Even though he’s co-presenting a discussion on “God’s Role and Our Role in Sanctification” at the PCA’s General Assembly in June, Mike Ross doesn’t want to fight about it.
“I’m not looking for opportunities to get into a squabble,” said Ross, senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church (PCA) in Matthews, N.C. “I have pretty definite opinions, but I don’t like to argue. I prefer reasoned discourse and compromise that holds the center of faith intact.”
The discussion will take place 5:15-6:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 20, at the PCA General Assembly in Louisville, Ky. Ross, who’s co-presenting the discussion with Covenant Theological Seminary Chancellor Bryan Chapell, said this topic can provoke controversy because of divergent opinions among ministry leaders.
“We’re in an age that’s leaning away from sanctification; we don’t want absolutes,” Ross said. “We have a new generation of leaders and churchmen emerging into leadership –— through campus ministries, through sonship theology, and through the contemporary grace movement. They tend to think the older men and the church are not safe places to talk about doubts, fears, and divergent opinions. They tend to be highly sensitive to moralism and legalism.
“Whereas the older men tend to say, ‘we have a pretty good balance,’ they tend to be more concerned that the younger generation is forfeiting the historic faith, especially in terms of ethics, in order to be culturally relevant.”
Everyone is dealing with the issue, Ross said. What’s more, it’s nothing new. According to Ross, the balance between justification and sanctification has been in flux throughout church history. Some groups overemphasize justification; they’re concerned about legalism or works-righteousness. Other groups are concerned about sanctification, [that] the church is getting worldly and antinomian. “Probably every generation has to have this discussion some time or another.”
Ross looks forward to co-presenting with Chapell. “The whole ball of wax rests upon balancing these two tensions,” Ross said. “How do we reach our society (people) for Christ, and how do we maintain the holy faith of the apostles? This was what the Acts 15 Council was all about — evangelism and discipleship, justification and sanctification, gospel and ethics.
“It’s the way we work this out that matters,” Ross said. “Every time we have a discussion, I understand the other side better — their motives, fears, and aspirations. I change. I moderate my opinion. I say to myself, ‘I never thought of it that way.’ You keep doing that, you have a good biblical blend of both positions.”