Every generation is called to “agonize” for the “once for all delivered to the saints faith” (Jude 3), and ours is no exception. Indeed, it seems like those who wish to obscure the clarity of the gospel have become “legion” indeed in our day. No text of Holy Writ, no matter how clear or compelling, and no matter how often discussed in the history of sound theology, is beyond “reconsideration” and “adjustment.”
The battles over justification and especially the issue of the various new perspectives and their resultant redefinition of the gospel itself are raging far and wide. In the midst of this we likewise have the phenomenon of “Reformed Catholicism,” which really is nothing new –every generation experiences it. But the fact that the battles have been fought before cannot keep us from seeing that, for our day and our generation, we must fight them again. But these battles are often most distasteful. The redefinition of terms, sophistry, and claims of “scholarly acumen” are endless. As John Owen once commented in a similar situation:
Now it is no easy task to state just what the actual viewpoint of these men is on the value and perfection of the Bible. Not only do they contradict each other, and all babble on most foolishly and spitefully in explaining their own thoughts and opinions, but also they, to a man, play and toy with words and their meanings and definitions, and they invent totally new and unheard-of expressions in order to impress or overawe unlearned men. The result is that there is little left as a residue of firm meaning which a sound intellect might grapple with. It is far easier to overthrow their opinions than to understand them in the first place! In fact, once the layers of tricks and deceit are peeled away, and the remainder is set forth in plain daylight and unoramented, then it will at once be seen to be so shameful, so disgraceful, as to be immediately self-destructive in the minds of any who are not equally incorrigibly wicked themselves! This is because their teachings are deliberately stitched and patched together so as to deceive. They can mean either anything at all, or nothing at all, at will, and their whole skill and art lies in speaking so laboriously and convolutedly as to prevent all possibility of the accident of being understood! John Owen, Biblical Theology, trans. Stephen P. Westcott (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria Publications), 1994, pp. 821-822.
Indeed, I could not help but gasp as I read the response offered by one “Reformed Catholic” who is very, very concerned that everyone know how insightful and scholarly he is to the documentation offered him concerning Warfield’s view of Rome’s sacralism. The rC thinks that sola gratia can be stretched to cover any system that says, “Anything we do is prompted by grace.” Hence, as long as you say grace is necessary, then you believe in sola gratia. Of course, I have said for many years that the issue at the Reformation, and today, has never been the necessity of grace (who outside of the most hardened Pelagian thinks otherwise?), but the sufficiency thereof. Even Joseph Smith paid lip-service to grace (2 Nephi 25:23), but would anyone seriously argue that the Mormon concept can qualify as sola gratia? Evidently, some can. (Of course, that same rC believes it better to be in a Roman parish than a Baptist church, takes the fact that some Presbyterians can get along with Baptists as evidence of a problem in the body of Christ, and suggests that deference and honor for Rome as our “Mother” will bring God’s blessing). [continued]