Evangelical Free Church of America: Premillennialism is now a non-essential

"The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) changed its position on end times theology, voting this summer to drop the word “premillennial” from the denomination’s statement of faith." - Christianity Today

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Bert Perry's picture

In a couple of places I'm familiar with, the EFCA church is in great part a "refugee" church from churches of other denominations who have had it with the shenanigans.  The question is whether they can go from being a great refugee church to a great church overall, and they're going to need to do it.  (personal note; it was an EFCA church that my family attended when we were refugees from a wannabe KJVO/legalistic church.  Our experience is that they were every bit as fundamental as the church we'd left and more, just without the nonsense)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Donn R Arms's picture

Sadly, it will take the GARBC 30 more years to get to this place.

Donn R Arms

Larry's picture

Moderator

Sadly, it will take the GARBC 30 more years to get to this place.

Why is that sad? Why would the GARBC want to get that place?

Bert Perry's picture

Donn might be wise to define what "that place" is.  Is it majoring on the majors and not fussing over the minors, placing eschatology in its place as a less major issue (I know many disagree with that notion heartily, BTW), or per my note, becoming a great refugee church without a lot of shenanigans.

But I understand if he's reluctant to open a firestorm here.  :^)  (sometimes I think I should be more reluctant like that....)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

GARBC Articles of Faith has three articles on eschatology, and one covering Theology Proper, Christology and Pneumatology. That's a big imbalance! My church is the same, and Lord willing we'll be truncating eschatology and expanding doctrines about God in our statement of faith this coming year. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Davis's picture

Our church in Philly had to leave EFCA several years ago because of this issue since we had an elder or two who leaned amil and couldn't sign the statement. It's never been an issue in our church but was for the EFCA. I'm glad that we are able to renew fellowship and rejoin the EFCA. In my opinion it is one of the most solid, conservative evangelical denominations out there.

pvawter's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

Our church in Philly had to leave EFCA several years ago because of this issue since we had an elder or two who leaned amil and couldn't sign the statement. It's never been an issue in our church but was for the EFCA. I'm glad that we are able to renew fellowship and rejoin the EFCA. In my opinion it is one of the most solid, conservative evangelical denominations out there.

It seems ironic to me that the EFCA would effectively separate from your congregation over the millennial view of some of your elders, since the entire denomination is defined by non-separatism.

Brandon Crawford's picture

During the Reformation & Post-Reformation period, denominational doctrinal statements were left vague on the question of the timing of Christ's Second Coming, and even on the nature of the Millennium (the authors of the Westminster Confession, for example, included both premillennialists and amillennialists). By the twentieth century, however, not only were fundamentalist doctrinal statements taking a position on the timing of the Second Coming, but they were even demanding uniformity on the timing of the Rapture! Pretribulationism became a litmus test for determining whether or not a particular pastor or church took the Bible "literally," and were thus safe to fellowship with. In my humble opinion, it was an over-reaction during a time of theological crisis. I hope things swing back into balance before too long.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

X. Last Things

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13;Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.

-Baptist Faith & Message 2000, doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp

I’m premillennial, but as you can see, the SBC purposely left the door open to various views of the Second Coming. 

David R. Brumbelow

Larry's picture

Moderator

GARBC Articles of Faith has three articles on eschatology, and one covering Theology Proper, Christology and Pneumatology.

I am not sure counting articles in a confession or statement of faith is a good way to determine balance. But doing that way, I wonder about the math here. The GARBC has articles on God, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection and Priesthood of Christ (which is 4) plus Salvation which is largely about the work of Christ (5). They have articles on the Rapture and Subsequent Events, and the Righteous and the Wicked (which is two, and the last one is one that I am sure you don't object to)..So it seems like the count is at least 4 to 2 and perhaps 5 to 2 in reality.

Consider it from a different angle: 475 words are given to the doctrine of God while 199 words are given to eschatology. 57 verses are offered in support of the doctrine of God while 18 are offered in support of eschatology. If you include the statement on Israel which isn't really eschatological, it raise then eschatological word count to 254 which still means that almost double the words are given to the doctrine of God. 

Is that really an imbalance? It wouldn't seem so, even if counting articles was a way to determine balance. In addition, not everything needs equal explanation or is equally explainable in the same number of words. So I am not convinced the methodology is good here.

But I wonder why the angst over this in general that so many have? Why do people object to a statement of faith that outlines the faith that is agreed on by a church or group of churches? Why do statements of faith need to be non-specific? A SoF doesn't require everyone else to agree. It doesn't make someone else's Christianity dependent on it. It simply states a position that is held in common that distinguishes a church or group from someone else. That would give help as to what should be included, doesn't it? Much more could be said about God, Christ, eschatology, or anything else. But it may not serve a purpose in a SoF

Would the same objection be raised to baptism and communion being in the GARBC statement? After all, many Christians disagree about those two things. And the case for premillennialism seems as clear as the case for baptism. And a great many more words in Scripture are devoted to the kingdom than to baptism. And many other examples could be given.

A statement of faith is to outline what a church or organization believes. The EFCA is praised for letting people know where they stand. The GARBC is maligned for letting people know where they stand.

I actually think a view of the kingdom is rather important because it does have some pretty significant implications for ministry now. I would find it hard to partner much or very closely with someone who thinks the kingdom is here and we are to be living as if it is here. Or someone who thinks that we can bring the kingdom in by societal or cultural change. 

Bert Perry's picture

Reading Larry's comments, it strikes me that while I'm not entirely comfortable separating on the basis of eschatology alone, I have at the same time noted that amillenialism and postmillenialism seem to be strongly linked to certain hermeneutical habits and other doctrines (e.g. infant sprinkling, spiritualizing prophecies, etc..) that would make me uncomfortable maintaining fellowship in the same church.

But that said, I'm not yet persuaded that eschatology is a fundamental--maybe I will be someday.  Hence I'm reluctant to say I would "separate" on that basis--wasn't the original genius of fundamentalism that we reserved certain actions for mistakes that imperil the Gospel?    

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Larry,

You are correct that Christ is sprinkled throughout the GARBC Articles, rather than having His own standalone space. My mistake.

I still have significant concerns about how eschatology is neatly and systematically presented, but Christ is scattered hither and yon via miscellaneous, standalone articles about the Virgin Birth (etc , etc.). There's something wrong about that, I believe. To each his own.

I think pop eschatology is a problem in many dispensational churches. If people are better schooled in a speculative eschatological timeline than they are in Christology, then this is an imbalance. This is what I see.

I see Christians who "know" the rapture is before the tribulation, and can parse more speculative details about that tribulation ... but believe Jesus experientially knows the pull of sinful temptation - a big Christological error. 

I just don't like speculative prophesy, and I think the DT approach is, for lack of a better term, the best of a host of unsatisfying systematic arrangements. Henebury's rules of affinity come to mind.

About the kingdom, I'm inclined to see some form of inaugurated eschatology. I've softened a bit on this. I have Vlach's book and will read it within the year. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

But that said, I'm not yet persuaded that eschatology is a fundamental--maybe I will be someday.  Hence I'm reluctant to say I would "separate" on that basis--wasn't the original genius of fundamentalism that we reserved certain actions for mistakes that imperil the Gospel?    

I am not sure I would say eschatology is a fundamental, per se. I also wouldn't use the term "separation" for my response to those who differ because I wouldn't separate. But I think certain eschatological commitments preclude participation in some functions and ministries. "Separation" is usually pretty pejorative, which is why I likely wouldn't use it. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I still have significant concerns about how eschatology is neatly and systematically presented, but Christ is scattered hither and yon via miscellaneous, standalone articles about the Virgin Birth (etc , etc.).

I agree that it is not structured in a good way. 

I think pop eschatology is a problem in many dispensational churches. If people are better schooled in a speculative eschatological timeline than they are in Christology, then this is an imbalance. This is what I see.

I am not sure on what you mean by "pop eschatology." And I don't understand the common disdain for timelines. The Bible presents a timeline. It seems legitimate to try to put it together. No one seems to mind doing that with Israel's history or Paul's journeys. But when it comes to eschatology it becomes a bad thing? When the Scripture says "this happens then this happens," it creates a timeline. Why shy away from that?

I don't see this problem you speak of, but perhaps that is just the churches and people I know. There are likely some, I am sure.

I just don't like speculative prophesy, and I think the DT approach is, for lack of a better term, the best of a host of unsatisfying systematic arrangements. 

I obviously disagree. While I think there are things that dispensationalism struggles with here and there, I find it to be the most comprehensive and most satisfying of the systematic options. To me, it leaves the fewest amount of holes and appeals to mystery, special pleading, or "just trust me." It is, to me, the most exegetically based systematic.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Got it. We're just in different places, theologically. I'm moving away from a more detailed DT and the minutiae that accompanies it. I admit it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Dare I say it?  "Left Behind", John Hagee, etc..  And I've met my share of brothers in Christ who were missing out on the basics of Christ--repentance from sin, water baptism, etc..--who spent most of their time in speculation about the end times.  Maybe instead of speculating on them, help bring about the conditions for them to arrive, like preaching the Gospel to every nation and people?  (pointing at myself at times here)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Dare I say it?  "Left Behind"...

In all fairness, "Left Behind" is fiction, although I understand that for many, that's all they know of eschatology.  LaHaye wrote a commentary on Revelation, and agree or disagree with his theology, it's not like he didn't release a serious treatise on his views.  I understand that the dispensational, pre-trib, pre-millenial view is getting less traction these days in fundamentalism, but it's a bit disingenuous to dismiss that position as "pop eschatology" due to a fictional series based on that view.  My generation had "The Late, Great Planet Earth" instead of "Left Behind," but that's mostly been forgotten and theology has continued.

However, even inside dispensationalism, I find it interesting (and concerning) that people seem more absolutely certain about the typical end-times chart and where, when, and what events will happen, and defend it as a non-negotiable than they are about more basic Christian doctrines.  It's definitely a misplaced emphasis.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have no problem with serious eschatology. Walvoord, Pentecost (et al) have very good work. Look at Gleason Archers Daniel commentary from the original EBC set. Great stuff, and DT opponents must reckon with it. Look at Vlach's works, too. Look at Showers.

By pop eschatology, I mean a fascination with questionable popular teachers. You know the names. They're much more popular than the serious guys.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Didn't mean to start any major discussion of who does, or does not, qualify as pop eschatology--I'd argue that both LeHaye/Jenkins and Lindsey qualify simply by notoriety (pop eschatology is not even necessarily a perjorative--one can make the argument simply based on # of copies sold and such), as would (per Tyler) any number of other authors who sell a lot of copies/get a lot of time on YouTube or wherever.

Rather, my major point is that, whether the eschatology is sound or not, it is indeed a tragedy when people spend all their time on eschatology, but little or none on making disciples.  I've seen it quite a bit, especially among young men.  I get why--demons and great wars are exciting and all that, and discipleship is hard work--but what are we here to do?

We might put it another way; if your eschatology does not inspire you to spend a lot of time making disciples, maybe that's a good sign it's flawed, no matter how many "correct points" you have.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I believe in Ryrie's sine qua non of DT, but eschatology isn't a driving force for me. I am a mild dispensationalist the way some guys are mild Baptists. Theology Proper and the related doctrines are more important, I believe. I strive to bring balance to the force, rather imperfectly.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?