Blast from the past. This post was written by Daniel Wallace back in 2007.

On the flight back from Athens last week, I sat in front of a gregarious Irish gentleman. He was a medical doctor in Dallas, but didn’t even come close to losing his native accent. We talked theology most of the flight.

He was fascinated by CSNTM’s work of photographing ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts. And he was a good student of church history. This gentleman affirmed a lot of my most precious beliefs: Jesus Christ, the theanthropic person, died for our sins and was bodily raised from the dead; by putting our faith in him we are saved—indeed, we are saved exclusively by God’s grace; there’s nothing that we can bring to the table to aid in our salvation. The good doctor called himself an evangelical. And he also called himself a Roman Catholic. 

To some evangelicals, as soon as they hear that one is a Roman Catholic that immediately excludes such a person from the Pearly Gates. To some Catholics, once they hear that a person is an evangelical, they have the same posture. I wonder if part of the reason for this black-and-white view of salvation is due to a radical, unreflective commitment to one’s tradition. I am a Protestant and an evangelical. I used to think that if someone did not fit within those two labels, he was eternally damned. But part of my reasoning was that since I thought that the evangelical faith was 100% correct, any deviation from it was 100% wrong. The problem with that approach is that many other Christian groups believe in a lot of what evangelicals believe. Obviously, I can’t say that someone who believes in the bodily resurrection of Christ is 100% wrong! Yet, the three major branches of Christendom all embrace the truths that Jesus Christ is fully God, that he died for our sins, that he was raised from the dead, and that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith. There’s so much right with other groups that it’s impossible to claim that they’re all wrong!

As I suggested in my last blog, I’m questioning some of the tenets of Protestantism and evangelicalism. That doesn’t mean that I’m questioning the whole thing; I still believe that the evangelical faith is the best expression of genuine Christianity today. But I also believe that it is flawed and that we can learn from Catholics and Orthodox. And just as it is possible for someone to be saved and be an evangelical, I think it’s possible for someone to be saved and be a Catholic or eastern Orthodox. So, I’m still at least 51% Protestant (and Luther is still a hero of mine), but I have no qualms criticizing my own tradition and exploring what we can learn from others.

This, of course, raises a significant issue: If the theological distinctions between Catholics, Orthodox, and evangelicals don’t define the boundaries of heaven and hell, then what do they do? What is the value of such distinctions? What purpose do they serve?

Daniel B. Wallace

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    4 replies to "51% Protestant"

    • Robert Eaglestone

      “I’m questioning some of the tenets of Protestantism and evangelicalism. That doesn’t mean that I’m questioning the whole thing; I still believe that the evangelical faith is the best expression of genuine Christianity today. But I also believe that it is flawed and that we can learn from Catholics and Orthodox”…

      I’m really interested in reading a followup to Mr. Wallace’s old blog post. I find myself in a somewhat similar position on a much smaller level: trying to figure out when to set my non-crucial opinions aside in order to minister to brothers who are “across the aisle”. In other words, how to build strong Christian ties across denominational lines as a layman.

    • Paul Fowler

      To Robert Eaglestone, I would recommend a book called “Becoming Orthodox” by Peter Gilquist-which I think is still in print. It concerns a group of American Evangelicals who went through a crisis of faith, fundamentally Gilquist worked for Campus Crusade for Christ and was concerned by the fact that m nay of the students who had come to Christ fell away after leaving university. He and his group, in good Protestant manner, decided to study the Bible for the answers. But with a difference-they read how the Church Fathers-particularly those who had known the Apostles personally (eg Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp) had interpreted the writings of those with whom they had spent time with. Gilquist’ group set up a religious structure based on the principles they discovered. Eventually these efforts came to the notice of Fr Alexander Schmemann, then Dean of the St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in America, who said that these people are Orthodox. To cut a long story short, the group were all received into the Orthodox Church. I am not American but British but found the story fascinating because it “scratched me where I itched” spiritually-I can remember asking the same questions at about the same time as a young Christian. Shortly after reading it I too was received into the Orthodox Church and my experience FWIW has been that if there is one group which truly “Bible believing” it is the Orthodox Church, which is not to deny the salvation of anyone “across the aisle” I am currently working towards my MA at the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, England and in preparation for my dissertation I am looking a slightly radical view of Ecclesiology and Church History which may throw a different light on denominations

    • Jack

      Consider Naaman in II Kings 5. Did he know all the details of saving tenets and doctrine? Was he reborn/saved? Your answer will hopefully lead you to a correct discernment.

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