Between Change and . . .

I’ve just been reading the second draft of the proposed change to the EFCA Statement of Faith. I love the new organization and some of the theological changes. But one bit stood out to me:

The question arises: Has what was assumed to be held by “all believers” and was considered a “major issue” at the time of the merger changed such that these are no longer viewed in that way today? We believe that these things have changed. One’s position on the millennial kingdom of Christ no longer seems to be a point of doctrine that ought to divide believers and which ought to preclude people from full fellowship in our churches. As a result, removing “premillennialism” from our statement would better express the spirit of our founding principles. This is a case in which, in affirming this principle of evangelical unity in the gospel, the Statement of Faith must change to remain the same.

I agree with this statement. Change was needed. In the 1940s and 50s when the EFCA was formed, the options were pretty much dispensational premillennialism and liberal postmillennialism. The other orthodox eschatological positions had been pretty much pushed to the edges and these two dominated evangelicalism. But that isn’t the case today. Dispensationalism has matured and Reformed theology has made a comeback amongst evangelicals. Other orthodox eschatologies are more widely held today. When the EFCA Statement of Faith was written, the Premillennialist statement would have excluded Liberals from the denomonation. That was its intent.

So I welcome the change and yet, my personal statement of faith is the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Aside from the statement that the pope is the antichrist, 1Much like the EFCA Statement of Faith, I think the framers erred by including this eschatological speculation in a statement of faith. It is possible to disagree on this issue and still remain in harmony with the beliefs expressed in the document. I don’t want that one to change! There were subsequent changes to the confessions after it was written and I don’t hold to those changes. The truths expressed in the Baptist Confession are not fluid and should not be changed. Though Dispensationalism gained great popularity in the church, especially amongst Baptists, the 1689 didn’t get rewritten because Baptistic Covenantal Theology waned in favor. Other groups were formed around different statements of faith.

So I find it interesting that on the one hand, I want my church’s Statement of Faith to change to reflect the more contemporary theological landscape within evangelicalism. But on the other hand, I do not want my personal confession of faith to change. No, the Church didn’t begin in 1689 but I find in that statement the clearest, best theology the church has produced in one body since the closing of the New Testament canon.

Could it be that a Statement of Faith is not to be equated with a Confession of Faith? That a Confession should stand the test of time but a Statement might be more fluid and react to the theological situation it finds itself in? Or am I splitting hairs?

At any rate, I welcome the proposed changes to the EFCA Statement of Faith. Well, one change is still giving me pause: God’s gospel calls for a response which determines the eternal destiny of every person. Is that what determines a persons eternal destiny, or does it reveal it? Since the EFCA is not a Reformed denomination, I’m not expecting a clear expression of Calvinism in the Statement of Faith. But at the same time, I am not expecting a clear denial of it either. This would seem to deny foreordination and election in favor of a more Arminian understanding of God’s call. There doesn’t seem to be much of a debate on this article at the moment, perhaps it is simply being overlooked because of the exclusion of premillennialism, but I hope it does get discussed.

1 Much like the EFCA Statement of Faith, I think the framers erred by including this eschatological speculation in a statement of faith. It is possible to disagree on this issue and still remain in harmony with the beliefs expressed in the document.
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  • TEDS is affiliated with the EFCA, correct? Would you have to be premillenial to graduate from TEDS? If so, will that change with the statement of faith?

  • Hi Joshua. Yes, TEDS is the denominational seminary of the EFCA. You do not have to be premill to attend, but you do have to be premill in order to teach.

    What a change in the SoF will do to TEDS is open the doors to a wider range of evangelical scholars who can teach there. That would be great. :)

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