Against Erosion Of The Doctrine Of Justification

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.

—The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, The Cambridge Declaration (1996)

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. The Cambridge Declaration was a great document that exposed many weaknesses, even heresies, within the evangelical movement. But since it was basically a non-ecclesial, non-confessional document produced by the world of the parachurch, regrettably it will likely be forgotten and/or ignored in the long run as a small footnote within the evangelical movement. If it had been formulated as a polemical document that had official confessional status and ecclesiastical sanction within an ecclesial communion (like the polemical Canons of Dort do within confessional Reformed communions), it might be harder to ignore by those outside the communion, and less likely to be relegated to footnote status.

    In terms of its practical impact upon the churches, the same old errors confronted in the Declaration are still very prominent within the evangelical movement: the triumph of the therapeutic within the churches, the tolerance of grave doctrinal error (indeed, the denigration of doctrine and its importance), the marketing orientation and commercialization of the churches, the health and wealth gospel, etc. A hearty “Amen!” to the contents of the Cambridge Declaration, but too bad it was so broadly ignored.

    • Unlike the Westminster Confession, the Cambridge Declaration appears to be unsigned by any particular individual at all. I’m not even sure which Cambridge it’s referring to, yours or ours.

      • Cambridge, Mass.

        It was originally signed by:

        ACE Council Members:
        Dr. John Armstrong
        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. G. Edward Veith
        Dr. David Wells
        Dr. Luder Whitlock
        Dr. J. A. O. Preus, III

        Apparently the ACE Council no longer exists.

        There’s some background here (caveat lector).

    • (My first name’s not Hannibal – Do I really need caviare?*)
      I dare say the “Gospel Coalition” might fancy itself to be the ACE’s successor!
      (*Yes, and syllabas literarum ordinare discere, too)

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