The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Speaking of the Solas, there are a few bloggers out there wondering, “Who devised the ‘Five Solas of the Reformation’ in the first place?” I’ll direct you to one post, and you can follow the trail of links if you are so inclined.

Furthermore, since I’ve finally put in writing how the historic evangelical distinctive of Sola Scriptura has devolved in the life of many evangelicals, I would now like to not merely “curse the darkness” (if you will–Baptist readers, try not to take this reference too personally or literally) but “light a light.” I affirm the following declaration and believe the essence of its theses is vital to a genuine reformation of contemporary evangelical traditions of every variety.

John D. Chitty



April 20, 1996

Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.


In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word “evangelical.” In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.

Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.

Sola Scriptura: The Erosion of Authority
Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church’s life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.

Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church’s understanding, nurture and discipline.

Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliches, promises and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God’s truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God’s provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher’s opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.

The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God’s grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.

Thesis One: Sola Scriptura

We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation,which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.

We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.

Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith
As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.

Thesis Two: Solus Christus

We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.

We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.

Sola Gratia: The Erosion of The Gospel
Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world; from the self-esteem gospel, to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences the doctrine of justification regardless of the official commitments of our churches.

God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.

Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.

Sola Fide: The Erosion of The Chief Article
Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ’s imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.

Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ’s cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.

While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ’s substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God’s children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ’s saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.

Thesis Four: Sola Fide
We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

Soli Deo Gloria: The Erosion of God-Centered Worship
Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God’s and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God’s centrality in the life of today’s church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.

God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God’s kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.

Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria
We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.

We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

A Call To Repentance & Reformation
The faithfulness of the evangelical church in the past contrasts sharply with its unfaithfulness in the present. Earlier in this century, evangelical churches sustained a remarkable missionary endeavor, and built many religious institutions to serve the cause of biblical truth and Christ’s kingdom. That was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were markedly different from those in the culture. Today they often are not. The evangelical world today is losing its biblical fidelity, moral compass and missionary zeal.

We repent of our worldliness. We have been influenced by the “gospels” of our secular culture, which are no gospels. We have weakened the church by our own lack of serious repentance, our blindness to the sins in ourselves which we see so clearly in others, and our inexcusable failure to adequately tell others about God’s saving work in Jesus Christ.

We also earnestly call back erring professing evangelicals who have deviated from God’s Word in the matters discussed in this Declaration. This includes those who declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who claim that those who reject Christ in this life will be annihilated rather than endure the just judgment of God through eternal suffering, or who claim that evangelicals and Roman Catholics are one in Jesus Christ even where the biblical doctrine of justification is not believed.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asks all Christians to give consideration to implementing this Declaration in the church’s worship, ministry, policies, life and evangelism.
For Christ’s sake.
Amen.

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Executive Council (1996)
Dr. John Armstrong
The Rev. Alistair Begg
Dr. James M. Boice
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
Dr. John D. Hannah
Dr. Michael S. Horton
Mrs. Rosemary Jensen
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Dr. Robert M. Norris
Dr. R.C. Sproul
Dr. Gene Edward Veith
Dr. David Wells
Dr. Luder Whitlock
Dr. J.A.O. Preus, III

FOR FURTHER READING, SEE ALSO:
Highlights From The Cambridge Summit Meeting
An Introduction to The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, by James M. Boice
This declaration may be reproduced without permission. Please credit the source by citing the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

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14 responses

  1. John

    at the beginning of this post you posted these words:::>

    [[I would now like to not merely “curse the darkness” (if you will–Baptist readers, try not to take this reference to personally or literally) but “light a light.”]]

    I want to say my “HEART” leaped with JOY if your meaning is what I believe you meant?

    I mean that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is “well” equipped to bring to the frontlines of this war of darkness and light, HIS “LIGHT”, lighting up the present Heavens and earth with His Glorious Message of the Gospel of God through Jesus Christ?

    Quoting the Apostle Paul:

    Act 26:14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
    Act 26:15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
    Act 26:16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
    Act 26:17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
    Act 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
    Act 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

    Bring Light forth? “light a light”

    Is this what you mean?

    michael

  2. Charismatics make great poets! I’ve got a charismatic friend at work who has a similar skill, but his has a much more cynical edge to it. Yours is usually more edifying.

    But, anyway, there is a saying out there that says, “Don’t just curse the darkness, but light a light.” This means, don’t just criticize what’s going on, but provide a good alternative as well; or, don’t just go negative, but balance the negative with the positive.

    I asked my Baptist readers not to take the reference to “darkness” literally or personally because, “it’s just a saying.” This could be interpreted as extreme language, and it was not the point of my reference to the saying. I’m not saying Baptist equals darkness, there is plenty of sound light among the Baptists, they are my brothers. But I am offering constructive criticism about the overall trend of the Baptist movement in relation to its heritage in Reformed theology.

    But the distinctives among Baptists are also shared by other proponents of “Believer’s Baptism,” most charismatics included. I call the proponents of all theological traditions outside the Reformed tradition to return to their Reformed roots, for all traditions hail back to a Reformed theological heritage somewhere back up the genealogical line.

    First, Reformed theology is apostolic. Paul gave the most extensive exposition of predestination and tied it in squarely with the Old Testament revelation concerning “the Israel of God.” However, Peter and John also make significant contributions to the New Testament revelation about this distinctive of Reformed theology.

    Second, Reformed theology is Augustinian. The fourth century controversy between Augustine and Pelagius provides much of the backdrop for the ongoing debate over the Reformed and biblical understanding of predestination. Pelagius’ denial of the biblical exposition of Augustine on this topic shows the chronology. “Which came first? The sovereign gracer or the free willer? Answer: the sovereign gracer, every time. Free willers don’t show up but in response and rejection of the biblical truth of sovereign grace.

    Third, Reformed theology is Calvinist. Same goes here. Jacob Arminius objected to this same doctrine of the Reformed interpretation of predestination in the seventeenth century. Arminius drew up five points which contradict the apostolic, Augustinian, Calvinist truth of sovereign grace and the Synod of Dort was called to provide an official defense of this doctrine for the benefit of the church. The five-point resolution drawn up by this synod is what became known as the TULIP. A photographic negative correcting Arminius’ five-point rejection of the sovereign grace of God.

    The pentecostal tradition, which later produced the charismatic movement is firmly Arminian. If I remember correctly, it was Arminian Methodists (Methodism is the English-speaking home of Arminianism) who began praying for the “Pentecostal experience” on Azusa street a hundred years ago. My point is, all Protestant traditions descend from the Reformed tradition in one way or another. It’s true of charismatics, and it’s true of Baptists, it’s even true of Lutherans, because Luther wrote more on the apostolic and Augustinian truth of sovereign grace than John Calvin ever dreamed of, but the second generation of Lutheran leadership lead that tradition to reject much of the light their German founder proclaimed.

    The light that I’m lighting is the light of biblical Reformation. I’m leaving the porch light on for all the prodigal Protestant traditions, waiting up for them to come home from their straying from Apostolic, Augustinian, Calvinist Reformed theology.

  3. Oh, thanks, that clears that up!

    Sincerely.

    Can you open up and share somewhat of this meaning from Paul’s writing? hereon quoted::::>

    Rom 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
    Rom 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
    Rom 11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
    Rom 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
    Rom 11:30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
    Rom 11:31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
    Rom 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
    Rom 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
    Rom 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?
    Rom 11:35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
    Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.

    It seems to me that some have taken great exception to the meaning here?

    Quite honestly, I am less sure now than ever what those verses mean.

    Do you have something you understand to share hereon about these verses and Paul’s WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING as to what he meant when he wrote those words to the Roman Church?

    michael

  4. I haven’t checked Calvin’s commentary yet, but I think he interpreted “all Israel” in Romans 11:26 as refering to all of the elect, Jew and Gentile alike. This is, however, a highly disputed passage, as even you seem to be aware. My NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible lists four alternate interpretations which are held by various interpreters.

    Keep in mind the fact that Romans 9-11 is answering the larger question, “If the Jews are predominantly rejecting their Messiah, has God failed to keep his promise to Abraham?” This helps me settle on the interpretation that “all Israel” is talking about national Israel, especially considering the more immediate context.

    National Israel are largely enemies of the gospel, yet are beloved because of the promises made to the patriarchs. Non-elect Jews being “beloved” due to their position of greater revelation as described in Romans 9:4-5. Gentiles have not been “loved” to such a degree of this kind of exposure to the light. But the elect Jews are beloved in a saving way, in that they not only have this greater light shining on them, but respond in faith to it by the sovereign, effectual call of the Spirit. God’s gifts and calling are without repentance. In this way I would consider “all Israel” being beloved for the fathers’ sake. There’s a distinction in the ways God “loves” the reprobate and the elect. But “love” them all he most assuredly does. Remember, loving and hating in Scripture have more to do with what God and we do, than with how God and we feel about the objects of our love or hatred.

    God’s eternal purpose was to use a hardened Israel to allow the fulfillment of his promise to Abraham to “bless all nations” through his descendants, the elect Jews, and further purposes a kind of reciprocity in that he will use elect Gentiles to bring this blessing, the Gospel of the Messiah, back to the Jews. We were disobedient and received mercy through the Messiah of the Jews and so are obligated to return the favor to the Jews, that elect Jews may receive mercy. It is God’s purpose to fulfill his promise to the children of Abraham in this way. So, the answer to the greater question is that God is not unfaithful to his promise.

    We may have it revealed to us in Scripture some amount of God’s purpose THAT God hardened Israel so Gentiles may receive mercy, so that by believing Gentiles, the hardened Jews may receive mercy, but we certainly don’t have the whole answer as to WHY. This is why God’s wisdom and knowledge are deep riches, his judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out. God is his own counselor, and he does all according to his own purpose which is not entirely revealed to us. We are then obligated to wonder in reverent amazement at his wisdom, knowledge, judgments, and ways, recognizing that he is the first cause (“for from him” 11:36) of his outworking of his purpose, he is the first agent (“through him”) in working out his purpose, and his purpose is worked out for his glory alone (“to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen”).

    Such an omniscient, sovereign God has this kind of worshipful effect on those who gratefully receive revelation of this kind about God’s sovereign control over the people he created and redeemed. The best theology leads to the best doxology.

  5. not a bad exposition of Romans 9 JC.

  6. Thanks, Gage. That means a lot, coming from you!

  7. Now wait! I thought I was expositing Romans 11 in the light of Romans 9 and 10. Should I infer something implicit behind your complement, or am I paranoid, or is it just 12:05AM?

  8. JC- no hidden agenda, or meaning or anything…sly about my comment.
    At least not this time.

    Gage

    By the way, I miss Dr. Boice.

  9. I know, but I was tired and the thought popped in my head so I wrote it. Thought there might be a touch of humor in it. Thanks again for the KIND words.

    So, elaborate on your sentiments about Dr. Boice.

  10. john

    by no means do I want to put a stumbling block out here so bear up under the load, ok?

    I love reading Poetry.

    I came to a Poem some time back and read it, THE HAPPY WARRIOR by William Wordsworth.

    You might have as well?

    I do believe I am a bit older than you, but I am happy to say that you have such a command on that particular KNOWLEDGE I keep coming back for more!

    Here is a dribble of that poem that seems to me reflects your character herein and on this blog:

    WHO IS THE HAPPY WARRIOR? WHO IS HE THAT EVERY MAN IN ARMS SHOULD WISH TO BE?….

    WHO, WITH A NATURAL INSTINCT TO DISCERN
    WHAT KNOWLEDGE CAN PERFORM, IS DILIGENT TO LEARN:

    Pardon me, but if you don’t mind? I will keep coming back for more?

    michael

  11. Don’t bother treading on egg shells. Your comments are welcome.

    Thank you for the complement. I am indeed a “happy warrior.” I definitely love to learn the truths of the Christian faith, as well as the disputed aspects which various traditions hold up as the best interpretation of the issue in question. I find that, even if I may not always get the ideal devotional “bang for my buck,” as I accumulate “headknowledge,” over time, when I do turn to the Lord in doxology, my view of his work for and in his people is noticably broader, and I find it enriches my awe and gives me so much more for which to praise God.

    There are many other more qualified and thorough sources than “The Misadventures of Captain Headknowledge,” but I’m glad you’re along for the ride, with a view to learning what little I’m able to convey in my amateurish manner.

  12. Elaborating on Dr. Boice-

    He was a tremendous advocate for the Reformed Faith- and also for expositional preaching.. the two don’t seem to go hand-n-hand anymore… I pray that those two pillars (reformed thought and expositional preaching) didn’t die with his passing. He went to glory too early…

    Gage

  13. As the pendulum swings, so do the trends of faithfulness in religious movements, just as in cultural modes.

    For example, I’ve always had a pet theory regarding the discipline of children, that levels of discipline vary from generation to generation, in direct reaction to the generation preceding. My parents were pretty lenient with me, and as I became an adult and began to reap the harvest from the lack of discipline that was sown, I tended to compensate by being a little quicker to discipline than were my parents. I project that some or all of my children will conversely compensate, and revert back to the more lenient methods of my parents, whose children will grow to resent how undisciplined they were raised and compensate, and so on, and so on. Naturally, that’s a generalization; I trust it still reflects some amount of truth.

    I look at preaching trends the same way. The Reformed tradition founded expository preaching. You know better than I do how subject they are to the trends of the times. Those who grow up in the Reformed faith and tire of boring old exposition of Scripture (e.g., Charles Finney–horrors!), will overreact in the wrong direction. There’s definitely plenty of that going around. Fortunately, folks like you who grow up in this generation of rampant unfaithfulness learn better and begin applying the necessary pressure to turn the rutter and steer the ship of the Reformed faith back on the course of sound, expository preaching and teaching.

    God speed in that regard. Don’t just tell us about it, though. Make sure you don’t forget to pour out your hunger for expository preaching to the true Pilot of the ship of the Reformed faith, taking every opportunity you can find to provide that for which you ask of others. That’s what keeps me truckin’!

    So, is PTL (“Post Tenebras Lux”) coming up tomorrow morning? I’m about to wear four holes in the surface of my computer table tapping my fingers as I wait like a school girl to hear a Word from the Lord for me through his servant, Dr. Thomas Rufus Browning.

    p.s.–Sorry about the “PTL” jab. I just couldn’t resist. But even the abbreviation “PTL” needs to be Reformed. Your dad and you are the right guys to do it!

  14. Thanks John. I’m not sure when it’s going to be up. My Dad is recovering from his resignation as Pastor. The toll on him is hard to measure. When he is able… we will begin. God have mercy on my former church.

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