The Evangelical Theological Society is meeting this week from Wednesday through Friday. Their theme this year is “Justification by Faith.”
Why should those of us dealing with disability care if a bunch of smart people get together to talk about these things?
Because how they reason together and think about this issue influences both this and the next generation of leaders in our colleges, seminaries and churches. Issues discussed at this gathering will impact churches.
A right understanding of justification is immensely important to this issue of disability:
What makes radical, risk-taking, sacrificial, Christ-exalting works of love possible is the fact that Christ’s perfect obedience (counted as our righteousness) and Christ’s perfect sacrifice (counted as our punishment) secured completely the glorious reality that God is for us as an omnipotent Father who works all things together for our everlasting joy in him. If we begin to deny or minimize the importance of the obedience of Christ, imputed to us through faith alone, our own works will begin to assume the role that should have been Christ’s. As that happens, over time (perhaps generations), the works of love themselves will be severed from their root in the Christ-secured assurance that God is totally for us. In this way, for the sake of exalting the importance of love, we will undermine the very thing that makes them possible.
Yet the freedom and the courage to love is what the world desperately needs to see in the church and from the church. The world does not need to see strident, triumphalistic evangelicals laying claim on their rights. The world needs to see the radical, risk-taking, Christ-exalting sacrifice of humble love that makes us willing to lay down our lives for the good of others, without the demand of reward on this earth. For the sake of this display of the glory of Christ, I plead for our allegiance to a robust, biblical, historical vision of Christ whose obedience is counted as ours through faith alone. John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright, pp. 187-188.
Disability (usually) shatters the illusion of independence we probably lived under before God graciously removed that illusion from our lives. We need God to call other people to get involved with us in our churches to make disability ministry happen; we need them to freely love without any anticipation of reward on this earth (but isn’t God good to frequently give them affections for us and for our children that feels like a reward to them!). We need God to help them see that people with disabilities are gifts to the church and have gifts for the church.
Similarly, we should be very wary of the ‘hero’ status that some people want to confer on us for parenting children with disabilities. It is God’s strength that allows us to continue every day; it is God’s grace that lets us see him for who he is – perfect in all his ways and all his works, and able to make ‘all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).
This emphasis on justification would be reason enough for us to care about this gathering. But in addition to that emphasis for the plenary sessions, there will be papers presented and discussed on issues of deep importance in the areas of bioethics and health. For example, Catholic ethicist, philosopher and Baylor professor Francis Beckwith is presenting a paper, Recent Challenges to Fetal Personhood: A Critical Analysis.
So, please pray for this gathering of scholars and pastors and seminary students, that God would be given all the glory, and they would stay true to their doctrinal basis:
The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.