John Stott, Pray for Us – The Living Church

Now the CEEC faces what is probably its sternest test yet. Conservative evangelicals were deeply disturbed by events at the July sessions of the General Synod. In their view, two votes — calls for services to welcome transgender persons and a ban on conversion therapy — crossed a line.

John Martin. The Living Church. 3 August 2017

2 thoughts on “John Stott, Pray for Us – The Living Church

  1. John Martin’s article includes

    ‘Patient work brought the CEEC back on track and under a revised constitution, and former critics from within the constituency now nestle within the fold. Members now must live with difference, not least on issues such as women in the episcopate, which a minority of members oppose’

    ‘At stake are questions of ecclesiology, on which evangelicals in the Church of England are hardly in full agreement’

    I take John’s word for it that it is a minority which oppose women in the episcopate (and the ordination of women to the ‘priesthood’) on the grounds that the man is kephale of the women in Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11 and, by implication in Genesis 2 and 1 Timothy 2 and 3. And he is no doubt right about views on ecclesiology. But what about views and possibly differences about the (surely more fundamental and important) doctrines of salvation? (This is not about who are the Christians and who are not the Christians; it is about the truths of Christianity. Because Christians (known to God to be Christians) can be astray or go astray doctrinally as they can morally; conversely someone can assent intellectually to all the true doctrines of Christianity and not be a Christian. Nevertheless true doctrine, especially about salvation, is vitally important)

    It is interesting to study the CEEC Basis of Faith and those of the organisations represented on the CEEC Council. Some of them refer to the CEEC Basis; some have their own. It is also interesting to study the views expressed in the blogs.

    I wonder whether there is ex animo explicit agreement, which could be published, on what, in my view, are some of the key doctrines of salvation? I hope and pray that there is. I am not saying there isn’t. But let’s just explore a little. The CEEC Basis describes the 39 Articles of Religion as a ‘general exposition’ of the ‘faith uniquely revealed in the holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds’ which the CEEC affirms. I assume that to say the Articles are a ‘general exposition’ is the same as saying that the Articles are true. That means that CEEC is saying that Article 9 is true. I personally think that Article 9 needs rephrasing. But the plain meaning of Article 9, which I do agree with, is that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards and we are all born with a nature inclined to evil. Do all the CEEC members agree? Perhaps they do. It would surely be helpful, in the interests of ‘evangelical unity of doctrinal conviction’ for them to explicitly and publicly say that they do agree.

    Moving on: assuming that we are all agreed that the plain meaning of Article 9 stated above is true the next obvious question is: how can we be delivered from that wrath and condemnation. This brings us to two phrases in the CEEC Basis:

    ‘The Atonement as the Work of Grace – We believe that Jesus Christ came to save lost sinners. Though sinless, he bore our sins, and their judgement, on the cross, thus accomplishing our salvation. By raising Christ bodily from the dead, God vindicated him as Lord and Saviour and proclaimed his victory. Salvation is in Christ alone.’

    ‘We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith’.

    In particular: ‘he bore our sins, and their judgement’ and ‘humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve’. According to Article 9 ‘and therefore in every person born into this world, it (Original Sin) deserveth God’s wrath and damnation’. Taking the Basis as a coherent, self-consistent whole, the key words are ‘bore, sin, judgment, condemnation, wrath, died, hell, deserve’. Whose judgment? Must be God’s judgement. Whose wrath and damnation (condemnation) do we deserve? Explicitly, from Article 9, God’s. Assuming that ‘judgment’ and ‘hell’ and ‘condemnation’ (see Strong and STEP on katakrima (Romans 8:1)) includes ‘punishment’, that ‘hell’ is the final manifestation of God’s wrath and condemnation and ‘death’ in this context is ‘eternal death’, a reasonable paraphrase of these parts of the Basis, coupled with the truth of Article 9, would be: ‘On the cross Christ bore what our sins deserve: God’s judgment, condemnation, punishment and wrath’. Whatever else are the truths about the cross (victory, ransom, example etc.), this is also true.

    How many CEEC members agree that this paraphrase accurately gives the meaning of these parts of the Basis? All? Some? None? It would surely be helpful, in the interests of simple honesty and of ‘evangelical unity (or disunity) of doctrinal conviction’ for them to explicitly and publicly say where they all stand.

    Unity of doctrinal agreement, and a commitment to preach and teach these (sometimes terrible but true) doctrines, especially about salvation, is surely more important than what evangelical organisation we belong to and more important than which bishop we associate ourselves with.

    Phil Almond

  2. A striking headline – though goodness knows what John Stott would have made of it!

    More seriously, it’s interesting to read this resume of the history of CEEC, and good to read of how it has become more open since the days of the 2008 car crash of a conference at All Souls. Rightly the article draws attention to the variety of opinions among evangelicals, seen most recently in the varying responses to the recent General Synod, and the difficulty of holding these opinions in unity.

    CEEC claims to bring “evangelicals in the Church of England together”, but unfortunately it tries to pretend that evangelicals who support faithful same-sex relationships do not exist, or at least it studiously ignores them, in spite of the fact that the number of evangelicals who take such a position would appear to be growing, (as evidenced e.g. by the number belonging to Accepting Evangelicals).

    In its basis of faith, CEEC has chosen to add two additional declarations to the original basis, (which I think I am correct in saying came from the Anglican Evangelical Assembly). One of these declarations centres on the lordship of Christ, and is surely utterly acceptable to all evangelicals. However, the other one centres on a conservative view of sexuality, speaking of “the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage” and calling for abstinence for all those who are not in a [heterosexual] marriage. To apparently place holding a conservative view of sexuality on an equal standing with acknowledging the lordship of Christ, as this does, is to my mind nothing short of grotesque.

    The heart of the Gospel is the freely offered love and salvation of God through Jesus. To elevate holding a conservative view of sexuality into being apparently part of the core Gospel means that all who hold to an accepting view of committed and faithful same-sex relationships, however firmly they may hold to all the essentials of the Gospel as described in the other parts of the CEEC basis, will feel that CEEC does not represent them.

    Might it be possible for CEEC to change so as to acknowledge that there is a growing number of evangelicals not holding to the conservative position? That would require the removal of the second additional declaration from the basis of faith, and something stated to indicate that even if the majority view among evangelicals is the conservative one, other evangelicals do not all hold to such a view. Is such a change likely to happen? Frankly I doubt it – the conservative side is too well entrenched in CEEC and far too inclined to scurrilously write off those on the other side of the debate as having “capitulated to secular values”, as the recent open letter puts it. But until there is such a change to a more open position I for one can feel no allegiance to CEEC.

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