Ray Ortlund|3:01 PM CT

Theologically maximalist unity

The Confessional Statement of The Gospel Coalition is, in my opinion, strikingly wise.  (Needless to say, I didn’t write it.)  On the one hand, the Confession does not call us to unity on a slender theological basis, to increase the numbers of people involved.  On the other hand, it does not pressure us to agree at such a level of detail that we might jeopardize denominational identifications.  The statement is theologically maximalist within a gospel framework.

I think of concentric circles.  Stepping from outside the circle altogether into the outermost ring, I go from being a non-believer to being a Christian believer.  Then, moving into the next ring, toward the center, I go from being a Christian in some sense to being a Protestant.  Then the next step toward the center moves me from being a Protestant to being an evangelical.  Then the next step includes me among the Reformed.  Finally, the innermost circle locates me personally within Presbyterian theology.  But I could also be reformed Baptist, Anglican, etc.

The point is this.  Defining our theology as gospel-maximalist makes unity a conviction, not a concession.  I am not compromising the gospel by aligning myself with a reformed Baptist, for example; I am demonstrating the gospel.  My ministry at The Coalition — and at Immanuel Church — is not defined by my own personal beliefs at the level of that innermost circle but at the next circle, the Reformed circle.  I am not watering anything down.  I am humbling my own personal views for the sake of the “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3ff) gospel we all share together.  And that is a conviction.

This strategy builds theological density and seriousness, while including a broad range of gospel-intense men and women.

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