Monday, July 16, 2007

Amend ETS Statement?

Many, including myself, wrote about Beckwith's conversion (back) to Roman Catholicsm and insufficiency of the ETS doctrinal statement.

There's a group setting out to amend the ETS statement.

From the site ...

Before introducing the amendment to you, a little background is in order. In 2001 at the 53rd annual meeting of the ETS, Ray Van Neste proposed that the ETS adopt the doctrinal basis of the U.K.’s Tyndale Fellowship. The Tyndale fellowship unites around evangelical truths a broad group of Christian scholars from varying denominational and theological perspectives (Calvinists, Wesleyans, Baptists, Anglicans, etc). The members of the Tyndale fellowship agree to the statement of belief used by the U.K.’s Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF).

The current ETS doctrinal basis has two parts: (1) a statement on inerrancy, and (2) a statement on the Trinity. It reads as follows:

“The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”

We are proposing that the ETS adopt the UCCF statement with the current doctrinal basis of the ETS incorporated into it. One other addition defines the “written word of God” as the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. So we propose to amend the current doctrinal basis as follows (italicised words indicate where the current doctrinal basis has been incorporated into the UCCF statement):


1. The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. This written word of God consists of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments and is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behavior.

2. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.

3. God is sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgment.

4. Since the fall, the whole of humankind is sinful and guilty, so that everyone is subject to God’s wrath and condemnation.

5. The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son, is fully God; he was born of a virgin; his humanity is real and sinless; he died on the cross, was raised bodily from death and is now reigning over heaven and earth.

6. Sinful human beings are redeemed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of their representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between them and God.

7. Those who believe in Christ are pardoned all their sins and accepted in God’s sight only because of the righteousness of Christ credited to them; this justification is God’s act of undeserved mercy, received solely by trust in him and not by their own efforts.

8. The Holy Spirit alone makes the work of Christ effective to individual sinners, enabling them to turn to God from their sin and to trust in Jesus Christ.

9. The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He makes them increasingly Christ-like in character and behavior and gives them power for their witness in the world.

10. The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong.

11. The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God’s just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.

As stated above, the UCCF statement unites a broad constituency of evangelicals in the U.K. We think there is great potential for it to be a unifying doctrinal basis for the various evangelical constituencies represented in the ETS as well.


Jared Nelson said...

Does anyone else see the irony of the evangelical society (evangelicals being Christians who typically oppose most forms of tradition) appealing to traditional formulations of the Trinity and to the traditional evangelical formulation of the canon/innerrancy as the basis of their identity?

Beckwith's question of the relationship of evangelicalism to the great tradition raises several questions:

Is the tradition regarding the evangelical understanding of the Trinity and innerrancy infallible?

What forms of tradition then are infallible?

Who decides?

GUNNY said...

"Is the tradition regarding the evangelical understanding of the Trinity and innerrancy infallible?"

Hmm. That's a valid question. It would seem at times that such (e.g., Nicea) take on canonical status.

We may move the label a bit and say that one out of conformity with Nicea is not orthodox, but don't we also mean that such a person is not a Christian?

I think in response to who decides? In some ways that answer, pragmatically speaking, is those who put together the creeds (e.g., Nicea, Constantinople, etc.).

I'll be the first to say we do hold some high regard for tradition, though it's the tradition we like. Yet, I'm also one who affirms and strives for sola Scriptura. For me, that means my tradition needs to be subject to Scripture, whereas the Roman Catholic would be happy enough to have Scripture subject to tradition.

Yet, I won't deny that Protestants may be guilty of letting their tradition interpret (and consequenly dictate) their understanding of Scripture. They know it to be wrong, however, and it's really a bit of hypocrisy and hopefully one's conscience would not allow it.

; - )

Jared Nelson said...

If some tradition is assumed to have authority (even if sub-ordinate to Scripture), then one can hold to tradition having some sort of authority and be evangelical. Perhaps "Evangelicalism" is just a common cause statement with other traditions (Anglican, Reformed, Wesleyian, Baptist, etc).

If it is a common cause, is the 66 book canon a necessary part? Can one believe Judith or Tobit was inspired and be evangelical? If so, why not broaden that to include that small minority of evangelical Catholics? If Beckwith and, say, Peter Kreeft, and Hans Kung can be included in the fold, is it not better to recognize them as evangelicals within Catholicism, rather than define them out of the club?

I have heard of some missionaries joining the Orthodox Church in some regions of the world in order that they might work to cultivate Orthodox evangelicals. I think that is interesting and commendable. Or did they negate their evangelicalism when they joined the Orthodox Church?

Michael J. Svigel said...

This is an interesting discussion. I think evangelicals years ago were simply naive in thinking that inerrancy as the sole doctrinal basis would somehow guarantee an orthodox interpretation of the inerrant Scriptures. Soon they realized this was only wishful thinking, so they actually added an authoritative interpretation to their doctrinal basis---the doctrine of the Trinity.

The simple truth is that a particular doctrine of the inerrancy and centrality of Scripture as the "norma normans non normata"---"the norming norm which cannot be normed"---does not guarantee an orthodox interpretation of the same. And concocting certain rules of interpretation doesn't help much either. Arius took a passage like "the firstborn of all creation" quite literally, as do the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The truth is that the Bible was never meant to be interpreted in a traditional vacuum. When the original disciples of the apostles read their teachers' writings, they did so in an early catholic community that knew the difference between a right reading of Scripture and a wrong reading. And their apologetic and polemical literature demonstrates this quite well (e.g., Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc.). There were differences and drifts, but always an interpretation of the Old and New Testaments according to the "rule of faith." This early consciousness of right doctrine and an orthodox reading of Scripture found its way into the early ecumenical creeds (Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon).

By emphasizing inerrancy only, evangelicals had mistakenly removed themselves from the apostolic tradition of reading the Bible within the centering tradition of the gospel---the person and work of Christ.

Sola Scriptura was never meant to mean the Bible is the ONLY source of normative theology. It is simply the only source that can not be corrected by other sources. And a proper interpretation of Scripture must conform to the pattern of Christian truth established in the earliest Christian communities by the live teaching of the apostles. It is in those communities that the "faith once for all delivered to the saints" took root, which was passed down to faithful men (Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius), who were able to teach others also (Justin, Irenaeus, etc.). Thus, any macro-reading of Scripture (that is, the central doctrines of God and Christ) that radically departs from this apostolic tradition must be rejected as heterodox.

My point: The evangelical insistance on the inerrancy of the Bible was a move in the right direction. But the inerrant Bible as the sole standard of orthodoxy was as naive then as it is now.