The Evangelical Essential: What Must I Do to be Saved? By Philip Janowsky. Graham, OR: Vision House Publishing, 1994. 132 pp. Cloth, $13.99.
Here is a really refreshing and valuable little book by a minister in the United Methodist Church. Janowsky holds degrees from Houghton College (NY), the University of Kansas, and Ilift School of Theology in Denver. He pastors the Community United Methodist Church in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
Janowsky begins his book by observing that the term evangelical is rapidly becoming meaningless. He pointedly cites a woman who was a mainline church leader and who stated that she regarded anyone who believed in God and preached from the Bible as an evangelical (p. 9). Janowsky maintains that Evangelicals were once united on the deity of Christ, justification by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, and the final authority of Scripture in matters of faith and practice (p. 12). This unity dissipated, he holds, due to the impact of “politically correct” agendas, such as feminism (including a pro-choice stance on abortion) and the gay rights movement. Accomodating to these trends, some evangelical scholars began to subject the Scriptures to these agendas.
Equally harmful, Janowsky maintains, has been the tendency to elevate the teachings of Jesus to the level of soteriological pronouncements, at the expense of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone. Any observer of the contemporary evangelical climate must agree that this observation is a keen one that strikes its target. Janowsky points out
that the doctrine of justification by faith was seen by the Reformers and John Wesley to be the hermeneutical paradigm by which the Scriptures are to be interpreted [p. 99].
Of course, this is no longer the case, and evangelical studies in Paul abound which do the exact opposite and seek to accomodate Paul to an ethical conception of salvation. Therefore Janowsky’s point is well taken. So also is his observation that
The point of this is that when any group—Catholic or otherwise, regardless of what banner they choose to march under—switches the primary emphasis of Scripture from the Pauline doctrine of justification as a gracious gift from Christ conditioned only by faith, to justification as a reward for following the earthly teachings of our Lord (no matter how faithfully), the honest person is compelled to despair [italics original; pp. 101-102].
What then is the role, for example, of the Sermon on the Mount? Janowsky writes:
The stern precepts of the Sermon on the Mount are to be preached, not as a tortuous pathway to salvation, as in Monasticism, nor as a teaching around which to form a semi-ascetic community, as in Anabaptism. The Sermon is to be preached in all of its rigors to destroy any hopes of self-righteousness [italics original; p. 103].
Janowsky is highly skeptical of what he calls the “New Evangelical Left.” He has the “distinct impression” that “perhaps they are doing their work more to impress the academicians of the liberal wing of the church and the secular humanists, than to defend ‘the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’” (p. 129). The charge is a serious one, but trends in the evangelical community suggest that it is a charge not without validity.
There is much more of interest in this little book than this brief review can cover. Suffice it to say, GES members and friends who obtain a copy will certainly not regret doing so.
Zane C. Hodges
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society