East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 8, No. 3, Summer 2000, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Gerald Bray Responds to the Biola Statement and Don Fairbairn

Like Don Fairbairn, I was very impressed by the high level of argument and the generally fair and irenic tone that the Biola paper revealed. I also agree that the approach is perhaps not the best, since Orthodox do not think in forensic categories.  However, as Don Fairbairn shows, even with a change of framework, Orthodox doctrinal structure still is unacceptable to Evangelicals.

Evangelical and Orthodox doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit differs.  Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, which means that He is equally representative of both.  It is an obscure subject to many people, but the question of the centrality of the atoning work of Christ in our experience of salvation hangs on it.  Evangelicals and Orthodox also have a different understanding--and this is most important--of the doctrine of assurance.  The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer is a sealing of the finished work of Christ, which in turn is the ground of our assurance of salvation.  To the Orthodox, as to Roman Catholics, the Evangelical doctrine of assurance is presumptuous--how can you know for sure that you are going to heaven?

On the work of the Spirit, Don Fairbairn contrasts Protestant "individualism" and Orthodox "collectivism."  I would prefer to say that this distinction rests on a different understanding of the way in which the Spirit works in the world.  For both Catholics and Orthodox, His work is primarily external--in and through the church, the sacraments, etc.  Believers receive the Spirit through external mediation--from the priest in the sacraments, and so on.  Protestants, on the other hand, believe that the primary focus of the Spirit's work is internal--in the heart of the believer. This is why Evangelicals stress the right reception of the sacraments, rather than valid administration. 

Gerald Bray is Anglican Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, AL.

"Gerald Bray Responds to the Biola Statement and Don Fairbairn," East-West Church & Ministry Report 8 (Summer  2000), 10.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.

© 2000 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

EWC&M Report | Contents | Search Back Issues | From Our Readers | Subscribe