Tuesday, January 24, 2006

EFCA Statment Of Faith Revised - Good or Bad?


To get a copy of the revision and the issues, go to http://www.efca.org/about/doctrine/. Then click on the “Draft Revision of the statement of Faith.”

I love the EFCA – one could say I bleed E. Free. I have many friends who are not E. Free and don’t want to be E. Free, but love Jesus dearly. These range from Four Square and Assembly of God friends to Covenant – Amillennial guys. This issue facing the Free Church about whether or not to revise our statement of faith is huge – and will have consequences on our future.

I will do my best to speak graciously and to be intellectually honest. Maybe I’ll even take time sometime to include some of the positives of this proposed revision.

Some Initial Thoughts
What are the driving forces behind this revision? Though there are 5 reasons given, I’m not sure they are the driving force. I can’t help but reading the background to the rewriting and hear them screaming - we want to get bigger with more churches - let's open the gates. The only way to do this is to lower the bar. This is not a reason to change our doctrinal statement.

Let’s be honest too. This is not a revision. This is a REWRITE. I’ve revised many papers in my short life, and none of them looked like the change from the original to this draft. I might be for a rewrite.

There is a danger in tearing down fences. G. K. Chesterton (I have to quote him at least once in everything I write) once said, “Before you tear a fence down, you must find out why it was put there in the first place.” I just wonder what the consequences of changing everything now will be on our future.

The issue of the millennium is one of the driving forces going on here. While I love my amil brothers and sisters, and will admit that my best amil friends are much brighter than me, I am not ready to open that door. While there are some great amil denominations, vast numbers of them are dealing with serious liberal theological issues. How many premillennial denominations are dealing with questions of liberal theology? I don’t have the answer to that question and I can’t for sure tell you the reasons for it. From my perspective, opening the door on this issue would make the slope more slippery.

The doctrinal statements all revolve around the words – “God’s gospel”. They say they want a “new format, centered on the gospel” They continue, “it will deepen the theological content of the statement at a number of points, and it will suggest a few changes that might bring us closer to our founding principles as a movement. The intention… not exclude any of our existing churches.” If each statement is going to have the same wording to start off with, the "Glory of God" would be a much better start (than God’s gospel). It is to be a statement of faith, not a statement of evangelism. We are about more than evangelism. The end of that paragraph just quoted speaks of not wanting to exclude any existing churches. This cannot be the focus of one’s statement of faith (especially as they make the points some churches are not holding to the whole statement of faith).

Since we are free, this sort of undertaking should come from the congregations, not from the home office. Simple.

The 5 Reasons for taking a new look at our Doctrinal Statement

1. Our statement of faith is not on par with the Word of God and it cannot be. I have yet to hear anyone even attempt to make that jump – especially in a our churches that are free. While it’s fine to review it, this does not come close to giving any reason to rewrite it.

2. Our statement is a product of its place in time and the terminology reflects it. They speak of the wording of the original possibly in relation to hot-button issues of the day. They bring up the issue of the “imminent” return of Christ and people feeling like they are fudging it when they are not pretrib and they sign the doctrinal statement. Of course, this has already been given official sanction. I could concede that we may think about revising this one statement to include the official sanction perspective in our doctrinal statement, but that is far from rewriting the whole statement of faith.

Also brought up is the issue of today’s hot-button issues (spiritual battle, open theology, postmodernism…). But one of the original arguments of this section is that hot-button issues become out of date. I don’t think any of these issues need to be addressed more than they have been in the original statement of faith.

3. They speak of the original desire to preserve evangelical unity in the gospel – this is one of our most important distinctives. It surely is – and it’s a DISTINCTIVE, not a part of our statement of faith. We are not the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals). If someone wants to be a part of a church that wants the lowest common denominator so they can include everyone, they should start their own church. This whole “evangelical” push is seen in the way they set up their revised draft. But this cannot be our main focus. As an aside, note that Promise Keepers revised their statement of faith, taking out simply the word “alone” – so that Catholics could agree with it – because they believe we are saved by faith as well. Hopefully that is not a huge jump in logic.

An important question brought up – “has our understanding of what is major and what is minor changed over the last fifty years?” Yes and know. Who decides that? One clear issue here is the issue of the millennium. See the intro thoughts on this.

They also ask the question – what do we do with churches who aren’t fully in agreement with our doctrinal statement (obvious danger – a diminishment of our statement of faith as an authority in our churches)? The answer – kick them out. We do not lower the bar because some disagree. At least, we must really ponder this. I would like to think that removing such churches is a thought in our committee’s mind.

One last major point they make in this section is that they want to rewrite the Statement of Faith so that it could be affirmed by everyone who we recognize as evangelicals today. Really? What would you have to say to get the PCA, GARB, Foursquare, AOG, Missouri Synod, etc. to agree. Wait a minute – you don’t think that some of those are evangelical? That’s another problem with that idea. Start your own church if you want to do this. We are not the NAE.

4. They want to update archaic language. There really is very little language that is archaic. But even if you make that argument, a simple revision would do it – no need for a rewrite.

5. They say that if we are going to revise it, let’s do it when we are strong and vital. Sure. Though God has worked through major changes due to huge upheaval that were great. It’s not an argument for changing it now – rather it allows for it.

There is more that could be said – and I am sure I’ll add more. This may be too much to chew on. Sorry. I’m just a lowly youth pastor rambling. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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