I no longer have a complicated theology*, recognizing late in life that much of what I know, I do not really know; and much of what I need to know is hidden from me.
So a recent editorial in Christianity Today has me shaking my head, asking why was this written? Toward what end? Their hook is of common interest to all in the church because it involves a controversial yet well-respected evangelical (Lordy, I'm learning to hate that term!) leader - Francis (not David) Beckwith.Evangelicals who visit Rome cannot help but enjoy the stately buildings and stirring sense of history. A few like it so much they never leave. Such is the case with Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. In April, the Baylor University philosopher rejoined the Roman Catholic Church.The editorial quickly segues into a discussion of justification as a response to the question, "Why be good?"
Read that question in context ...Beckwith found the Protestant view, which assumes that sanctification follows justification, inadequate.He has indeed done us a favor, but how the editors got there from here is a mystery to me. They continue ..."As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn't have a good enough incentive to do so," Beckwith told Christianity Today. "Now [in Catholicism] there's a kind of theological framework, and it doesn't say my salvation depends on me, but it says my virtue counts for something."Beckwith, in describing his confusion, has done us a favor, giving us an opportunity to explore a question that frankly many Christians ask: Why be good?Justification by faith, which gives us assurance of our standing before God, is not just a pastoral doctrine. It goes to the very core of our theological tradition. Martin Luther described it as the "first and chief article" of Protestantism "on which the church stands or falls." It is no surprise then that recent affirmations of justification have attracted evangelicals as diverse as Tom Oden and R. C. Sproul, Pat Robertson and Ron Sider. Still, don't be surprised to see more debates about justification unfolding. Next month's cover story, by British scholar Simon Gathercole, will look at how some evangelical scholars are reinterpreting Paul's teaching on justification.I love to differ from you ... anybody for that matter ... but the "first and chief article of Protestantism" cannot be a Scripture which descends from a discussion of those who "have no fear of God before them" (Romans 3:18), period. The phrase "of Protestantism" establishes the context for all answers submitted.
So what is the "first and chief article of Protestantism"? Scripturally, it goes like this: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Alienated from God, hostile in mind, we practice evil behavior (Col. 1:21). Though we offend his perfect holiness, God acquits those who trust in him and in what he has done for us through Christ: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).* Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" perhaps; or Luke 9:23, "And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me'" maybe; but certainly Matthew 22:37-38, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment."Regardless, their own question and context demand a biblical response that speaks to Protestant Christians ... the latter being pregnant with definitional dilemmas of its own.
The dear brothers continue on along a path which seems far from helping synchronize the doctrines of justification and sanctification; they make good points but do little in the area of answering their own question: "Why be good."
I suppose if they were to define what they mean by the word "good," I might be able to work up a response but they don't do that do they?