Sunday, September 20, 2009

White Horse Inn blog entry on Wheaton Dialogue

Just came across this post at the White Horse Inn blog, authored by Pastor Eric Landry, the Executive Editor of Modern Reformation:
What is the relationship between evangelicals and the Reformation? It’s a topic that we’ve spent quite a lot of time on, but some folks are still confused.

It was recently brought to our attention that at the September 3rd debate between Roman Catholic Francis Beckwith and evangelical Baptist Timothy George, Beckwith said the following:
If you ask the editorial board of Modern Reformation magazine, evangelicals are the theological heirs of Lutheran and Reformed scholasticisms in all its forms in a variety of denominations. This, however, according to some would exclude most Pentecostals, Wesleyan, and Church of Christ bodies as well as some Anglican communities.

Well, interestingly enough Dr. Beckwith didn’t ask our editorial board (granted, it is difficult to find us most days, our residing in beautiful southern California, and all). If he had, we could have told him it was an interesting point, but not one that we shared. Not knowing Dr. Beckwith’s own views, we can only state that we think that evangelicals aren’t the theological heirs of the Reformation....

If you or Dr. Beckwith needs me, I’ll be at the beach.

First, since I live in Central Texas and not within driving distance of the beach, as Eric Landry does, I want him to know that I have nothing but envy for his access to the Pacific Ocean in the world's most perfect climate.

Second, I really like the White Horse Inn guys. They are intelligent, witty, and I have great respect for their deep knowledge of Scripture. And the seminary with which they are associated, Westminster of California, probably has one of the best theological bookstores on the West Coast, if you like Reformed theology. (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

Third, when I made those comments at Wheaton I had in mind the normative definition of Evangelical that has been suggested by Modern Reformation's editor-in-chief, Michael Scott Horton. In an article published in Modern Reformation in 1992, Horton writes:
Nevertheless, if we are going to still use "evangelical" as a noun to define a body of Christians holding to a certain set of convictions, it is high time we got clear on these matters. An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic. The distinctives of evangelicalism were denied by Rome at the Council of Trent, by the Remonstrants in 1610, were confused and challenged by John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and have become either ignored or denied in contemporary "evangelicalism."

In a 1994 article in Modern Reformation--and accessible on its website--Professor Horton writes the following:
Only in the last decade of this century have many of the movement's mainstream leaders considered the loss of an evangelical substance. No longer is the evangel the focus of the movement's identity, but it is now known more by a sub-culture, a collection of political, moral and social causes, and an acute interest in rather exotic notions about the end-times. At a loss for words, one friend answered a man's question, "Who are the evangelicals?" with the reply, "They're people who like Billy Graham."

It is at this point that those of us who are heirs to the Reformation--which bequeathed to evangelicalism a distinct theological identity that has been since lost--call attention once more to the solas (only or alone) that framed the entire sixteenth-century debate: "Only Scripture," "Only Christ," "Only Grace," "Only Faith," and "To God Alone Be Glory."...

Russell Spittler, a Pentecostal theologian at Fuller Seminary, reflects on Luther's phrase concerning justification: simul iustus et peccator, (simultaneously just and sinner):
But can it really be true--saint and sinner simultaneously? I wish it were so. Is this correct: "I don't need to work at becoming. I'm already declared to be holy." No sweat needed? It looks wrong to me. I hear moral demands in Scripture. Simul iustus et peccator? I hope it's true! I simply fear it's not.

The Wesleyan emphasis has always been a challenge to the evangelical faith on this point, although in his best moments Wesley insisted on this heart of the Gospel. To the extent that the consensus-builders and institutional abbots of the evangelical monasteries have attempted to incorporate Arminianism under the label "evangelical," to that extent, it seems to me, it ceases to be evangelical indeed.

In a small book published in 1999, Evangelicals, Catholics, and Unity (Crossway Books), Professor Horton offers a similar analysis. You can read excerpts of that book through Google here.

Now, if Pastor Landry wants to get a hold of me, I'll be at Lake Waco wishing I were on a beach in Southern California sharing a micro-brew with the crew at the White Horse Inn.

1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

"An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic."

Just to least some Baptists are Arminians, and so they can can't be Evangelical per Horton's definition?

Seems odd.