National Meeting for Bible Scholars Considers the Gospel
In November there was a meeting of 500 top evangelical Bible scholars and theologians in San Diego, California. This was the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). The theme for the conference was "The Gospel and World Religions."
Dr. Bob Wilkin, Executive Director of GES, is a longtime member of ETS. He attended the meetings and presented a parallel session paper entitled "Current Issues in Salvific Repentance."
Several items of interest to GES News readers occurred.
Bob was not the only person to speak on repentance. A Lordship Salvation advocate immediately followed him speaking on the same topic from the opposite perspective. Afterwards the two met and the following conversation took place after they exchanged greetings. LS stands for the Lordship Salvationist and BW for Bob Wilkin.
LS "You know, Bob, we basically believe the same thing."
BW "I don't think so. We wouldn't answer the question, 'What must I do to be saved?' in the same way."
LS "Wouldn't we both say, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ'?"
BW "Yes, but we wouldn't mean the same thing. For example, if I shared the gospel as I described in my paper, calling a person to trust in Christ alone as their Savior, and I didn't call them to turn from their sins and commit their lives to Christ, and they responded by placing their trust in Christ alone, and then they died later that day, do you believe they would go to heaven or hell?"
LS "Oh, he'd go to hell since you didn't call him to turn from his sins and commit his life to Christ."
BW "Then we aren't saying the same thing."
On Saturday morning Dr. John MacArthur spoke in a plenary session on "Faith in the Apostle James." Dr. Earl Radmacher responded to his paper and did a good job of pointing out weaknesses in his approach. He pointed out, for example, that we establish doctrine in clear, not unclear, passages and hence it is wrong to go to James to prove one's doctrine of faith. He also pointed out that while Dr. MacArthur used over 20 different qualifiers for faith in his paper (e.g., dead faith, authentic faith, nominal faith, intellectual faith, heart faith, real faith, obedient faith, saving faith, sluggish faith), James used the term sixteen times in his letter without once using a modifier. He suggested that Dr. MacArthur's approach to the gospel was a road not back to Wittenberg, but to Rome.
After Dr. MacArthur's paper and the responses of Dr. Radmacher and one other, the audience was permitted to ask questions. Dr. Bob Wilkin was able to ask Dr. MacArthur two questions.
BW "In light of 2 Corinthians 13:5 is examining ourselves to see if we are in the faith something that we as believers are to do regularly, throughout our lives?"
JM (Paraphrase) "Yes, we are to examine ourselves on an ongoing basis…. Of course, this has relevance to assurance."
BW "When, then, can a believer be 100% sure that he has passed the test?"
JM "I'm not sure what you mean by 100%."
BW "I mean absolutely, positively sure."
JM (Paraphrase) "Puritan writers said that such absolute assurance was not possible. We can have assurance, but not absolute certainty."
BW "Thank you."
One of the difficulties of Lordship Salvation, on top of its distortion of the gospel, is that it denies people assurance of their salvation.