The Evangelical Essential, What Must I do to be Saved?

By Philip W. Janowsky
Grisham, OR : Vision House (1994). 132 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
7.1 (Spring 1996) : 123-125

The author pastors the Community Methodist Church in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He spends nine chapters dealing with the way evangelicals are drifting away from biblical authority. He bemoans strange definitions of people who see themselves as "evangelical" as he sees the term widening to embrace anyone who believes in God and speaks from the Bible. Typical of the issues dividing evangelicalism are the feminist movement, pro-choice/pro-life, gay rights in which those "politically correct" assume superior intelligence and academic ability, as if they alone "get it" (13). Janowsky accounts for these by a shift in hermeneutics, made to avoid offending someone.

As the title indicates, the central issue of the book is salvation by grace through faith, a different view from that of Roman Catholicism. The book assumes the apostolic tradition of Rom 10:9 and also of the rest of the NT, especially in Paul's letters. The actual term "evangelicalism" arose during the Protestant Reformation, used by Catholics and by some later to apply to Martin Luther and his followers (20). The loyalty of evangelicalism centered in justification by faith in Paul's letters, and the sole authority of Scripture in matters of faith and practice (22). This contrasts with the Roman Catholic practice of attributing to extra-biblical church traditions the same inspiration and authority as to Scripture itself. One tradition was that a person must merit the salvation merited by Christ, through confession, penance, and good works to achieve perfection and go into Christ's presence at death, rather than to purgatory (25, 100). The Catholic church broke with the Pauline doctrine in the early centuries, but the Protestant Reformation recovered it (88). Paul's justification by faith apart from merit was supplanted by the Roman Catholic faith plus works of supererogation (96). The wrong view sees the Sermon on the Mount as tied to the old covenant, preaching the law (62), and the necessity to be perfect to achieve salvation (Matt 5:48). This implies that Jesus taught a salvation by perfection maintained by good works to the end of life, a doctrine leading to despair (101-2). Janowsky holds that Jesus intended His teaching on perfection to bring men to condemnation, not salvation. It would destroy any hope of self-righteousness (103), so that they would look to Him who justifies by faith (Rom 7:25). Janowsky argues that the centerpiece of Christianity is not the Sermon on the Mount but Christ's resurrection (63).

The writer is not clear in some of his remarks (75-77). He contrasts the old covenant which addresses the salvation of Israel as a nation with the NT which sees salvation as individual. However, the OT has several examples of individual salvation by faith (e.g., Abraham, Gen 15:6; David, Ps 32:1-2; Naaman, 2 Kgs 5). Hebrews 11 reviews many such examples. God dealt with a nation, but with individuals within that nation too. The book needs to clarify this and integrate it into the total picture.

The book sees the church as "the new Israel" (78), "true Israel" or an "extension of Israel" (81). The twelve tribes in Jas 1:1 are "Chris-tians" in general (82). The book also seems to leave no place for a future millennial aspect in God's kingdom program (82); it at least lacks clarity, as it focuses only on a kingdom that is "spiritual" and "eternal."

Janowsky writes against those who feel that relying on Paul's teaching is unbalanced and in error (107). One he disfavors is Richard Quebedeaux in The Young Evangelicals (108), but he does not spell out much to clarify the offender's case. He refers to others, not naming them or documenting (112), further creating an air of mystery. Explanation would help here. On the other hand, Janowsky sees no problem in citing such a writer as Emil Brunner (114), a neo-orthodox theologian. He cites Ernst Käsemann (118-19), also a non-evangelical. Many will wish Janowsky had cited some friends of the evangelicalism he is defending.

Janowsky thinks Clark Pinnock has watered down evangelical convictions (129). Pinnock has changed ideas of eternal punishment and made the concept more palatable to human perspectives by teaching annihilationism of those unrepentant to a postmortem offer of salvation.

Salvation by faith is for Janowsky "the essential." Truly it is an essential! One could also argue for other strong essentials such as holiness of life as contrasted with worldliness, an awakened evangelism, a strong use of Scripture exposition in preaching, and Scripturally toned, Spirit-directed prayer. Janowsky's title might be An Evangelical Essential, with an early effort to set other various essentials in perspective and balance.

The jacket, inside the front cover, leaves out the word "who" in its fourth line, "anyone who believes. . . ."

The book certainly has its good point, stressing salvation by faith, without merit. One can affirm this with the writer and appreciate his fervor for a key essential as the present reviewer does. The author could have been clearer about who the book disagrees with among evangelicals and why it disagrees. This would have spared readers considerable perplexity.