Why I Couldn't Join Most Churches

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Jonathan Charles's picture

Guys like this get on my nerves.  His list of essentials includes things that aren't essential: Having a particular view of eschatology and church polity.  I know plenty of pastors who are squishy on eschatology, and not because of laziness.  I am not going to be as dogmatic about something like the timing of the return of Christ respective to the millennium as I would the virgin birth or resurrection of Christ.  Didn't Piper once jokingly call himself a panmillennialist-it'll all pan out in the end?  And church polity is something that the N.T. simply doesn't give us a fully developed picture of, so one can't dogmatic about congregational rule or board-of-elder rule.  Both sides can bring Biblical evidence forward to support their view.

Also, I think it is pompous to declare "If I were not a pastor, I would have a very difficult time finding a church. I find apostasy to be almost at an epidemic level..."  He obviously doesn't think so about his church; such a statement looks like he's patting himself on the back.  But it also ignores that in the N.T. churches sometimes found themselves in deep, deep trouble, yet faithful believers remained in them and were not castigated for doing so (Rev. 3:4).  I'm not saying there is never a time to separate, but an idealist like Mr. White, instead of writing churches off, needs to open his mind to getting involved in an imperfect church to see if his presence could help it.  Perhaps he could help a church write a doctrinal statement, perhaps show them what sound expository preaching looks like, teach them how to faithfully present the gospel, etc.      

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's easy to be idealistic if you live in a place where you have options. It would be wrong to refrain from joining with a local gospel preaching congregation on the basis of details of eschat., polity, etc. if it's the only option available. On the other hand, if there is a church that is closer to your understanding of Scripture, it makes sense to join with them.

"Apostasy" does not apply to congregations that uphold the fundamentals of the faith and strive to live godly lives to the best of their understanding.

... White's post actually has a lot of good stuff in it. The quoted portion seems to be a bit of hyperbole.... but it all depends on what churches you're looking at!  (If your sample is "evangelical" and "mainline" then "most... apostasy" is pretty accurate)

TylerR's picture

Editor

Randy White, in the article, wrote:

I am a student of prophecy, so eschatology is important to me. I realize it is not as important to every Pastor and every believer as it is to me. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that a Pastor who has not developed his eschatology is either lazy or not yet ready for prime time. 

I completely agree with this statement. Any Pastor who won't, or can't, explain his basic eschatological framework doesn't belong teaching God's people. If you don't have an eschatology, you're either lazy or inept. Let me throw some caveats in:

  • This doesn't mean a Pastor has to have an answer for every thorny eschatological problem. It simply means that he has a basic framework to work with. 
  • For example, I don't care if a dispensational premillennialist waffles over whether the temple the Antichrist desecrates is actually Ezekiel's temple, or perhaps an unnamed third temple. I also don't care if he has a firm opinion on whether the New Jerusalem will be the Church's home during the Millennium, or if he believes the New Jerusalem is properly only part of eternity.
  • I'm not interested in that kind of minutiae. What I care about if whether the guy has studied enough to actually have a general position

I think's it's irresponsible for a Pastor to say he's a "pan-millennialist.' That's lazy. It's deliberate refusal to deal with the prophetic passages of Scripture. It is a complicated field, to be sure; and every system does have it's problems. The question is this - which system has the fewest problems? A Pastor who refuses to even engage eschatology is doing his congregation a disservice. 

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

TylerR wrote:

Randy White, in the article, wrote:

I am a student of prophecy, so eschatology is important to me. I realize it is not as important to every Pastor and every believer as it is to me. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that a Pastor who has not developed his eschatology is either lazy or not yet ready for prime time. 

I completely agree with this statement. Any Pastor who won't, or can't, explain his basic eschatological framework doesn't belong teaching God's people. If you don't have an eschatology, you're either lazy or inept. Let me throw some caveats in:

  • This doesn't mean a Pastor has to have an answer for every thorny eschatological problem. It simply means that he has a basic framework to work with. 
  • For example, I don't care if a dispensational premillennialist waffles over whether the temple the Antichrist desecrates is actually Ezekiel's temple, or perhaps an unnamed third temple. I also don't care if he has a firm opinion on whether the New Jerusalem will be the Church's home during the Millennium, or if he believes the New Jerusalem is properly only part of eternity.
  • I'm not interested in that kind of minutiae. What I care about if whether the guy has studied enough to actually have a general position

I think's it's irresponsible for a Pastor to say he's a "pan-millennialist.' That's lazy. It's deliberate refusal to deal with the prophetic passages of Scripture. It is a complicated field, to be sure; and every system does have it's problems. The question is this - which system has the fewest problems? A Pastor who refuses to even engage eschatology is doing his congregation a disservice. 

I guess I'm not ready for prime time (whatever that means). But in some ways you are right in your observation about the system which "has the fewest problems." After over 40 years of being a Christian and a sometimes student of eschatology I am not satisfied completely with any system. And it seems to me that dispensational premillennialism does not have the fewest problems.  It didn't help (or did it?) that I studied at various institutions with different views (BJ, Calvary, Reformed, Dallas, Trinity). But this I believe - Jesus is coming again to establish His kingdom and will reign forever and ever - Whether He comes in phases or once again, whether there is a 1000 year earthly reign as a prelude to His eternal reign or whether He comes once for all to put an end to evil and establish His kingdom - I have opinions on how I think it will work out and conviction on how it will turn out.

I have many questions which won't be answered until events happen or don't happen. I have great difficulty seeing a rebuilt temple and reversion to animal sacrifices, whether memorial or otherwise, in the millennium with distinctions between Israel and the Church, difficulty understanding a worldwide rebellion at the end of 1000 years of Jesus' reign, etc. My difficulties won't prevent God from doing what He has really promised and I expect that in the end we will all be surprised. I have leanings (historical premill) yet see the value of other views and would not separate from my amillennial brethren over eschatology. Perhaps that is one reason I'm not ready for prime time. I do see some value in discussing, debating these issues, and welcome sharpening. However if one holds his view of eschatology with the tenacity and certainty of the fundamentals of the faith, the discussion proves challenging. 

 

 

 

GregH's picture

In my opinion, dogmatism on eschatology is not the result of a lot of study. It is the result of not enough study. As a layman, I greatly appreciate pastors who have the courage and humility to actually admit they don't have eschatology figured out (because after all, not a one of them does). For some reason, in my past, preachers always held to the idea that you had to take a position on everything and be dogmatic even if you knew deep down that you were not sure. I asked a few about that and they told me that they worried that ambivalence would confuse their "flock." I am glad to see that changing. I personally will respect any pastor who says he holds to a position such as pre-trib but understands that he might not be right far more than a pastor who dogmatically proclaims it will be that way.

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Agreed with Greg on eschatology.  I subscribe to the rapture and all, but there always seems to be something of a disconnect when one gets to the fringes of the dispensational "tribe."  "Four Blood Moons" is a great example--I'm not aware of a real Biblical justification for it, and the author is more or less doing a "search for hypotheses" statistically.  

But that said, the comment "the programs are the tail that wags the dog" and "anyone could subscribe to your statement of faith" hit home, as I've been in churches where the programs ran everything (spiritually miserable as a result) and where the statement of faith was largely window dressing around the preferences of the key people running the programs.  

Now part of "everybody agrees" is that Protestant churches at least historically have fairly common positions on soteriology, and quite frankly the baptistic evangelicals have been eating other churches' lunches in the past 40 years reaching people for Christ, along with (semi-baptistic) pentacostals and charismatics (pentamatics?).   

But part of it is the fundagelical-pentamatic alliance going fuzzy on theology to keep the programs going and "tushes in seats."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JohnBrian's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

After over 40 years of being a Christian and a sometimes student of eschatology I am not satisfied completely with any system. And it seems to me that dispensational premillennialism does not have the fewest problems.

GregH wrote:

I personally will respect any pastor who says he holds to a position such as pre-trib but understands that he might not be right far more than a pastor who dogmatically proclaims it will be that way.

I agree with both Steve and Greg. Raised pre-mill/pre-trib but not convinced enough to be dogmatic. Also not convinced of another position enough to abandon pre-mill. Years ago I read Three Views on the Rapture and found each of the writer's presentations compelling!

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Jonathan Charles's picture

TylerR wrote:

I think's it's irresponsible for a Pastor to say he's a "pan-millennialist.' That's lazy. It's deliberate refusal to deal with the prophetic passages of Scripture. It is a complicated field, to be sure; and every system does have it's problems. The question is this - which system has the fewest problems? A Pastor who refuses to even engage eschatology is doing his congregation a disservice. 

Piper was joking when he called himself a pan-millennialist (it'll all pan out in the end), I'm pretty sure he holds to a historical premillennial view of Christ's return, yet tentatively enough to admit that he could be wrong and that however it happens it will pan out in the end. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

A family is joining my church this Sunday. He is a covenant premillennialist. I don't care. I'm not asking for dogmaticism, rigidity, or an elevation of eschatology to a "fundamental" of the faith. All I'm saying is that a Pastor who essentially throws up his hands and says some variation on:

"Gee, all that stuff is so confusing, and the Left Behind series is so stupid . . . who knows!? Jesus is coming back, and that's good enough for me!" 

is not a serious Pastor. 

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?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Maybe not.  But a pastor who holds an opinion lightly because he realizes that other positions have reasonable Biblical support, and that no position is water-tight, is a serious pastor.  He is probably more serious than the pastor who is dogmatic about a position because he isn't willing to carefully study opposing views.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

Being a serious Pastor doesn't necessarily mean you're a rigid, unyielding monolith. It does mean that you're widely read enough to understand the issues, for and against, and you've staked out your own informed position.  

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?

Ron Bean's picture

There are doctrines worth dying for. I don't think eschatological opinions approach that level of importance. Jesus is coming back. That is a certainty! A lot of the surrounding details are not as clear. When it comes to eschatology, I am encouraged when I read that the disciples, after sitting at the feet of Jesus, didn't understand the details of his return.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

pvawter's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

There are doctrines worth dying for. I don't think eschatological opinions approach that level of importance. Jesus is coming back. That is a certainty! A lot of the surrounding details are not as clear. When it comes to eschatology, I am encouraged when I read that the disciples, after sitting at the feet of Jesus, didn't understand the details of his return.

Ron,

the disciples didn't understand Jesus' teaching on the resurrection, either. Should we give someone a pass for being fuzzy on the doctrine of the bodily resurrection because he's only being like Jesus' disciples? 

Paul

Shaynus's picture

pvawter wrote:

 

Ron Bean wrote:

 

There are doctrines worth dying for. I don't think eschatological opinions approach that level of importance. Jesus is coming back. That is a certainty! A lot of the surrounding details are not as clear. When it comes to eschatology, I am encouraged when I read that the disciples, after sitting at the feet of Jesus, didn't understand the details of his return.

 

 

Ron,

the disciples didn't understand Jesus' teaching on the resurrection, either. Should we give someone a pass for being fuzzy on the doctrine of the bodily resurrection because he's only being like Jesus' disciples? 

Paul

 

Paul, 

They were very clear on the resurrection after it happened, which is entirely the point. You might say the general Jewish confusion on the Messiah and the disciples' blindness on the resurrection and that it had been entirely foretold as an ominous warning to us. If I were God writing the story of the end times and I were consistent in the story, I'd write in something about church-age Christians being confused on the subject. It seems entirely likely that the vast majority are mistaken about what God will do next, and so has it ever been. What's up to us is to follow men like Simeon in the temple who held baby Jesus declaring "for my eyes have seen your salvation" and know the work of God when we see it. 

Shayne

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

TylerR wrote:

A family is joining my church this Sunday. He is a covenant premillennialist. I don't care. I'm not asking for dogmaticism, rigidity, or an elevation of eschatology to a "fundamental" of the faith. All I'm saying is that a Pastor who essentially throws up his hands and says some variation on:

"Gee, all that stuff is so confusing, and the Left Behind series is so stupid . . . who knows!? Jesus is coming back, and that's good enough for me!" 

is not a serious Pastor. 

Tyler, this is where the issue hangs in the balance. Most church include eschotology in their doctrinal statements, and then require all new members to support and uphold the doctrinal statement of the church. I have quietly attended these churches in the past, pleased to fellowship and grow together, but I could not become a member of these churches if my views on escholotogy do not align wth the doctrinal statement. And I am not faulting them for take the position they have - their doctrinal statement should identify and direct them. I just think it is an issues most churches have failed to even notice over the years.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Chip:

I hear what you're saying. When I said before that "I didn't care," I meant that I didn't care if his views on eschatology matched the church's precisely. He is well aware of what our eschatology is, and understands that this is what will be taught and preached in every area of the church. the new family has to understand that when they join the church.

  • This isn't a "we'll agree to disagree" situation.
  • It's a "we'd love to have you, but know right now that you're joining an unashamed premillennial, dispensationalist church" situation

As a matter of fact, the family has been coming just as we began a short excursus on Dan 9:24-27, and other end-times material. They have acknowledged that the points I''ve raised are good, and many of them they'd never considered before. This is all healthy and good stuff. 

I suppose the larger issue is whether a prospective member has to be in perfect agreement with everything in the doctrinal statement. Is there no need for submission on their part, to be willing to live with and perhaps learn from  a perspective they don't necessarily agree to? 

  • Eschatology is one of those areas where this can be healthy
  • Another family recently joined. They're soft KJVO. We use the KJV. I told them we wouldn't tolerate any hint of KJVO-ism in the church, and they ought to know that right up front. They said they understood and could live with it. They joined the church. 

I suppose there are two types of prospective members:

  • Those with absolute, firm convictions who seek a like-minded church that reflects their views more or less precisely
  • Those with more open minds and somewhat softer convictions on second-tier issues (like the fine points of eschatology) who are willing to deal with, and perhaps learn from, perspectives they don't fully agree with. 

In the end, it depends how you classify the importance of different areas of doctrine. If you think models like Mohler's "theological triage" have merit, then eschatology is something a prospective member may be willing to give a little on.

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?

Robert Apps's picture

 

I suppose the larger issue is whether a prospective member has to be in perfect agreement with everything in the doctrinal statement. Is there no need for submission on their part, to be willing to live with and perhaps learn from  a perspective they don't necessarily agree to? 

  • Eschatology is one of those areas where this can be healthy
  • Another family recently joined. They're soft KJVO. We use the KJV. I told them we wouldn't tolerate any hint of KJVO-ism in the church, and they ought to know that right up front. They said they understood and could live with it. They joined the church. 

 

[/quote]

 

Tyler, may I ask why you still use the KJV? Genuinely interested, Thanks, 

Robert's church website is www.odbc.org.au and his personal website is www.appsministries.org

pvawter's picture

Shaynus wrote:

pvawter wrote:

 

Ron Bean wrote:

 

There are doctrines worth dying for. I don't think eschatological opinions approach that level of importance. Jesus is coming back. That is a certainty! A lot of the surrounding details are not as clear. When it comes to eschatology, I am encouraged when I read that the disciples, after sitting at the feet of Jesus, didn't understand the details of his return.

 

 

Ron,

the disciples didn't understand Jesus' teaching on the resurrection, either. Should we give someone a pass for being fuzzy on the doctrine of the bodily resurrection because he's only being like Jesus' disciples? 

Paul

 

Paul, 

They were very clear on the resurrection after it happened, which is entirely the point. You might say the general Jewish confusion on the Messiah and the disciples' blindness on the resurrection and that it had been entirely foretold as an ominous warning to us. If I were God writing the story of the end times and I were consistent in the story, I'd write in something about church-age Christians being confused on the subject. It seems entirely likely that the vast majority are mistaken about what God will do next, and so has it ever been. What's up to us is to follow men like Simeon in the temple who held baby Jesus declaring "for my eyes have seen your salvation" and know the work of God when we see it. 

Shayne


And they actually offer a great deal of teaching on eschatology after the resurrection, which I think they expected the disciples of Christ to understand. Their confusion did not extend to the end of their lives, but after they received the Holy Spirit they were able to understand the things that had confused them.

Ron Bean's picture

pvawter wrote:

 

Shaynus wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

Ron Bean wrote:

 

There are doctrines worth dying for. I don't think eschatological opinions approach that level of importance. Jesus is coming back. That is a certainty! A lot of the surrounding details are not as clear. When it comes to eschatology, I am encouraged when I read that the disciples, after sitting at the feet of Jesus, didn't understand the details of his return.

 

 

Ron,

the disciples didn't understand Jesus' teaching on the resurrection, either. Should we give someone a pass for being fuzzy on the doctrine of the bodily resurrection because he's only being like Jesus' disciples? 

Paul

 

 

Paul, 

They were very clear on the resurrection after it happened, which is entirely the point. You might say the general Jewish confusion on the Messiah and the disciples' blindness on the resurrection and that it had been entirely foretold as an ominous warning to us. If I were God writing the story of the end times and I were consistent in the story, I'd write in something about church-age Christians being confused on the subject. It seems entirely likely that the vast majority are mistaken about what God will do next, and so has it ever been. What's up to us is to follow men like Simeon in the temple who held baby Jesus declaring "for my eyes have seen your salvation" and know the work of God when we see it. 

Shayne

 

And they actually offer a great deal of teaching on eschatology after the resurrection, which I think they expected the disciples of Christ to understand. Their confusion did not extend to the end of their lives, but after they received the Holy Spirit they were able to understand the things that had confused them.

 

My statement about the disciples was meant as an aside. The disciples weren't as sure about eschatological details as some of the experts today. Personally, I think that essential doctrines like justification and the resurrection don't require the page flipping explanation required for the pre-mill, pre-trib, 70th Week, two-stage return of Christ to establish an earthly kingdom based in Israel.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

I suppose the larger issue is whether a prospective member has to be in perfect agreement with everything in the doctrinal statement. Is there no need for submission on their part, to be willing to live with and perhaps learn from  a perspective they don't necessarily agree to? 

Tyler, I would agree that for any prospective member joining a church, there most definitely needs to be submission on the part of the one joining.  However, if the church requires 100% complete agreement (not just submission), that may be a sign that that church is not a good fit.  It would be hard for me (or most here, I'd imagine) to be in complete agreement with just about any church on every single doctrinal point, especially if the doctrinal statement goes into a lot of detail on things like eschatology where the Bible is less clear.

I have a couple of disagreements with my current church (minor), but I've been open and honest with my pastor about those, as he has with me.  I understand what will be taught, and though I have taught some, there are subjects I would just stay away from, as I would not want to be in any way causing dissension in the church.  I'm also willing to listen and learn, but as yet, there are some areas where I have not been convinced.  I think if people are honest with themselves, and if they actually attempt to use their brains (or, in biblical parlance, be Berean in their thinking), they will realize there is no such thing as 100% agreement on all points among any body of believers greater than 1 member.

Of course, how a church thinks on this will in part determine how narrow a doctrinal statement needs to be.  Obviously, you don't want it so wide any protestant or even Catholic could affirm what's in it, and yet you don't want it so narrow that every single person in the church will find something to disagree with when it delves into too many areas that have been argued about since the time of Christ, especially if these are minor and not things like soteriology.

I realize that some will think submission is just code for outwardly conforming, but I think it's a valid biblical principle that if used correctly, will help deal with the fact that 100% agreement among all will be impossible unless your doctrinal statement is as short as the 5 solas.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

You asked:

Tyler, may I ask why you still use the KJV? Genuinely interested, Thanks, 

My answer is that I have other battles to fight right now. The Bible version issue isn't something I'm interested in delving into at this point in time. There are more pressing things to deal with! The KJV works fine for us, and the folks are used to it and comfortable with it. "If it's not broke, don't fix it" and all that . . .

I should also add that since I started studying Greek (I just finished my first year, which means I'm only moderately clueless about the language), I'm perfectly happy with the KJV translations. I do my devotions with the Greek text beside my Bible, and haven't seen any glaring translation issues. My confidence in the beauty and accuracy of the KJV has only been strengthened. It has it's issues (James 3:4, anyone!?), but I'm content to leave it alone for now, and likely for a long while. 

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?