Wednesday, March 14, 2007

J.I. PACKER

"To be sure, fundamentalists within our three traditions are unlikely to join us in this, for it is the way of fundamentalists to follow the path of contentious orthodoxism, as if the mercy of God in Christ automatically rests on the persons who are notionally correct and is just as automatically withheld from those who fall short of notional correctness on any point of substance. But this concept of, in effect, justification, not by works but by words -- words, that is, of notional soundness and precision -- is near to being a cultic heresy in its own right and need not detain us further, however much we may regret the fact that some in all our traditions are bogged down in it."
James I. Packer (p. 174 of Reclaiming the Great Tradition: Evangelicals, Catholics & Orthodox in Dialogue, edited by James S. Cutsinger, printed by InterVarsity Press, 1997)

"Hitherto, isolationism everywhere in everything has been the preferred policy of both Catholics and evangelicals, and a good deal of duplication and rivalry, fed by mutual suspicion and inflammatory talk, has resulted. ... So I ought to have anticipated that some Protestants would say bleak, skewed, fearful, and fear-driven things about this document -- for instance, that it betrays the Reformation; that it barters the gospel for a social agenda ... Why, then, should any Protestant, such as myself, want to maximize mission activity in partnership with Roman Catholics? Traditionally, Protestants and Catholics have kept their distance, treating each other as inferiors; each community has seen the other as out to deny precious elements in its own faith and practice, and so has given the other a wide berth. There are sound reasons why this historic stance should be adjusted. First: Do we recognize that good evangelical Protestants and good Roman Catholics -- good, I mean, in terms of their own church's stated ideal of spiritual life -- are Christians together? We ought to recognize this, for it is true. I am a Protestant who thanks God for the wisdom, backbone, maturity of mind and conscience, and above all, love for my Lord Jesus Christ that I often see among Catholics ... Though Protestant and Catholic church systems stand opposed, and bad -- that is, unconverted -- Catholics and Protestants are problems on both sides of the Reformation divide, good Protestants and Catholics are, and know themselves to be, united in the one body of Christ, joint-heirs not only with him but with each other. ... Such a coalition [to combat 'disintegrative theology'] already exists among evangelicals, sustained by parachurch organizations, seminaries, media, mission programs and agencies, and literature of various kinds. It would be stronger in its stand for truth if it were in closer step with the parallel Catholic coalition that has recently begun to grow. ... their domestic differences about salvation and the church should not hinder them from joint action in seeking to re-Christianize the North American milieu. ... Propagating the basic faith, then, remains the crucial task, and it is natural to think it will best be done as a combined operation. ... Billy Graham's cooperative evangelism, in which all the churches in an area, of whatever stripe, are invited to share, is well established on today's Christian scene. And so are charismatic get-togethers, some of them one-off, some of them regular, and some of them huge, where the distinction between Protestant and Catholic vanishes in a Christ-centered unity of experience. ... What brings salvation, after all, is not any theory about faith in Christ, justification, and the church, but faith itself in Christ himself. ... What is ruled out is associating salvation or spiritual health with churchly identity, as if a Roman Catholic cannot be saved without becoming a Protestant or vice versa, and on this basis putting people under pressure to change churches."

J.I. Packer's article in Christianity Today (12/12/94) entitled "Why I Signed It," an explanation of why he signed the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" document

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