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
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
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
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
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.
deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work
is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not
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
|THESIS THREE: SOLA
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A Call To Repentance &
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
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.
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
Dr. John D. Hannah
Dr. Michael S.
Mrs. Rosemary Jensen
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Robert M. Norris
Dr. R.C. Sproul
Dr. Gene Edward Veith
Dr. Luder Whitlock
Dr. J.A.O. Preus,