‘Gospel Convictions’ statement feedback

The following is a collection of the correspondence we received on the “Gospel Convictions” statement in Briefing #367. It appears in reverse chronological order.

7 June 2009

The Gospel Convictions statement could maybe contain a statement about the nature of church. After all, this does seem to be a theme to which The Briefing often returns.

Philip Cooney
Wentworth Falls, NSW, AUS

4 June 2009

I’ve been a Briefing reader for many years, and have often found it a great encouragement. I thank God for all the great work you’ve been doing for such a long time.

However, I recently read your ‘Gospel Convictions’ article in the library at Oak Hill College, London, and was a bit surprised by point 3.

In view of the overwhelming biblical evidence for, and the longstanding Reformed pedigree of (e.g. William Ames, Hermann Bavinck, GC Berkouwer, Robert L Dabney, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Goodwin, Charles Hodge, Anthony A Hoekema, John Murray, JI Packer, Benedict Pictet, Herman Ridderbos, Francis Turretin and James Ussher, to name but a few), the doctrine of final judgement according to works (those works being evidence of our faith), I wonder whether it might be helpful to ask the following questions of a couple of words in the text:

  • ‘Winning’ in what sense?
  • ‘Necessary’ in what sense?

Perhaps some distinctions might be in order, lest we should be misunderstood to be disagreeing with Paul (e.g. 2 Cor 5:10), James (Jas 2) and Jesus (e.g. Matt 12:37, 16:27)!

Many thanks for your ongoing work; it’s much appreciated.

Steve Jeffery
Emmanuel Evangelical Church
Southgate, London, UK

22 May 2009

G’day Briefing team and happy 21st!!! I’ve found the magazine an enormous blessing for nearly all of that time.

Thanks for the invitation to offer some feedback on ‘Gospel Convictions’, which is a great statement. I personally found it very challenging. Some suggested amendments:

  1. An additional few words to indicate that Jesus is actually God who became a man. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and so on would be quite happy with your wording at the beginning of 1.
  2. Regarding 5: I have some concern about the beginning and end. The beginning needs more joy and exuberance about life, not just the joy of suffering. We live in God’s very good world, and he has given it to us to enjoy and be thankful for. This motif is needed, I think. Lamenting the fact that many are in love with this present world and its pleasures is most appropriate, but it needs to be distinguished from the good world that the Lord has made and given us to enjoy for the time that we’re here.

Perhaps you guys have looked at ‘Our World Belongs to God—A Contemporary Testimony’ (revised last year), produced by the Christian Reformed Church of Canada. It is quite inspiring, and seeks to do, in part, what ‘Gospel Convictions’ seeks to do, but is much more expansive.

Hope this is of some help.

George Glanville
Blaxland, NSW, AUS

21 May 2009

I have read carefully through the draft of ‘Gospel Convictions’ in The Briefing (April 2009). One of the things I have enjoyed about The Briefing is its clear stand in support of evangelical belief—including the way it is applied to life.

There is very little in the draft that I would reword.

Under the first heading, paragraph 1, I think it would be more correct to speak of “forgiveness of sins” in the last sentence (rather than “forgiveness of sin”). There is a distinction between ‘sin’ (the sin principle—sin nature, which is condemned, not forgiven; Romans 8:3) and ‘sins’ (the actions, which are forgiven; Colossians 1:14).

Going back to the third sentence in paragraph 1, the blessings of forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life are mentioned as blessings that Jesus Christ will bring for believers when he returns. While that is true, they are also blessings that believers presently possess here on earth. I realize that not every aspect of salvation can be expressed adequately in a brief statement, but I raise this point in case it is worth recasting the sentence in some manner to express this point. (But perhaps what is said under heading 3 covers this adequately.)

May God continue to bless, guide and encourage you.

Murray Grindlay
Wellington, NZ

14 May 2009

I certainly join in with a hearty congratulations on your anniversary. I’ve only been subscribing from a little below issue #100, but I think that’s a reasonable stint from someone in the UK!

I’m sorry to see so few comments on ‘Gospel Convictions’. Being a confessional kind of evangelical, thinking about how to articulate what makes such Christianity distinctive in today’s world, and putting it down on paper, is an important and useful task.

There is much that is good in the statement. It’s good to be clear about the work of the Holy Spirit, the authority of Scripture and the centrality of Christ’s work for us. Truly these are mainsprings of the Christian life. And yet, I want briefly to highlight three apparent omissions and one clear error from a Reformed perspective.

Central to our identity as Christians must be God as Trinity, and something of this would strengthen the statement. Ideally, it should be inextricably woven through it. This undoubtedly addresses key issues in our society of individuality and social-relatedness.

The nature of the church and the Christian’s place in it is also connects with this. Evangelicals are notorious for hanging loose to commitment to the fellowship of a local church and seeking to express their salvation in the context of Christ’s body here on earth.

The gifts of baptism and the Lord’s Supper should also be addressed as part of this. They have a vital role to play in our growth as Christians as signs and seals of Jesus’ love for us.

Unfortunately, I think anyone holding to a Reformed confession will have difficulty signing up to section 3 of the statement. Assurance does not necessarily follow immediately after justification, nor should it be automatically inculcated immediately after a profession of faith. Although looking to Christ in the gospel promises is the basis of assurance, faith sometimes needs to be proved in a person’s life before they feel it, and pastorally, we must recognize that some believers struggle with assurance throughout their Christian lives.

Thus XVIII:3 of the Westminster Confession states: ”This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it“.

Contrary to the Federal Vision, I concur that it is wrong to deny present justification, nor are works causally necessary for salvation. However, not all alleged experiences of the Holy Spirit are genuine, and they are to be tested to see whether or not they promote our love for Christ and his people. Hopefully you can revise this section of the statement to reflect these concerns.

James Horgan
Hertford, UK

13 May 2009

I am positive about the ‘Gospel Convictions’ statement, and write because I feel there is scope for improvement in its style. I assume you hope it will be useful not just for evangelical Christians, but also for those whose views differ from yours. The statement is very direct, rightly giving ample space to the negative as well as the positive, and so, inevitably, it will cause offence. If it is possible to avoid antagonizing readers unnecessarily, that would seem to be something to aim for, so I would suggest avoiding legalese like the ‘hereby’ in the first paragraph, and quotations from the Bible that are familiar to Bible readers, but are a strange dialect to others (e.g. the “once for all delivered” quotation and the phrases “wondrous love” and “zealous for good works”). The style of the whole piece seems to me rather stuffy. Maybe this arises from the frequent use of abstract nouns and passive verbs (e.g. the first sentences of sections 2 and 4).

The word ‘accordingly’ is severely overworked in the draft, but there are alternatives, or it can be cut.

I have decided to retype the whole statement, making changes as I went. I have highlighted what seem to me important alterations. I hope this is of some assistance.

Knowing from Scripture that true life is to be found only in the knowledge of God, and that the times we live in will be marked by doctrinal error and godless living, we hereby commit ourselves to proclaim and contend for the following teachings of the Bible. We are convinced that these truths express both the unchanging faith given to us in the Scriptures, and the points at which that faith is under threat at the present time.

1. The truth and centrality of the gospel of Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ. Not a sentence, so no stop is needed; same with the other five headings

The gospel is the momentous news concerning God’s divine Son, whom God the Father sent into the world and who became the man Jesus Christ. The gospel declares that Jesus lived a sinless life, that he died on the cross in our place, bearing God’s righteous anger and judgement against our sin; that God raised Jesus phyiscally from death, exalted him to heaven, and seated him at his own right hand as the Lord and Ruler of the world. [Omit words in brackets] According to this same gospel, Jesus Christ will return as judge of the living and the dead, bringing eternal punishment on those who do not obey him, but forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life to all who repent and put their trust in him. Therefore, the gospel demands a twofold response: that we turn away from our rebellion against God to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord (repentance), and that we trust in the risen Christ alone for forgiveness of sin and salvation in the day of judgement (faith).

This gospel of Christ crucified demonstrates the wondrous love and righteousness of God, and reveals his eternal plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth under one head, his Son Jesus Christ Omit: “to the praise of his glory and grace”. By the proclamation of this gospel, God is gathering from every nation a people for his own possession—a people who are justified by Jesus’ blood and committed to good deeds .

Omit: Accordingly, We are opposed to any teaching that denies the unique and universal Lordship of the risen Christ as the only name under heaven by which people must be saved, that rejects the penal substitutionary atonement of the cross, or that diminishes the reality of future judgement and hell. We also oppose any practice of Christian ministry that displaces the clear, faithful and frequent speaking of this gospel in favour of other emphases, such as social action or personal growth, or that promises salvation without personal repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We Omit: also resist the call to any ‘unity’ that is not based on the truth of this gospel.

2. The necessity of the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit to initiate and enable repentance and faith.

Because we humans are universally sinful and spiritually dead, only God’s Holy Spirit at work within us can open our eyes to the truth of the gospel, bring us from death to life and lead us to repent and believe [omit next bit in parenthesis] All Christian believers are baptized in the Spirit, and by his power, are born again to a new life with God as our Father and Jesus as our Lord. The Spirit leads us to put to death the misdeeds of the body and produce the fruit of holy living; he unites us as one new humanity in Christ.

Consequently, we reject Omit: any teaching that questions predestination and God’s sovereignty in bringing believers to new birth by his Spirit, and we oppose the worldliness that resists the Spirit’s leading towards daily holiness. We are opposed to Omit: any teaching about the Spirit’s work that effectively divides Christians into different classes according to their level of emotional experience, their exercise of any miraculous gift, their achievement of ongoing victory over sin, or their experience of a second blessing or ‘baptism of the Spirit’.

3. The assurance of salvation that belongs to those who have been justified by the blood of Jesus and sealed by his Spirit.

Those who by the Spirit’s work rest their confidence in Christ’s blood alone for justification are fully assured of their right standing before God, their possession of eternal life and their ultimate salvation at the Last Day. While true living faith will always lead to the good works God has prepared for us to do, these good works play no part in winning our salvation, either now or on the Last Day.

Therefore, we are opposed to Omit: any teaching that undermines in believers our assurance of salvation for believers either by denying our present justification, or by questioning our experience of the Spirit, or by adding religious or moral works as necessary for salvation.

4. The authority and sufficiency of the God-breathed Scriptures for gospel truth and life.

The writings of the Old and New Testaments foreshadow, reveal and explain the gospel of Jesus Christ All the words of the Bible are God’s words. It is not merely that they are true, reliable and authoritative; they are God’s sufficient means for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training his people in every age. All Christian evangelism and ministry centre [plural subject—plural verb] on the prayerful speaking of the Bible’s truth, whatever else they may entail or however they may be supported. [Word order change to avoid ambiguity.]

Therefore, we refute any view that diminishes the Bible’s authority, for example, by subordinating it to the authority of the Church or of scholarship. We oppose claims that sections of Scripture are in error (e.g. by contradicting biblical reports of the bodily resurrection of Christ) or no longer acceptable (e.g. in denying the continuing validity of biblical gender distinctions). We also stand opposed to any who reject the Bible’s sufficiency by claiming access to Omit: new or fresh revelation—whether by ecstatic experience, words of knowledge, meditative contemplation, church councils or liturgical ritual.

5. The tension of gospel living in the world today.

As those who live between the resurrection and return of Christ, we give thanks for all the good gifts we receive from God’s hand in creation, and we count it all joy when we suffer the inevitable trials, illnesses and persecutions of this present evil age. In God’s kindness, such trials test and strengthen our trust in Christ. We look forward with longing and hope to the resurrection of the dead and the new creation, which God will assuredly bring in his own secret time at the return of Jesus Christ. Then we will experience in their fulness [British spelling!] all the blessings won by Christ, including freedom from sickness, pain, injustice, poverty and death.

Accordingly, we stand opposed to the ‘social gospel’, the ‘prosperity gospel’ and the ‘healing gospel’—all of which falsely seek to draw into this age the blessings of the next. We explore the fact that so many are in love with this present world and its pleasures, rather than longing for the age to come.

6. The urgency of gospel living in the world today.

By their nature, these glorious gospel truths demand, not only that we proclaim and contend for them, but that we practise them as well. To assent to these truths without also acting them out in our lives is neither to understand them nor really to believe them.

Thus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and with our hearts compelled by the love of Christ, we declare our determination to:

  • surrender our lives to the honour and service of Christ in daily holiness and decision-making
  • pray constantly in Christ’s name for growth and fruitfulness of his gospel
  • proclaim the Bible’s life-changing word whenever and however we can—in the home, in the world and in the fellowship of his people.

Basil Bigg
East Sussex, UK

12 May 2009

  1. In part 1, we need to refer to Jesus’ continued divinity when he becomes a man: “who became the man Jesus Christ”.
  2. Should there not be some mention of the Trinity somewhere? Some Catholics are pushing to have Mary included in the Trinity.
  3. Original sin and the sinful nature are not adequately acknowledged. (Sin is represented here more in terms of conscious rebellion => ‘innocent’ infants.)
  4. In part 2, the word ‘humanity’ is used twice in the first paragraph. ‘Humanity’ is a modern liberal word. We should use ‘man’ or ‘people’ or ‘chosen people’.
  5. Part 2: we should say “so-called second blessing …”.
  6. In part 4, we should say “tongues or other ecstatic experience” (spell it out, because some wouldn’t think tongues is an ecstatic experience, yet it is the most common one).
  7. Are there any aspects of millennial teachings we want to oppose? What about the ‘rapture’?
  8. Predestination could be more explicit.
  9. In part 1, could we refer to Jesus as our redeemer (cf. Catholics with Mary)?
  10. Anything about the place of the law?
  11. Part 6, the first bullet point: should emphasize that this response is not an attempt to earn salvation, but a response of obedience to his grace?

Roger Parker
The Reformers’ Bookshop
Stanmore, NSW, AUS

6 May 2009

As with everything you produce, I really appreciate it. You think things through, and your ‘Gospel Convictions’ embody this. That’s why I hesitate to suggest these few amendments, because I feel you’ve got things just about right. So the following is just a bit of tinkering, that’s all. Do with it what you want.

PREAMBLE: Was your second clause a dig at our current age, or a comment on the state of every generation? Because I favour the latter view, and I think you do too, how about this small amendment?

We know from Scripture that true life is only to be found in the knowledge of God, and in faithful obedience to his will and his ways. But we are also realistic enough to know that every generation of believers is prone to doctrinal error and godless living. With those twin truths in mind, we hereby commit ourselves to, etc.

POINT 1: A brilliant statement! May I suggest a minor alteration 4 lines from the end? Could you change “personal growth” to “personal fulfilment”? That seems a safer description of the “it’s all about me” attitude that you’re rightly decrying.

POINT 2: [My suggested amendments here spring from my views as a non-cessationist reformed man, so if the official Briefing line is cessationist, then please ignore what I’m saying. I can’t expect you to change your stance just on the basis of a slight tweaking in the form of words. It needs much more space to argue these things through.] Apologies for labels!

Could the last sentence in paragraph 1 read:

The Spirit leads us to put to death the misdeeds of the body and produce the fruit of holy living; he gives varied gifts to individuals as he decides, not as we demand; and he unites us as one new humanity in Christ.

As for your second paragraph about the Spirit, would it be more diplomatic [!!] to make the final sentence less specific about the attitudes you deplore? In my [non-cessationist!] view, you have lumped together as wrong a mixture of views that are both wrong and [arguably?] right. Could you accept the following?

We are also opposed to any teaching about the Spirit’s work that tends to make Christians feel either superior or inferior according to their emotional experiences, their alleged victory over indwelling sin, or their claims to a “second blessing”.

POINT 4: Once again, you’ll see my non-cessationism coming through! How about this for the last four lines?

We also stand opposed to any who reject the Bible’s sufficiency by daring to claim access to new or fresh revelation [from any source] that could be placed on the same level as the Bible itself.

POINT 5: [from my same standpoint!]. Could the last paragraph now read:

While we welcome the blessings to society that often accompany the acceptance of the gospel, and while we acknowledge God’s sovereign right to heal miraculously those whom he chooses, we stand opposed to any false gospel that erroneously seeks to draw into this age the permanent blessings of the next.

Thanks for you patience in wading through this. If you could point me to a back copy of The Briefing that has dealt with the cessationist view, I could perhaps have saved us all the trouble of writing/reading this.

Cliff Bailey
Devon, UK

3 May 2009

As a long-time subscriber, I want to express my thanks to the Briefing crew, past and present, for your work over the years. At times, I have been challenged, affirmed, frustrated and encouraged, but always in the knowledge that you have the glory of God in your sights. Keep it up!

The draft version of ‘Gospel Convictions’ in Section 6 calls us to action, just as Tony did in his piece in Up front in the 21st Anniversary edition. This call to action is great, but perhaps it could be strengthened by the addition of a fourth very important issue: we need to be specifically reminded to do the good works he has prepared for us to do.

I am here assuming that “to speak the Bible’s life-changing word”—the last point of Section 6—is regarded as a ministry of the word and does not refer to good works. If this is not what is meant, then perhaps this should be spelled out more clearly.

There are a number of New Testament passages that make it quite clear that we are to do good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 states unequivocally that, in fact, this is what we are created for in Christ Jesus:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Other passages that are relevant include Titus 3:8, 14; Hebrews 10:24, 13:16 and 1 Peter 2:12. And we do well to pay heed to the warnings of Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 2:5, 20:13, 22:12. The Old Testament makes it clear many times that the fault with the Israelites was that they were not “doing justice” (e.g. Jeremiah 22:1-4).

‘Gospel Convictions’ touches on the issue in Section 3 where there is the acknowledgement that “true living faith will always lead to the good works that God has prepared for us to do…”, but this is said within a negative framework, and is hardly encouraging us to do them. This is unlike the writer of Hebrews 10:24 who wants us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works”.

I think that in ‘Gospel Convictions’, we need to be able to capture the dynamic of saving faith that has the glory of God as its goal with good works as an intrinsic part of its expression. That the powerful effect of God’s saving love within us will result in good works should be seen as a united whole, the parts of which cannot be separated. Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, writing to the church of the Thessalonians. capture this well in saying, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:16-17).

James, of course, goes to some length to ensure that we understand that faith without works is dead. By not doing works, we deny the faith; without the works, the faith is useless. Both come from God. Perhaps the double helix of genetics fame is a useful analogy here: the strands are separate, but, uncombined, produce nothing. If either strand is damaged, the whole suffers—not dead, but certainly not complete.

There is a practical danger in not giving good works their proper place. Some of us are able to lead, to preach and to evangelize. But not all of us—in fact, not many of us. The danger comes when evangelical doctrine focuses on the ‘some’ while subtly suggesting that the ‘many’ ought to join the ‘some’. But where does this leave the many who know full well that they are not able to lead or preach or evangelize? It leaves them faithfully attending services and Bible studies that don’t acknowledge their good works—not as ‘Random acts of kindness’, as the bumper sticker calls them, but as the proper and true expressions of faith in Jesus.

Bob Boss-Walker
Port Macquarie, NSW, AUS

21 April 2009

Regarding ‘Gospel Convictions’, I absolutely agree with the statements as they are understood. Some comments if I may. In the first section, I was distracted by the phrase “who was sent into the world by his Father and who became the man Jesus Christ”. I understood what was said, but Scripture called his name Immanuel, ‘God with us’. He did not become that; he came as Jesus, the Christ (the Messiah). The use of the word “became” sounds to this reader too akin to those thoughts espoused by cultic doctrine that one can become ‘a Christ’. Just a thought. I particularly liked your clarity in section 5. The “social, prosperity, and healing” gospel are the gospels of the western God of consumerism. Having served in the mission field in south-east Asia, that false gospel cannot and should not ever fit. Thank you for the awesome work in The Briefing.

Keith Stell
Location not provided

21 April 2009

I’ve been meaning to write something about the gospel convictions statement in the last Briefing, but it keeps getting lost in other things.

It’s pretty darn good. I like its simplicity, its biblicism, the way it handles polemical issues. It’s great.

If I had to quibble with something, I might nitpick on the “love of Christ” in #6. It’s ambiguous, of course, and I assume deliberately so: is it Christ’s love for us, or the love that we have for others that comes from Christ? But it could be worth being more explicit about our love for others, given the ubiquity of the explicit command in the New Testament (e.g. 1 Pet 4:18; cf. Rom 13:8; 1 Cor 13, Phil 1:9, Col 3:14, Heb 13:1, 2 Pet 1:7, 1 John 4:7-11, John 13:34-35, Matt 22:38-39). Also, the shape of the love described in the three sub-points, if I can say it, is a little pharisaic. The Pharisees would happily sign up to “Determined to abandon our lives in honour to God and in prayer and evangelism”, but they could do so with no love. Especially in our ‘love deficit’ context, it’s worth making love central to both life and doctrine.

So my suggestion is that it could be worth being more explicit—both for us who sign it, and for those who read it. Perhaps: “Being compelled by the love of Christ, we declare our determination to: regard no one from a worldly point of view (or, according to the flesh—ESV), but to do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith”.

Thanks again. It’s a great statement.

David Walker
Aitkenvale, QLD, AUS

21 April 2009

Congratulations on your 21st anniversary, and thank you for the MP3s. I am enjoying the sermons and Tony’s song.

Seeing that you asked for comment on “Gospel Convictions” I was impressed with the clarity of the statements. However, in point 1, where Jesus’ returning as judge means ‘forgiveness of sins’ for believers, I thought this could be taken that we are not forgiven until Jesus returns. Also, I think it should say “for all who have repented”, not “to all who repent”, as this may be taken that repentance is possible after Jesus returns. Later in point 3, you state that you are opposed to teaching that undermines our present justification , which includes repentance and forgiveness of sins. So perhaps point 1 could be worded differently to avoid misunderstanding.

I really look forward to monthly Briefings, and praise God for the men he is raising up to stand for the truth of the Bible in these last days.

Jenny Hunt
Tamworth, NSW, AUS

19 April, 2009

Thank you very much for the 21st anniversary edition. There were some great articles in it. And thank you for the last however many years (since issue #173 when we started reading) as well. We do read pretty much all of every issue, so please be encouraged by that. I think The Briefing has been great for helping us to have a biblical mindset. We’re not great at really thinking and praying articles through, though, so we love the idea of having a few questions and prayer points.

You asked for comments on ‘Gospel Convictions’. Here are a couple of things that struck us as we read it.

Under point 1, you say: “Jesus Christ will return … bringing … forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life to all who repent and put their trust in him”. We thought this wasn’t quite right because we are forgiven now (Col 1:12-14), we are saved now (Eph 2:5, 8) and we have eternal life now (John 5:24). So we don’t need to wait for Jesus to return to bring these things.

We thought that maybe something related to evangelism should have a point all to itself. As it stands, it is mentioned in a number of the points, and gets the last bullet point of point 6. That didn’t seem enough.

Thanks again, and do keep up the good work.

James and Vicky Widdows
Grace Church Dulwich
South-east London, UK

19 April 2009

Enjoyed ‘Gospel Convictions’! A couple of suggestions:

  1. In point 1, one of the areas where substitutionary atonement has been under attack is the characterization of an angry God making a innocent and, by implication, an unwilling Son die for us. A key argument against this view is that Jesus willingly went to the cross. So you might consider changing the second sentence to “The gospel declares that Jesus lived a sinless life, that he willingly died on the cross …”
  2. Postmodernism and its rejection of absolute truth is also clearly an issue we need to stand against. While I think that you do this in what you do and some things you say, I think it would be helpful to make it overt as it is such an influential concept taught to our kids, and largely assumed to be true. So I suggest in point 4 that you add something explicit in the refutation section. A suggestion would be to add to the first refutation sentence ”… under the authority of the Church or scholarship, or those who deny that it is absolutely true for all ages including our own age.”

Grant Dibden
Kings Langley, NSW, AUS

17 April 2009

You invited comments on ‘Gospel Convictions’. My wife and I thought that your draft statement was excellent, but we would like to make one small suggestion. This concerns the word ‘hope’ under point 5. Today, this word usually carries the implication of being within the realms of possibility—that is, introducing an element of doubt or uncertainty—while, in the Bible, it refers to a future certainty. Can different wording be used to overcome this change of use of language?

We find The Briefing a very helpful and thought-provoking publication, read from cover to cover.

We also liked Tony’s guitar work!

Robert and Judith Batty
Purley, UK

16 April 2009

I read the ‘Gospel Convictions’ statement in this month’s Briefing. I loved it. Here are a few vague comments. (I feel like I should have taken much more time to think about it!)

Point 1: The statement mentions the centrality of the gospel. However, nothing is said in the following comment about why or how the gospel is central. Along similar lines, I think there should be a statement in the first paragraph about salvation only coming through Jesus’ death on the cross. Finally, towards the end of the second paragraph, it mentions God gathering people from every nation. Again, I wish it would say that God is gathering a people from the Jews and the Gentiles (from every nation) to reflect the biblical way of looking at such things.

Point 4: The first sentence is not clear. The gospel is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, not the New Testament, etc. You might need two sentences here (foreshadowed in Old Testament and fulfilled in New Testament). I absolutely love the final paragraph.


Martin Pakula
Lilydale, VIC, AUS

14 April 2009

A quick thought after looking at the “Gospel Convictions” statement. Great idea. Thank you. Great interview with Phillip and great article by Tony on looking back and forward.

On the “Gospel Convictions”, it possibly needs something on ‘church’, the local assembly, our conviction of the need to gather for encouragement, Jesus’ command to love one another (cf. the individualism of our age). Also, ‘love for the lost’ seems to be missing, as is love for all people—doing good for all. I know you can’t fit everything in, but these are just some things that occurred to me.

Keep up the great work.

James Davidson
North Rocks, NSW, AUS

14 April 2009

My comments on ‘Gospel Convictions’: easy to read, easy to understand, totally succinct. I very much like the ‘accordingly’ statements: they leave no-one in any doubt of where you are coming from. I have moved in some circles where I have been treated as a second-class Christian simply because I didn’t speak in tongues and therefore was not ‘baptized in the Spirit’. I agree wholeheartedly with all you say in Section 2.

I’ve only been a subscriber for around five years, but have enjoyed each edition. I find today that in many churches, one listens to wishy-washy teaching that does nothing for one’s heartstrings or one’s grey cells. The Briefing addresses these issues. It’s a most stimulating read—thought-provoking and spiritually exercising.

Thank you and keep up the good work.

Shirley Mainstone
Spring Gully, VIC, AUS

13 April 2009

Congratulations on your 21st anniversary! I am grateful for all the benefit the magazine has brought me since I started subscribing.

Can I please respond to a couple things in the issue?

Firstly, the doctrinal statement: I think it’s a very good idea to create a statement like this that makes clear where The Briefing stands theologically. Having read through it, I think it is very good. I applaud the clarity of the statements about salvation, the work of Jesus, and the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. (Please don’t be pressured into removing “e.g. denying the continuing validity of biblical gender distinctions”; some will say that this is a secondary matter, but, in fact, it is a key ‘litmus test’ issue for evangelical commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.)

I did notice, however, that there is no clear statement of the Trinity. If this is meant to be a thorough statement of core/non-negotiable Christian beliefs, I think that should be included. (It would be worrying if an Arian or modalist could read the statement and agree with it—which might be the case!)

Jereth Kok
Melbourne, VIC, AUS

9 April 2009

Just a few comments on ‘Gospel Convictions’. I could not fault a word, but I do not like the balance of the presentation. I would prefer the overall layout to be:

  1. In matters of faith
  2. In matters of hope
  3. In matters of love.

In matters of faith, the Apostles’ Creed is a good starting point onto which you tack the articles of reformed evangelical faith. It seems to me that you have taken too much as assumed knowledge, and need the creed as your starting point to ensure more balance.

In matters of hope, I think you could rejig the articles of gospel living in the sense of pilgrims’ progress towards the new Jerusalem.

In matters of love, I think you further need to address the two great commandments, which leaves you with an evangelical position to fashion on the social welfare agenda.

Dr Paul Hopwood
Pennant Hills, NSW, AUS

9 April 2009

I find Section 4 (on the authority and sufficiency of the God-breathed Scriptures for gospel truth and life) to raise questions and inspire comments:

  1. There is no recognition of the issue of the interpretation of Scripture, a matter on which people rightly look to both the church and to scholarship for help with. Is the church permitted, according to ‘Gospel Convictions’, to offer an authoritative interpretation or not?
  2. Is it wise to offer specific examples of a statement of principle? Thus “We also oppose the claim that sections of Scripture are … no longer relevant” could be agreed on by all evangelicals, but there is likely to be disagreement over the specific example given: “in denying the continuing validity of biblical gender distinctions”. Why divide evangelicals in a statement of convictions through an ‘e.g’? (Of course, if ‘Gospel Convictions’ include [say] submission by women in marriage, women not being permitted to provide authoritative teaching, then this should be stated as a clear conviction).
  3. Generally, the statement is negative around ‘social action’ (section 1), ‘social gospel’, ‘prosperity gospel’ and ‘healing gospel’ (section 5). Many evangelicals will not disagree with what is said per se, but will wonder, as I do, why nothing constructive seems to be said about the role of healing, social action and social justice in the working out of the mission of God.

With all good wishes for the next 21 years,

Peter Carrell
Nelson, NZ

3 April 2009

Congratulations on The Briefing‘s 21st birthday! Although I have only been a subscriber for a year or so, your journal has become an eagerly awaited part of each month’s mailbag.

I was very interested to read the statement of ‘Gospel Convictions’, which you drafted and published in the 21st birthday edition. I think it’s a good idea, and the thing I really like about it is the clarity with which you not only set out the positive points of the gospel, but also make it clear what this rules out and what, therefore, needs to be resisted/refuted.

What I might suggest adding, though, is a clear reference to the doctrine of the Trinity. The question of who God actually is is central to the Bible, and the answer is, of course, that God is Trinity (even though that word does not appear in Scripture). The doctrine of the Trinity is under attack not only from cults like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also increasingly from liberals within the mainstream Christian denominations. Most of the major controversies of the day (the roles of men and women, homosexuality, the uniqueness of Christ) have deep implications for Trinitarian doctrine. Liberals will often be content to re-shape the Trinity in order to support their chosen conclusions in these other areas, rather than letting the truth of who God really is shape our convictions in all other areas.

Hope this helps.

David Huss
St Paul’s Church
Banbury, UK

3 April 2009

Terrific edition of a marvellous magazine! It is well worth celebrating the 21st anniversary of a journal that has been greatly used to bless God’s people and proclaim the truth of the eternal gospel.

I like the idea of the ‘Gospel Convictions’. A couple of suggestions:

  1. I wonder whether the second clause in the introductory paragraph (“and that the times … godless living”) is really necessary up front. It seems to me to strike too negative a note too early. Of course, I think it is true, but the tone of the statement is important when people first read it. Maybe a similar sentiment could be put into the final sentence of the intro—for example, “but (keeping in mind that we expect the time until Jesus’ return to be marked by doctrinal error and godless living) the points …”
  2. The summary of the gospel is excellent! I would personally have liked to see a clear rejection of views that denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus in the ‘denial’, but of point 1 after the reference to the atonement. But I see it is there in point 4, so I can live with it there.
  3. In point 4, however, it seems to me that if this statement is intended to respond to current issues, we need another ‘denial’: in the bracket after “relevant”, I would suggest, at the end after “distinctions”, something like “or the Bible’s teaching on sexual morality”. I think that covers pre-marital sex and homosexuality.

Keep up the good work!

Neil Foster
Newcastle, NSW, AUS

1 April 2009

Thank you for ‘Gospel Convictions’. It was invigorating to read a contemporary restatement of the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”. I particularly appreciated the “Accordingly …” sections, which set out the negative implications of the five main convictions. If The Briefing won’t say those bold things, which Christian periodical will? So thank you for saying them.

Since you invite feedback and input, I have a few suggestions. I’m worried that the presentation of the gospel in conviction #1 lacks any sense of promise and fulfilment. It makes the Old Testament seem completely unnecessary! This is reflected in the definition of “the Christ” as “the Lord and Ruler of the world”. While this is true, the primary meaning of ‘Christ’ is the divine King of Israel, promised for centuries beforehand. Only as such is he Lord and Ruler of the world.

When you say, “the Spirit leads us to put to death the misdeeds of the body” in conviction #2, that seems to leave us as the ones doing the actual mortifying, while the Spirit eggs us on in the background. But it is by his power that we put sin to death and do what is right. Could you replace ‘leads’ with the more global ‘helps’?

I think you need to insert “as originally written” into the middle of the following sentence from conviction #4: “All the words of the Bible are God’s words”. We wouldn’t want people to think that The Briefing encourages belief in the wretched false ending of Mark’s Gospel with its snakes and deadly poison!

One other suggestion, which you probably won’t agree with, is to change the final bullet point in conviction #6: “[we declare our determination to:] speak the Bible’s life-changing word whenever and however we can—in the home, in the world and in the fellowship of his people”. By all means, let’s be known as Christ’s people, and let’s all speak up for him, but doesn’t the Bible emphasize the preaching of the word by the people given by Christ for that task (Eph 4:11)? Why not change the final bullet point to: “[we declare our determination to:] support the preaching of the Bible’s life-changing word among the lost and in the fellowship of God’s people, by our financial giving, time and effort”?

Thanks again for embarking on this really helpful exercise. I think when the dust has settled, it will be a great resource.

Nick Howard
Kent, UK

29 March 2009

I am a regular reader of The Briefing, although I have never corresponded with you before.

I applaud what The Briefing is trying to do—to say things how they are in the light of biblical teaching. This is so often avoided in the local church in favour of not wanting to cause offence or not wanting to upset anyone or come across as judgemental, and so on.

I obtain Christian teaching from a variety of ministries—some of which do conflict—and therefore some must be in error. I would like you to expand on conviction #5 for me please. Among other points made in this particular conviction, I was a little surprised to read the phrase used as a critique of the social, prosperity and healing ‘gospels’—“all of which falsely seek to draw into this age the blessings of the age to come”. I am not seeking to defend all aspects of some Christian ministries that seem to major on these ‘gospels’, but my reading of the Bible does suggest to me that there is more to living as a Christian than just waiting for a release from worldly problems by the blessings received after death.

Conviction #5 communicates to me that The Briefing‘s view is that we should just live on earth, grateful for our eternal salvation, and seek to proclaim this salvation to others by way of gospel preaching, but also to accept all the “inevitable trials, illnesses and persecutions of this present evil age” that come our way with a “we can’t do anything about it because it must be God’s sovereign will” philosophy.

It appears to me that the commission Jesus gave us included a level of authority won back for us over the evil one by Jesus’ defeat of Satan on the cross (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:17-18). We read in Ephesians 3:20 that God/Jesus “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”. This says to me that God is limited in what he can achieve on earth by what we do as his followers. There is no full stop after the word “imagine”; it is a comma. God can do anything, but it is by way of his power at work within us if we allow it.

If I am wrong and we do not have any Jesus-given authority, and nothing happens without God controlling/willing it, then I have some serious questions, such as:

  1. What is the point of prayer? God wills everything to happen anyway, so what effect can we have on it? In fact, it would be a sin to pray for healing if it’s God’s will that we are sick!
  2. It must then be God’s will that all the disasters, killing and other evil in the world happen—in which case, I am going to have a real problem convincing my unbelieving friends that God is a good God who loves them.
  3. Eternal life in the sense of all the blessing of it begins when we die, and we just have to sing “when we all get to heaven, what a day that will be!”

Please correct me if I’m wrong. If I am, then I have less responsibility than I thought!

Tony Jopson
Plymouth, UK

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