The Gospel is at the very heart of Christianity. It is so important that we ask every guest about it:
The word "Gospel" means "good news" and that good news is Jesus Christ. We believe the Gospel message is:
God created humanity without sin, but everyone has sinfully rebelled against God, separating themself from God's love.
There is nothing a human can do in their own strength to reconcile themself with God.
Jesus Christ freely died on a cross to take the punishment for our sins, and rose again, conquering sin and death.
God graciously extends to us forgiveness and reconciliation to Himself through Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice.
We can receive this forgiveness and reconciliation only through faith in Jesus—repenting of our sin and trusting in Jesus' righteousness.
This forgiveness and reconciliation with God through faith will result in the believer spending eternity with God after death, but also being in union with God during their lifetime—loving, treasuring, and finding their satisfaction in God.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
The term "Justification" is used by both Catholics and Protestants, though we differ profoundly on what justification is and how justification is applied, received, and—as some contend—lost. Therefore, it is important to understand the various meanings of the term justification before diving into the complex topics surrounding it.
Justification is usually regarded as God's act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time making (as Catholics contend) or declaring (as Protestants contend) a sinner to be righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice. It puts someone in right standing before God, and it is what we mean by "reconciliation" with God in the definition of "Gospel" above.
Historically, Protestants and Catholics have disagreed on, amongst other things, (i) whether justification is an immediate event or a process, (ii) whether justification is a legal declaration that an otherwise unrighteous person will be considered righteous in God's sight because Jesus' righteousness covers them (imputed righteousness), or it is God actually infusing righteousness into someone and making them inherently righteous (infused righteousness), and (iii) whether justification is received and maintained by faith, or justification is received by baptism and then maintained by good works.
Note: The aforementioned topics surrounding justification are areas where not all Protestants are in agreement, so see the guidance below regarding our usage of the term "Protestant".
The term "Protestant" is helpful shorthand to use in most conversations on this site, inasmuch as it denotes Christians who to some extent "protest" the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and trace their theological lineage back to Jesus Christ through the Reformation in 16th-century Europe. However, as Catholics often rightfully point out, the number of different Protestant groups with diverse theologies is extremely large, and not all Protestants can, theologically speaking, be accurately classified together under a single shorthand term.
Unless otherwise noted within a certain context, the type of Protestant to which we refer when we use the shorthand term "Protestant" can be further described as a "Reformed Evangelical" Protestant. "Reformed" denotes an emphasis on the sovereignty of God, and a Christ-centered proclamation of the gospel: salvation by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. "Evangelical" is a broad term denoting an emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, personal spiritual rebirth/conversion, the importance of the Bible (often viewed to be inerrant), and proclaiming the gospel in word and deed to the world. Adding "Evangelical" to the description of "Protestant" often has the effect of excluding from the definition what are commonly called "mainline" Protestant churches, amongst others, and adding "Reformed" to the description of Evangelical Protestants further narrows the definition to exclude those who consider themselves Evangelicals but do not hold to orthodox reformed theological beliefs (for example, those who believe in the Prosperity Gospel).
For a thorough (and interesting) explanation regarding these categories and their differences, we recommend:
If you seek to learn more about "Reformed Evangelical" Protestant beliefs, an example of a Protestant denomination that we believe fits the "Reformed Evangelical" description is the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)—which is different from the Presbyterian Church (USA)—and we recommend you begin your search at your local PCA church. However, Trent Dialogues as an organization does not claim to represent or be affiliated with the PCA, nor do we claim to present the teachings of the PCA in the content on this site. We also do not intend to imply that the PCA is the only group of Reformed Evangelical Protestants. For example, many Baptists are Reformed Evangelical Protestants, including John Piper (www.desiringgod.com), whose works we have personally found to be profoundly influential.