There is no sweeter word among Christians than "grace." It is the foundation of our relationship to God; it is the source of our life in God; it is the basis of our hope for life to come with God. As all of those prepositions demonstrate, without grace there would be no such thing as Christianity, and certainly there would be no such thing as Christians, either. If this is true, you might be forgiven for wondering about this issue's title. Are we coming across as a bunch of grumpy confessionalists? Are we creating controversy where there is none? Surely, grace is the one sola upon which we can all agree!
Tragically, that is no longer the case. As editor-in-chief and Reformed theologian Michael Horton demonstrates in his article, grace used to be the sine qua non of every theological dispute. Even where Catholics and Protestants differed sharply on the when and how of grace, the need for grace was never questioned (after all, Pelagianism was condemned by both). But, with the rise of revivalistic radicals within Evangelicalism and theological liberals within mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, the specter of Pelagius looms large over our current ecclesiastical landscape. As grace is supplanted more and more with an emphasis upon duty, pragmatism, and ethics, the sound of grace is becoming less and less familiar, thus more and more threatening, in the American church.
What can we do to change this situation? By God's grace, a rediscovery of the vast treasury of Christian refection and, more importantly, Scriptural teaching on grace will reawaken us to the beauty and necessity of grace in our life of faith. Presbyterian church planter Jason Stellman shows us where grace is found-challenging some presuppositions about grace and the work of God in ways that should move us to reconsider our own beliefs and practices. Reformed theologian and president of Westminster Seminary California W. Robert Godfrey takes us on a quick tour of the grace debates throughout the history of the church-starting with Jesus and the Pharisees and ending with some reflections on modern-day Evangelicalism. My own article charts the grace-filled operation of the Spirit of God, applying the work of redemption to us in subsequent acts of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Presbyterian theologian John L. Thompson follows my article with a sustained look at all of the theological side-effects of believing in sola gratia. Be sure, too, to rate your own experience of grace with our tongue-in-cheek theological quiz: "You Might Be A Pelagian If…"
Some critics of the Reformation have charged that Lutherans have a different view of grace (particularly in the realm of predestination) than their Reformed and Presbyterian siblings. We're reprinting an article by Lutheran elder Scott Keith to address that misconception. We're also asking Roger Olson-an Arminian theologian and professor at Truett Seminary at Baylor University-tough questions about Arminian theology and its conception of grace.
Once again, we're presenting you with "one of those" issues that is bound to be dog-earned and much cited as you wrestle through questions about God, this world, and your life in it.