Michael Spencer riffs on a post from the White Horse Inn considering whether evangelical Protestants really believe in justification by faith. If you want to find out the truth, apparently, just ask them what happens to Christians who die with unconfessed sin.
I could tell these stories all day. If you ever take a group of evangelicals who have heard the gospel for years and ask them to explain it to you as if you’d never heard it, get ready for a real wake-up call. If you apply a question like the WHI folks did- “What if you die with unconfessed sin?”- you’ll hear a cafeteria of works, merit, synergism, cooperation with God, credit for good intentions, God waving the standards, points for sincerity and so on.He then offers a list of reasons why many evangelical Christians have no idea what justification by faith is and means, and I think he's right.
What will really shock you is how seldom Jesus is ever mentioned. I hear testimony after testimony from people who have grown up under Baptist preaching- preaching that I know is about Jesus a good bit of the time- and they speak of God in terms most any Mormon, Jew or Muslim would not find particularly offensive. The person and work of Jesus is like wallpaper. We know it’s there and we don’t have to talk about it.
The big question is this: Why are evangelicals so ignorant of the basic, fundamental concepts of their own gospel of salvation? How is that so many of them sound like they’ve been catechized in a pre-Vatican II Catholic setting?
It makes me wonder - do I believe in justification by faith? I can only guess what some of my readers think, and others make it more clear, but I think I do. I happen to believe that participation in the fellowship and the sacramental practice of the Christian Church is absolutely necessary for our ongoing healing and sanctification/transformation on this side of death, but I believe that justification comes by trust in Jesus. But I wonder, do the other things I believe undercut that?
I believe that unbaptised persons are not-yet-Christians, regardless of who or what they trust. I do believe baptised babies are going to be alright if they die. Baptising babies kind of makes sense to me.
I also believe that apostasy is possible - not the idea that someone can be a complete moral failure and God will damn them for it, but rather that choosing over against God is in itself a choosing of the things that destroy our humanity and degrade us to the point of "damnation."
Hm. I'll think of more later. What do you think?