FAQ: The Ligonier Statement on Christology

from Apr 07, 2016 Category: Ligonier Resources

Earlier this year, Ligonier released The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology. Since then, we have received questions and comments, and we have compiled these into a list of frequently asked questions. We hope the answers to these questions serve people as they continue to read the statement and seek to understand Scripture’s teaching on the person and work of Christ.

What is The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology?

It is primarily a concise, 137-word statement on the person and work of Christ. The statement also includes twenty-five articles of affirmation and denial. Each article has Scripture proofs.

The booklet that contains the statement also includes an introductory letter written and signed by Dr. R.C. Sproul, as well as an explanatory essay written by Dr. Stephen J. Nichols. When we released the booklet, we also launched the website ChristologyStatement.com. This site has the documents mentioned above, as well as numerous translations.

How can copies be obtained?

The Ligonier Statement on Christology can be downloaded for free at ChristologyStatement.com/downloads. It is currently available in sixteen languages. We presently sell physical copies in English, at cost, in bundles of ten through our website at Ligonier.org.

Who worked on the Christology Statement?

The statement is a product of the Ligonier Teaching Fellows, under the leadership and supervision of Dr. R.C. Sproul. Contributions were also made by the Reformation Bible College faculty and the editorial department at Ligonier.

What is the hope for the use of this statement in the church?

Ligonier is not a church or an official ecclesiastical body. We are a ministry that seeks to serve the church by providing helpful resources that God’s people can use as they grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. More than forty years ago, the Ligonier Statement on Inerrancy was a catalyst for conversation. Those conversations grew and led to the creation of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the work of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The Christology Statement represents the work of ministers of the gospel working to restate historic, orthodox Christology. What happens next is up to other organizations and ecclesiastical bodies. We desire to steward faithfully the resources we have to serve the church.

Do you want this statement to replace the creeds and confessions of the church?

Absolutely not. Ligonier has sought from the beginning of its ministry to point the church of today to the riches of the past. Dr. Sproul’s first book was The Symbol, an exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (it has recently been re-released as What We Believe: Understanding and Confessing the Apostles’ Creed). He also wrote a three-volume exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith called Truths We Confess.

We hope this statement points people to the great riches of the Christian faith. Many churches and denominations have creeds, confessions, catechisms, and statements as part of their heritage. At the same time, many evangelicals in the United States and around the world do not possess these treasures. If this statement reaches them, it is our hope that it will point them to these historic creedal and confessional resources.

What is the pressing need for a new statement?

We recognize the extreme importance of the question “Who is Jesus Christ?” There are many answers to that question today, and not all of them are helpful. We wanted to offer a concise statement of historic one-person, two-nature Christology. Additionally, there are various movements today that lead away from an orthodox understanding of the person and work of Christ, even in the broadly evangelical world. Such movements deny important doctrines regarding Christ and salvation, including the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the active and passive obedience of Christ, double imputation, and justification by faith alone.

We appreciate the richness of the ecumenical creeds from the early church, but we also recognize the substantial contributions of the Reformers to our understanding of the person and work of Christ. The Christology Statement attempts to bring the richness of the early creeds and the Reformation confessions together in one concise, accessible statement. We hope the statement serves to point contemporary Christians back to the confessional and creedal riches of their past and helps to equip them to deal with modern denials of important doctrines.

Additionally, the challenges of the growth of Islam and the crumbling morality of Western culture press upon us the need for renewed clarity and conviction regarding the gospel.

What are your goals for this statement?

We want this statement to serve the church. We sought to express the riches of the creeds and confessions of the past, primarily conveying one-person, two-nature Christology from the creeds of the early church and the Reformers’ teaching on sola fide, sola gratia, and solus Christus. And it is important for contemporary Christians to think through issues involving doctrines that are under attack today. We hope this statement leads to clarity and conviction in matters regarding the person and work of Christ—matters of utmost urgency for the church.

Wouldn’t it be encouraging to see a wave of doctrinal reaffirmations from large numbers of ministers, churches, denominations, missions agencies, and others? Dr. John MacArthur, who has been supportive of our work, is convening a summit on Christology for next March in Los Angeles, and we plan to participate. If the Ligonier Statement on Christology begets something like the Chicago Statement, and the Ligonier Statement on Christology is a small footnote in the history of the church (as was our 1973 statement on inerrancy), then we will have served the church and the cause of the gospel. Perhaps it will serve in that way. We do not know. We are content to leave it in our Lord’s sovereign hands.

Why is the statement so brief?

Like the 1973 statement on inerrancy, the goal was to produce a precise and concise statement. The economy of words of the Apostles’ Creed set the benchmark. From the beginning, we realized the statement could not say everything. We also wanted the statement to be accessible for Christians around the world. The twenty-five articles of affirmation and denial expand upon the themes and ideas in the statement. Each of those articles includes Scripture proofs. We ultimately hope that this 137-word statement serves to give people a better understanding of Scripture’s teaching on Christ’s person and work.

What kind of feedback have you received thus far?

Both prior to and after the public release, we sought and welcomed feedback. We have received many positive comments. The Christology Statement has already promoted conversation among various groups in a variety of venues. A renewed focus on the doctrine of Christ, along with a twenty-first-century restatement of historic Christology, serves the cause of the gospel and the church’s Great Commission work around the world. Multilingual accessibility has been a major objective with this statement. Many pastors in numerous countries have told us that such a statement is sorely needed. They are grateful for the statement’s educational value and appreciate the potential it has for guarding and promoting a sound understanding of Christ’s person and work.

We have also seen critical interactions, and they are helpful examples of iron sharpening iron. Some of the critiques pertain to things we did not say in the statement or articles. There have also been critiques of things we did say, ranging from things we could have said better to things we said that were unhelpful or wrong. As a public ministry that has released a public document, we are not above criticism and know this is part of the process.

Will there be revisions?

We are planning revisions and updates that will consider and examine every concern raised that is biblical and theological in nature. Before the public release on February 26, we sought input and feedback from a variety of sources, especially on the articles of affirmation and denial. We realize that such input and feedback requires time. Now that we have released the articles, we look forward to discussion and feedback so that we can refine and add as necessary. For now, we are content with the 137 words of the Christology Statement itself; it represents the main thrust of the work. The other materials, namely the affirmations and denials, are supplementary and will be refined later this year after a period of reflection and comment from those in the church and academy. As time allows, we will discuss particulars with anyone who contacts us directly.

In addition to releasing the statement and the website, what else does Ligonier have planned for it? Will you be presenting it elsewhere?

We will be discussing the statement at our West Coast Conference on June 3–4 in Seattle. We will also be discussing the statement at various upcoming regional conferences in Mexico City; Lancaster, Pa.; and Wichita, Kans.

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols will be presenting the statement at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday, April 14, at 1 p.m. in the bookstore and exhibit area. Drs. Derek W.H. Thomas and Nichols will be hosting a seminar on Christology at the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly on June 21 in Mobile, Ala.

In all of these moments, we look forward to hearing feedback and criticism. We aim for this statement to be a catalyst for urgent and necessary conversation on the person and work of Christ.