gracious acts” or reconciliation totally divorced from the need for forensic justification. But that is just what John’s professor friend and N. T. Wright are NOT saying. They are not at all denying that the Gospel means that we each need the blood of Christ as payment for our sins so that we can move from the status of “sinner” to “son” before God. They are just saying that the implications of the Gospel go far beyond that individual forensic justification. The Gospel moves us “to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

  4. Gene Redlin November 3, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    I am saying that there is a “gospel” of grace taught and preached that says, it’s ok for you to live without God, live in your lostness, live in rebellion, God’s grace extends beyond your sin and your sin doesn’t really matter to a gracious loving God.
    In Jesus there is truth to the width depth and height of God’s grace. But we give comfort to those who must fear for the destruction of their eternal souls by telling them of a god who winks at a life lived at odds with the Truth of the Gospel.
    My concern, Mark, is not with what John and his theologian friend are saying exactly. I’ll be blunt. I don’t understand much of what I see on John’s blog. I only know what Jesus said. I’m most concerned for good men and women of God who are satisfied to itch ears so as not to run people off from attending their church.
    It probably is no one who reads this blog, but just in case there might be just one who is somehow convinced by the power of the Holy Spirit that there is truth in this………
    That’s enough.

  5. Daniel Kirk November 4, 2005 at 9:06 am

    If I may follow up on Mark’s comment: why did John’s post prompt this response from you? I don’t think that John, his friend, or anyone else involved would deny what you’re saying. If I read Mark T. correctly, then I share his concern that the words “New Perspective” brought out a response that is not based on anything to be found in the “New Perspective”.
    Maybe I’m misunderstanding why you posted what you did in response to this particular blog entry.

  6. Gene Redlin November 4, 2005 at 11:19 am

    I’m a little puzzled why the comments I have made, in all innocence and passion for Jesus and his Church, are causing a ruckus. I don’t know anything about “New Perspective”. I was only going on what John had written. Perhaps I didn’t understand it. I apologize for that. My comment was simply based on an observation that concerns me deeply. Drift. If that’s not what the Blog was referencing I misunderstood.
    I don’t come from a traditional mainline perspective with confessions and denominational theologies (I grew up Mo Synod Lutheran then got saved in my 30s). I’m not too interested in those things.
    John’s blog is often personal and fascinating. Having spent a little time with him I get some of where he’s coming from. He is a sincere man of God with a good heart who has faced some uphill battles in his life. He is also a voice from a differing “Perspective” from mine. I want his iron to sharpen my iron. I don’t have a PhD. I’m more like those irritable disciples who were “unlearned and ignorant men, but they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus”
    Acts 4.
    John’s Blog has also been a way for me to find interesting Christians from across the country. I always click on the URL’s from the comments. I have “met” and communicated with some interesting and challenging people this way. I have also run across some real crackpots. Some will categorize me this way perhaps. I’m in good company.
    I enjoy reading Keith Darrell because his humanity trumps his intellectual circuity (I found his blog by following his comment URL on John’s blog). I look for people like that. I love transparency in the struggle of good men and women of God who love Jesus but have to fight the Devil on all fronts of attack. I want to see men of God who overcome by the word of their testimony and the Blood of the Lamb.
    I may not qualify to read this blog or comment in it. I don’t read Christian Books anymore. (That’s another story). I am becoming more and more convinced of all of the truth revealed in the Word of God. It’s a great place to be. If being narrowly Solo (not Sola) Scriptura disqualifies me, that’s kinda sad.
    So unless I’m totally disinvited, I’ll ask questions, I’ll comment from my narrowness, if it hits a nerve, I’m not offended. I hope you aren’t either.

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