“The apostles and elders met to consider this question.” (Acts 15:6, NIV)
Today, Corinne and I leave for the EFCA One National Conference. In addition to worship, teaching, seminars, and training, we will be attending a meeting at which the leaders of our denomination will discuss the doctrinal statement of the EFCA. The proposal put forth by the denomination is to change one word of the statement, from
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This change would give each EFCA congregation the option of setting their own position on the timeline of events related to Christ’s return. Most will likely continue to hold to a premillennial belief, but some churches may favor postmillennialism or amillennialism (by the way, if you’re interested in what these various views are, check out this great book on the subject). While I personally believe in the premillennial return of Christ, I think the amendment to the doctrinal statement is a good idea.
One of the things that most drew me to the EFCA was the denomination’s value of keeping the primary things primary and choosing to not fight or divide over less clear issues. The fundamental message of the Scriptures is core to what we believe, but many secondary matters are more open to interpretation. For example, the Bible is clear that Jesus will return. But exactly how, exactly when, and what the exact timeline of events will be, those questions are open to interpretation because the Bible isn’t as revealing in its teaching about these things. All three millennial views are present in our own congregation, and I feel no less affinity with or love for those who hold a different perspective than I do on this subject. I grew up in a church where literally everything (even the length of your hair) was considered a primary issue of salvation, and anyone who disagreed with some minor, insignificant point not only couldn’t be part of our fellowship, they weren’t even considered saved!
I am thankful to belong to a more balanced denomination now. Rupertus Meldenius, a German Protestant theologian in the 17th century, is famous for saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In an age where our society is becoming ever more sharply divided, with various factions vehemently hating the others, may our church (and the universal, capital-C Church) stand united in the truth of the gospel. May we agree to disagree on secondary issues. And, may we treat all within our body and without, Christians and unbelievers alike, with love and dignity as human beings created in the image of God, regardless of their theological or political views.