This issue has been devoted to a discussion of some of the principles of Christian ethics in the light of the great Reformation doctrine of justification by faith. We have included a couple reprints of choice articles from two books published by The Banner of Truth Trust. Also included is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's onslaught against "cheap grace. Some have considered this essay as Bonhoeffer's best. It fits well with the theme of this issue of Present Truth Magazine.
Some of our readers may raise their eyebrows that we would use any material from the writings of the man some would regard as the father of " "religionless Christianity."" We take the position, however, that truth is truth, even if it is spoken by the mouth of an ass (and we are not suggesting that Bonhoeffer was an ass). It is disappointing when people ask, "Who said it?" and judge on that basis, rather than asking, "What is said?" We do not feel bound to judge a man's pedigree before we quote him. We certainly do not go along with all that the neo-orthodox theologians have contributed; neither do we want to ignore any contribution that they have made to Christian thought. We deplore the narrow spirit that wants to damn everyone who does not shout our shibboleths.
Justification by grace alone means that we are not justified by doctrinal rectitude. It is right to contend for good theology and for a clear understanding of the Word. But that is a different matter from refusing to acknowledge those who differ with us as good Christians. We happen to take sharp issue with Pentecostalism, not because we want to be contentious, but because we feel that vital principles of truth are at stake. Yet we gladly salute many fine Christians who are Pentecostal. James Buchanan, who wrote that great classic on The
Doctrine of justification, takes very sharp issue with Arminianism. Yet he happily salutes the great evangelical Arminians, like John Wesley, as true children of God. He just regarded their hearts as better than their heads, and grace as greater than either.
We should not err on the side of thinking that good theology is unimportant as long as we have good hearts toward God. The truth and the glory of God are inseparable, and we should strive to correctly represent God in all our doctrinal statements. On the other hand, we should not err on the side of those who say, "Unless you believe as we do, you can't be saved." That sounds too much like the Pharisees who said, "These people who know not the Torah [the teaching] are cursed." In heaven we may find out that some great saints on earth held some queer ideas.
When the Reformation started, the Catholics damned the Lutherans. When the Calvinists
came on the scene, they were damned by the Lutherans. When the Arminians arose,
they were damned by the Calvinists. We may let all this go by and gladly confess
that Jesus alone can say, " I . . . have the keys of hell and of death." Rev.
Truth is broader than any theological system. It is bigger than Lutheranism or
Calvinism. It cannot be confined to any party system. It would be safer to let
truth call our opinions into question than for us to call truth into question.
Come, therefore, and "let us reason together."