Live-Blogging the EFCA National Conference – Installment 5
UPDATE: 11:39 AM – By a vote of 630 to (I think) 105, the proposed revised Statement of Faith became the Statement of Faith. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I then offered a resolution, unanimously (I hope!) adopted, calling us to unity, recognizing the efforts and dedication of our leadership, etc.
UPDATE: 10:51 AM – We’re now in the midst of debating the actual proposed revision itself. There have been some folks who’ve spoken on both sides of the issue. My buddy Matt thinks the revised SOF will pass, but I don’t know that he’s betting the house on it…
UPDATE: 10:06 AM – An amendment is offered regarding the inclusion of a statement regarding congregational church government. It is voted down as well.
UPDATE: 10:02 AM – The amendment failed by a significant margin. I voted against the amendment. I believe that the day will come–and I hope that it is soon–when the plank is removed. But Ernie Manges is right: now is not the time.
UPDATE: 9:50 AM – Missionary Ernie Manges, a supporter of the removal of the premil plank, spoke against the amendment, arguing that for the sake of unity, this is not the time, and this is not the place. Now, my buddy Jack Brooks, lacing his comments with his wonderful wit, is speaking against the amendment as well. Jack’s a guy who changed his mind on the whole thing, originally against removing premillennialism, then looking at things from a polity perspective, decided he wasn’t comfortable being in a position where we wouldn’t ordain some of the great British Puritans. The next speaker spoke against the amendment as well, but because he doesn’t believe it ought ever be changed. He included a needless, negative remark against our Spiritual Heritage Committee. Bad show.
UPDATE: 9:39 AM – Bobby File presented a cogent argument for the removal of the premil plank, and Bill Kynes spoke his strong agreement with the substance of it, yet urged rejection for the sake of unity. At this moment, that’s my position. I do retain an element of persuadability (if that’s a word)…
I’ve not said much about the worship sessions, and won’t yet; they have been good, uplifting, challenging as we’ve been led by a tremendous worship team, Sarah Renner and Elements from Minneapolis. Our speakers have focused on I Peter 2, on our identity as “living stones” built up into a spiritual household. Good stuff.
We only got to two amendments yesterday, and this morning, we’ll deliberate the other two. If neither passes, we’ll vote on the revised Statement of Faith, it needing a 2/3 majority for passage. One friend, who’ll remain nameless, is planning to abstain from voting on the premil amendment. Here’s his reasoning: he is technically in favor, and pretty strongly, of the amendment, which would remove the word “premillennial” from our Statement of Faith–even though he’s premil himself. My own position is the same as to the issues. The problem is that he and I would both like to see the Revised SOF pass, and removing the premil plank might well make that more difficult (almost certainly). Would we be willing to settle for half a loaf, and then eventually bring back up the removal of the premil plank, once we have a better/stronger SOF? I sure would. But his reasoning in abstaining is this: to vote against the removal of the premil plank would be to send a message, perhaps, that he would like to see the premil plank retained, which is not his intent. To vote for the removal of the plank would be to not only push back the final vote a year, but increase the likelihood that we’ll not get a new SOF at all. And so he’s employing this strategery.
I’m not sure I like it much, though I understand his reasoning. The Board of Directors, which removed the premil plank in revisions 1 and 2, put it back in out of a concern for unity, and possibly as well out of concern that we get a refreshed Statement of Faith in place. I’m inclined to support their rationale, vote against the premil plank, take what we can get now, and deal with that plank in several years.
If you feel strongly about having pre-mill removed, then vote for the amendment. what’s the motivation to pass a refreshed statement of faith that doesn’t really accomplish anything? Now is the time to deal with the premil “plank”
I hear that argument; I really do. The question is, “does the refreshed statement of faith…really accomplish nothing?” I judge that to not be the case. But I sure hear the argument.
Thanks Byron for keeping those of us who can’t be there up to speed on what’s happening.
then we will get to a vote this year, as the last motion is not substantial, it just says what is implicit in the preface.
thanks for the blogging. how did the unity resolution go?
Passed without objection; not the kind of thing I expected to be particularly controversial, but I really wanted to call us to appreciation of leadership, affirm our belief in their integrity, and call us to unity. Not the sort of thing many people really stand up and vote “no” on… 🙂
May I ask why now is not the time to remove the pre-mil plank that, as you pointed out, would exclude a vast number of historically evangelical and orthodox christians figures from having been able to serve in the EFCA?
Some internal reasons that I’m a little hesitant to get into, not because they’re secretive, but just because…well, I’m not sure they’re worth getting into. In a nutshell, there are times to push the envelope, and times to take a more measured approach. I think that this was one of those latter times.
Suffice it to say that I believe that the removal of the premil plank will come back, within 3-5 years, and that at that time, it may very well be removed.
I guess I have a little difficulty seeing the removal of a tertiary doctrinal issue from a statement of faith as pushing the envelope. It shouldn’t be. I understand that there is some emotional baggage and attachment, and those that may see it as more important than that – but it is a doctrine that reasonable people of reasonable faith have had amiable disagreement about since long before you and I. It should not be something that defines whether you are qualified to serve and pastor in the EFCA, especially considering the “F”.
I might add that (if you can’t tell), that is a slightly touchy subject for me. When I was at FCC, it always bothered me that I would never be able to pursue ordination in the denomination because I am amil and not premil. I understand that the removal of it from the SOF may have been a divisive issue, but from my perspective, not as much as having it in there in the first place was divisive, and excluded well qualified biblically solid men of God from pastoring.
And by the way, I have really fallen behind in the post count – over 100 comments behind Don (cheater), and am feeling the urge to catch up. Now that I am in grad school, I have LOADS of time in front of my computer…so we’ll see.
I am not sure that a millennial position is “tertiary”. It is not central, nor does it relate to ones status as a christian brother or sister. However, the outworking of the theological position is extensive. This includes: hermaneutics, theology of culture and history, interpetation of many parts of scripture. Also, it is not exclusive in that we are not throwing out those who have been in the free church to date. It is only exclusive in that it does not open the door wider. I agree that if this is something that should change, in view of the history of our churches, it will take time to digest. Also, we have talked about a-mil believers, but what about post-mil? (it’s in some of our hymns) Think of an anaconda swallowing a water buffalo – do-able but it takes a bit of time.
I’d agree with Dave Carlson’s analysis. I wouldn’t characterize premillennialism as “tertiary”; there are hermeneutical entailments; change doesn’t come all that easily to movements. As you know, I used to be what you are now: SBC. Please, don’t expect certain things that you might consider “tertiary” to change particularly quickly in that faith group either; frankly, having been in both, the speed of change in the EFCA is greater by a good measure, it seems to me. I believe that the premil plank will be dropped, and likely fairly soon. But you’ll set yourself up for frustration, both in denominational situations and in church planting, if you insist that all things change with the rapidity at which they might ought.
Patience is easily called for by one who is not affected by it. A little harder on the other side of the coin. But yes, patience is necessary. You are correct, I have in the past experienced great frustration over this issue, because I was the one excluded by it – still am really. We would have loved to go through EFCA boot camp and plant with them, but I am not welcome, based solely on that one issue. I certainly hope that in another 3-5 years, the right thing will be done in removing a particular eschatology viewpoint as a requirement for cooperation.
Except for those post-mils. They’re just nuts. 😉 But I believe that would come down to difficulties that you spoke of in hermeneutic and interpretation that is simply not a major issue between pre and A.
So where can we obtain a copy of the revised statement of faith?
This convert to an amillennial position has been seriously debating whether he can retain membership in an EFCA church with a disagreement to something so plainly present in the statement of faith. Hefe, with all due respect, I don’t understand why you would want to be involved in ministry within an organization with a statement of faith you can’t agree to. Is there such a thing as a secondary matter that would be included in a statement of faith?
I’m sure that the EFCA website has the new SOF there. It might yet be labeled “proposed”; don’t know what the lag time will be.
I’m sure Hefe’s answer will be something like the fact that he loved everything about the EFCA and his experience at FCC (Mercer) except for that one doctrinal point.
He especially loved every minute of working for me, I’m sure. 🙂
So the second proposed amendment about Lordship Salvation didn’t pass – I guess I missed that in your earlier posts. Sorry for polluting the blogosphere.
Good questions Dave, and yes, I think secondary matters are appropriate for a Statement of Faith. But I think it would be beneficial to breakdown some definitions here…
Primary Matters – You must believe these things to be considered Christian at all (Trinity, Justification by Faith, Nature of Christ, etc…)
Secondary Matters – Beliefs that are not primary, but do keep us from fully fellowshipping with one another (Baptism, COmmunion, Ecclesiology, Eternal Security, etc…)
Tertiary Matters – things that Christians of good faith have disagreed on in interpretation, and should NOT hinder fellowship or cooperation (finer points of eschatology like millenial position, cessationism)
Not that these category constructions are mutually exclusive – there is some overlap on details. But it is a basic outline similar to what (I believe) Dr Mohler presented at the SBC sonvention. Oh and by the way, congratulations on coming to the dark side in your amillenial view! 😉 As Byron suggested, I would say that the majority of my experience with the EFCA was incredibly positive (not “everything”, I had plenty of struggles that were not of a conventional scope), enough so that I would be more then happy to cooperate with EFCA, or “Baptist Lite” as we call ’em.
Byron, I was thinking about your comment yesterday, and I wonder if the only reason that things move a little faster in the EFCA, is simply because you are not the big behemoth like SBC…yet. Wait till you have 3-4 seminaries, and multiple other umbrella organization, and maybe things will slow down to a more baptist pace. And BTW, not to burst your bubble…I worked for Christ and I worked for the local church, FCC. I worked WITH you. Watch your phraseology!
So, who exactly are the “oppressed” that we are to “live out our faith…with justice” for?
In other denominations, the oppressed have been defined as same-sex couples being denied the “right” to marry as heterosexuals do. Actively gay folks have been “oppressed” because they have been denied the right to work as pastors in Churches simply because of “how they were born”. Perhaps the oppressed are the transgendered of Colorado suffering the humiliation of being forced to use the public restrooms associated with their biological gender rather than their emotional/intellectual gender.
“Oh, but that could never happen with us. We are different. We know what we mean by these words and we will never let things get that far. You are just engaging in hyperbole.” Yeah, maybe the strawmen are right. Then again, it has been hitting an awful lot of Churches; and reading the blogs of the conservatives informs me that…sheesh, they never thought it could happen in their Church.
What exactly does it mean to “live out our faith…with justice”? Do we need to organize candle vigils? Should we issue guidelines to let folks know what mutual funds to avoid, stores to boycott, etc.? Should we advocate that the Army be sent to Nigeria? Should we start getting into politics as a Church? Maybe we should start a writing campaign to our congressmen to raise the minimum wage. Oh wait, won’t that cause higher unemployment in entry level jobs…the poor that we are supposed to be helping?
Isn’t it great that we are now on the social justice band wagon with all the other denominations that are being torn apart? Welcome to the slippery slopes.
Hey, and how about the integrity of ministers that are anti pre-mil! They are willing to wait 3-5 years before the next big push…all the while, they cynically hold views contrary to the Statement of Faith…just biding their time for the opportunity to have their way…and all the while affirming the pre-mil statement in the current SoF. What paragons of virtue! I’m sure that in the mean time, they will only be “educating” their flocks on this issue.
At this point, I honestly do not know if I want to remain part of the EFCA. I don’t know if my local Church will pass this. It sure isn’t helpful. We have the old SoF hardwired into our constitution and bylaws and a protection clause giving the property to those that hold to the original SoF.
Another issue is that if we stay as a grandfathered Church in the EFCA, eventually we will end up calling a pastor that will be credentialed under a different SoF than the Church that is calling him. Won’t that be swell.
I am so very disappointed. I cannot adequately express the depth of my reaction to this. To say that I am disheartened only scratches the surface.
So, three cheers for the new SoF. Let’s all rally round the flag boys and girls, fall in line, get in step…and drink a big gulp of the Koolaid.
I think there are issues of justice that we should adress: immigration, poverty among us, pro-life issues, freedom of religion issues, pro-marriage, pro-first ammendment, etc. the term social justice was coined in the early progressive era (i.e. Lafollette, Teddy Roosevelt) so like all such terms are not found in your concordance.
I do see the concern that George has that we don’t just baptize either the left (as Wallis and others do) or the right (as much fo the christian right dies) but think biblically and speak to, vote, minister to our culture. It is not the gospel, but an implication for the saved.
As long as we hold that the scriptures set the agend of the church, and not “the world sets the agenda of the church” then we should be able to avoid the bandwagons of the mainline churches.
There is also a need to recognize that churches as churches, and denominations need to be careful in avoiding becoming politicized. Christians, however, can not ignore this area.
I live in the highest gay populated zip code in the country, and so I am very aware of George’s concerns, and my response has been to engage with reasoned opposition, rather than fight or run.
Four things occur to me in response; I’ll try to be brief.
1. The “slippery slope” argument serves poorly as a lead argument; it works far better as a supporting argument, in my judgment. What I mean is this: if something is the right thing to do, do it, and don’t worry about the slippery slope; just make sure that you don’t slide into something wrong as a result of taking a stance that is right. A political example here: I supported Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which allowed homosexuals to serve in the military (I remember almost no other Clinton decisions with which I agreed!). The “slippery slope” argument was, “this will be an open door to all sorts of homosexual advancement. No…the question is, was it the right thing to do to allow homosexual soldiers to serve our country? If it was, then the slippery slope argument was irrelevant; if it wasn’t, then the slippery slope argument might have some validity. Now, you might disagree with my stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell”, but that’s not the point. Now, in the area of “gay marriage”, the slippery slope argument has validity, but again as a secondary argument. “Gay marriage” is an abomination, and on that basis ought not be legalized. A supporting argument is, “won’t a slippery slope toward polygamy likely ensue?” I think that the answer is “yes”, but again, “slippery slope” is a secondary argument.
Thus, when you argue against the “justice” plank on the basis of what it could become, it strikes me that we take care that it doesn’t become that, not that we avoid using that terminology because other groups have gone down a certain path. And as to going down the paths you suggest, I’d submit that groups who have done as you say lack the many, many Biblical commitments that we have made clear, indeed strengthened in many cases, in our new SOF.
2. I believe you mischaracterize some pastors when you speak of them being “anti-pre-mil”. I am premil personally, as are all but one EFCA pastors I know (and the one who isn’t, isn’t ordained EFCA). In other words, I know of exactly ZERO pastors who “cynically hold views contrary to the Statement of Faith”. None. Do they exist? Possibly; perhaps you know and can name one/some. I can’t. I know of many, many premil pastors who believe that the premil plank ought to be dropped, even while being premil themselves, because they believe that the doors of the EFCA ought to be opened to brothers who are amil. Now, I understand that there are some who disagree with that, and I can respect those folks. But please, do not mischaracterize people as having some cynical lack of integrity, by saying they believe one thing in order to be EFCA-ordained and actually believing another, unless you know of pastors who have willingly been deceitful. I don’t know any.
3. Every individual church, and every currently-ordained EFCA pastor, is free to agree to either SOF. Your church will not have to pass anything; you may keep exactly what you have. The dilemma you posit is non-existent on that count. As to calling a new pastor, if holding to the old SOF is a matter of concern, why not make sure that he would be able to hold to that, irrespective of what SOF he was ordained under? If premillennialism is of great importance, hire no one who is not a premillennialist; surely such questions could be answered in a pastoral interview. When I came to my current EFCA church less than two years ago, I was asked some doctrinal questions that went beyond the SOF, and if I hadn’t answered them in keeping with this particular church’s interests, I’d not have been called; to me, it’s as simple as that.
4. It occurred to me that a fair way to respond to your concerns would be to imagine that the new SOF was the old one, and the old one was the new one, and envision the concerns that would be raised were that to be the case. The new first “plank”, for instance, speaks of God’s “limitless knowledge and sovereign power”. The previous SOF doesn’t refer to these. So if we took them out in favor of the old SOF, we’d have many, many people saying, “why are we moving away from our position that clearly rules out ‘Open Theism’?” The second plank now speaks of the Bible being “verbally” inspired; I can imagine, if that were removed in favor of the old SOF, people saying, “why are we weakening/compromising our SOF by eliminating the requirement that our pastors believe in verbal inspiration?” The third plank names “Adam and Eve”; I can imagine the removing of those words, in favor of the old SOF, would draw the response of, “what, are we moving away from a belief in the historicity of Adam and Eve?” Plank 5 now specifies that we believe in substitutionary atonement, and that Christ was “the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins”. How much weaker would the statement be if we reverted to the language of the old SOF, which is silent as to substitutionary atonement, and which much more weakly speaks of Christ’s death as “a sacrifice for our sins”. I don’t think I need to go on to make my point. We tend to assume that “newer is more compromised”, when in fact, I’ve not gotten halfway through, and I’ve already given several examples of how our new SOF is much stronger than our old one, and how it addresses contemporary controversies that didn’t occur to our forebears.
Three cheers indeed for the new SOF, but not because it “falls in line” or “gets in step” with some trendiness, and thereby “drinks the Kool-Aid”, but that rather, in this day of theological compromise and wishy-washiness, takes bold steps in the exact opposite direction.
Please receive all my words in love, friend; there is no vitriol read into your post toward me, and I certainly trust you’ll read none into mine either. But I certainly disagree with you on this point.
Here’s what my buddy Jack Brooks has to say about the whole thing (he tried to post it here, but something about a spam-blocker fouled him up):
Good thinking from both Byron & Jack. I especially like Byron’s thoughts about the strengthening aspects of the new SOF. We are much “safer” now than we were a couple of days ago.
For proof, you can read a comment by Craig Fisher at the official statement of faith blog moderated by Greg Strand. Craig says:
As a professing open theist who was worshipping with an E Free Church in Watertown SD, I am impressed that my views were so important to the church at large that you took the time and effort to formally pass the new doctrinal statements and throw me out.
However, I have a problem with your approach. The new statement does not explicitly address the topic of open theism. It is only in the footnotes and comments on the proposed statements do I find any mention of open theism.
The new statement does not address open theism. The offhand comment on the limitless knowledge and power of God is not a statement that specifically excludes open theism.
So we have a problem. Shouldn’t you be honest and just include some statement like “We only except Calvinists or Augustinian based theologies.” Or how about “we only accept the teaching that God knows every event that will take place in the future.” This would certainly be clear and eliminate any doubt on the Free Church’s position.
I know you practice and prefer the more deceptive “it’s in the footnote” method of “anathametizing your opponents” but I was hoping for some honesty. Again I was disappointed.
Greg Strand replied:
Thank you for engaging in the discussion of the Proposed Revision. It has been a very healthy discussion the past four years, for which we thank and praise the Lord!
Here are a number of responses to your post.
1. We were intentional about following the general rule of Creeds and Statements of Faith of affirming what we believe in the positive. Credo means to believe. Therefore, we did not emphasize what we did not believe (though there is an exception when addressing the ordinances in article 7, “Though they are not the means of salvation,” which is carried over from our 1950 Statement of Faith).
2. What is stated explicitly in the positive in this Proposed Revision does carry some implicit denials. So as you point out, though it is said explicitly of God that He has “limitless knowledge and sovereign power,” it implicitly denies any belief that undermines or discounts that. One of those beliefs that denies these attributes of God today is open theism. Our model here is what was done at the Council of Chalcedon in affirming Jesus’ hypostatic union, fully God and fully man, over against the heretical denials of either.
3. We recognized that if we were to include this sort of language it would have made the SOF too technical for many people. Since our SOF is used for membership, credentialing of pastors and granting tenure of faculty, we had to be wise with the level of language we explicitly used.
4. There is a more definitive interpretation to the SOF than each individual person interpreting it as he or she deems appropriate. This is determined by the Conference, which is why it is important that the Conference know what the SOF affirms and denies. This is why it has been spelled out in the footnotes, and it will be spelled out in the commentary as well.
5. We have not been secretive about this. Since April 2001 the Board of Ministerial Standing has had a policy in place for those pursuing credentialing in the Free Church that states we will “not approve credentials for those who deny God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, which includes the future free acts of human beings.” Moreover, in our written and public discussions of the Proposed Revision we have explicitly addressed the topic of open theism.
6. It is important to note that both Arminians and Calvinists embrace God’s exhaustive foreknowledge; they differ on the specifics of how God knows that future. This is why we would not and could not make a statement as you recommend about “Calvinists or Augustinian based theologies.”
7. In sum, it is important that we discuss these kinds of issues. But at some point decisions need to be made about the biblical orthodoxy of certain positions, or one, by default, ultimately denies the authority of the Scriptures. Either God knows the future exhaustively, including the future free acts of human beings, or He does not. Both cannot be true. We believe the Bible teaches He does.
Thank you, again, Craig, for your post, and for allowing me to respond. I trust this helps you to understand why we did what we did, and why we stated this biblical truth in this way.
Grace and Peace,
The whole things is here: http://blogs.efca.org/sof/2008/03/special_rules_relating_to_the/
I’m glad we’ve got a new SOF.
I was up until about 3:30 last night/morning crafting a reply, but for some reason it was considered spam by the filter and I couldn’t get my reply to post.
Here is a small bite sized reply.
Where is it written that the Church must “live out our faith with…justice for the oppressed”?
I find plenty of directives in OT Scripture to the nation of Israel. Where and how is the Church to do this? The OT prophets were not speaking to the Church on this matter. I find no instruction from Christ or the apostles to the Church concerning the Church providing justice in society.
There is one mention of Paul commending the Corinthian Church for their justice in adjudicating Church discipline regarding those that questioned his apostlship. [2 Corinthians 7:11].
That’s it. There is no instruction to the Church to “adress: immigration, poverty among us, pro-life issues, freedom of religion issues, pro-marriage, pro-first ammendment, etc.”
None, nada, zilch.
There are many references to God bringing about justice and many condemnations and calls for the Pharisees to provide justice. Again…nothing directed to the Church or to individual believers.
So, what is the compelling reason that this is now a plank in our SoF?
There are far more admonitions to sexual purity directed at the Church and individual believers than this justice issue. Why isn’t chastity a plank of the SoF? Our society and the Church are definitely suffering because of sexual impurity.
Again, why was there this focus on OT instructions to the nation of Israel and their application in the Church, especially given the lack of these instructions to the Church by Jesus and the apostles?
I’m having a bit of trouble finding the grounds for some of Hefe’s comments. A church SoF stating that pre-mil is the way to go is just a rule. You agree to follow that rule if you want leadership in that church. If you don’t agree to the rule(s), you respectfully part ways. A certain college several of us were involved with had many rules. Some seemed plain silly, but we could choose to follow them (like Byron accepts the pre-mil plank even though he doesn’t say it should be required), choose to disobey them and hide it or risk consequences (the pastors alluded to earlier who in fact hold a-mil), or respectfully withdraw and find a college with more reasonable rules (Hefe -> SBC). If EFCA chose to add a requirement that we all eat boiled carrots (not raw!), they are free to do so. It’s silly, and probably wouldn’t pass, but individuals and churches would then have to decide whether that is an appropriate doctrinal statement for their local church. One can hope that all church doctrine is sound and biblically founded, but I don’t see a requirement for it. The modern church hierachy is rather different from the early church model.
I was involved in a missions trip in college and we visited FCC for support. They offered us prayer support, which we gladly accepted. However, as I recall, we had to sign some statement of faith. I’m told that it included a pre-mil agreement. I say “I’m told” because I don’t actually remember that part. (I tend to hold to the pan-mil view. It’ll all pan out in the end. I haven’t yet seen how working out the end times will help my faith in the hear and now.) Now, if I signed a document saying I agreed to pre-mil, while I in fact could not in good faith say it was the only valid interpretation, I regret doing so. However, I respect the church’s right to require anyone ministering publicly on that church’s behalf to adhere to it’s doctrine, however well thought out it may be. Fortunately for my trip, we never had to discuss the Second Coming in any detail.
Oops. I can’t edit comments, but “hear and now” should really be “here and now”.
In Hefe’s defense, I think that there are a couple of things that could be mentioned. One, he really likes the ethos of the EFCA–a lot of folks do, and the general direction it is going. IMHO, knowing Hefe, he’d prefer to go EFCA than SBC, if not for this plank. So it’s something of an “if only” that he’s expressing, and I know for a fact that he’s not nearly alone in wishing the EFCA would drop the plank; we’d have a lot of amil guys who’d come in (whether that’s good or bad, of course, depends on who you talk to). Further, we have this statement that we’ve adopted that I’d call our “Statement of Ethos”: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” It seems to many of us that premillennialism is a non-essential, and thus we feel like we have to sort of use an asterisk when we explain things…
And Hefe, I guess the answer is that the EFCA wouldn’t consider premillennialism tertiary, but secondary…I guess.
And George, sorry about the spam filter thing. I have utterly no idea why that happens sometimes.
So, like I said…where is it written that the Church must “live out our faith with…justice for the oppressed”?
There should be some sort of Scriptural support for something we put into the SoF.
We aren’t talking replacement theology, so the OT calls for national Israel and it’s theocratic goverment to provide justice don’t really apply to the Church. We aren’t a theocracy. What “justice” are we to live out our faith with and who are the oppressed that we are going to do this for and how are we going to do it?
If we are going to say we believe something, we should know the W’s and the H. Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
I have been struggling with your “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. As a veteran that had over 17 years experience I feel compelled to ask you to reconsider your position.
I won’t go into all of my reasons for not liking this policy, but there are many and they are from personal experience.
However, I would like you to consider the following thought experiments. Imagine that you are at a camping facility and there is only one shower room with no privacy stalls. Would you feel comfortable having the wife of one of your friends showering with you at the same time? If not, why not? Would you feel comfortable sleeping in the same two person tent with a female you just met? If not, why not? Would you feel comfortable using a toilet to defecate if there were no privacy stalls and a female was using the toilet right next to you? If not, why not? Would you feel comfortable stripping naked and changing clothes in front of one or more married women from your church. If not, why not?
If you would be uncomfortable in any of these situations, why would you want to impose them on others?
These thought experiments are not pulled from thin air. These are all experiences you would likely have serving in the Army; with the only difference being that they are in the company of men. I would be very uncomfortable doing any of the above in the presence of women other than my wife and the same holds true for doing any of the above in the presence of a homosexual male.
Please give some consideration to the imposition that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is on young men serving their country.
Regards from your brother in Christ Jesus,
Here’s where the analogy fails, I think: if (and I understand that perhaps this is a big “if”), if “don’t ask, don’t tell” is followed to the “T”, a person serving in the military is not allowed to divulge his/her sexuality, and the penalty for doing so can be expulsion from the military. If that’s the case, then I support the policy when strictly followed–because none of the scenarios you suggest would matter, right? It would seem to me that, if I didn’t know a person was homosexual, and he never revealed that to me, there wouldn’t be a practical problem, right? I don’t believe that the military ought to be a place for social experimentation, so you know; I don’t support anything beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell”, strictly enforced. But if a homosexual is willing to serve his country and not divulge his sexuality, I’m not sure why there’s a problem.
I have enjoyed reading this discussion. My wife and I never became official members of our church because of the requirement to agree with the premill position.
This may have contributed to my wife eventually being convinced by Mr. Camping that the church age was over.
(Please read and comment on my recent posts on your Harold Camping blog).
I had difficulty posting also, but by restarting Firefox, the problem was solved.)
The problem is that [very predictably] the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was not followed strictly. Thus, the policy has become a stepping stone to wider acceptance of homos3xuals in the military. If Sen. Obama wins this November, he has already announced his intentions to end the policy and allow openly homos3xual personnel to serve in the military. Heterosexuals will then be subjected to all that I previously described. They will have no recourse. To even complain could be construed as hate speech.
No offence, but yours and others support of the DADT policy has lead directly to this. We don’t live in a theoretical world. We live in the real world and in the real world there are real people with an agenda and they are playing the tune that our culture is dancing to.
It’s too late now to do anything about it. I’m not bitter or angry at folks that supported the DADT policy, but I am trying to educate them about how their good intentions to be “fair” are allowing the incremental destruction of our s3xual mores as a society. And again, because of hate speech laws, protest will become or already is…illegal.
In the post that I couldn’t get past the spam filters, I mentioned a guy named Antonio Gramsci. He is the one that coined Gramscian Hegemonic Theory.
“By hegemony, Gramsci meant the permeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that has the effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. Hegemony in this sense might be defined as an organising principle’ that is diffused by the process of socialisation into every area of daily life. To the extent that this prevailing consciousness is internalised by the population it becomes part of what is generally called ‘common sense’ so that the philosophy, culture and morality of the ruling elite comes to appear as the natural order of things. [Boggs 1976 p39]”
Now, Gramsci was a Marxist…but his theory about gradual change works for any ideology; a fact not lost on the Gay/Lesbian/Bi-sexual/Transgendered militants.
You most likely think that I am some sort of conservative nut, but this is real and it is already happening in democratic societies.
A Swedish pastor was jailed “for preaching against homosexuality and other s3xual sin.”
New Zealand, South Africa, Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada have criminalized critical remarks about homos3xuality as hate speech. Yes, I know that Canada has a religious speech exemption. Big deal. You can point out that homos3xual acts are a sin while in Church, but you cannot then take that knowledge and apply it to the culture. To do so moves from religious speech to political speech and therefore from protected speech to criminal speech.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is, in my opinion, part of the same long march through the institutions.
Brother Byron, I think you are/were wrong to support the DADT policy.
PS. I am still waiting to have anyone respond to my request for Scriptural support for the “new justice for the oppressed” plank of our SoF. Where is it written that the Church is to do this?
Ok, the spam filter is really annoying. I think it is picking up on the word s3x in the comments and calling it spam.
Obviously, in my post, 3 = e.
Here are supporting websites that I couldn’t get into the post:
That one is about Gramsci’s theory.
This one is about the Swedish pastor going to jail for preaching what Scripture informs on the issue.
Matt Mitchell is also having spam filter problems; I’m going to consult my webbie-dude about it. Here’s what he tried to post:
Good to see your name! It’s been awhile since we’ve interacted together online.
I had a good visit with your pastor and his family at conference–I’m sorry you couldn’t be there.
I’m also sorry to read how disappointed you are by the EFCA’s new statement of faith. I really do have a hard time seeing why–with Byron (and 86% of the delegates), I see it as an improvement all around.
I’m puzzled by your comments about the biblical basis for living out our faith… with justice for the oppressed.
Do you believe that Christians are supposed to seek injustice for the oppressed?!? Surely not. Should we remain ambivalent about their plight? Again, surely not.
It seems to me that the heart of God for the oppressed and downtrodden remains the same in both Testaments. I don’t think that the inauguration of the New Covenant cancels out our responsibility as God’s people to “do justly” (Micah 6:8).
The passages you’ve referenced about Jesus’ denunciation of the Pharisees for their lack of justice are another example of Scripture that applies directly to New Covenant believers. How else could we take it? “Justice was something the Pharisees should have done, but we aren’t supposed to care because we’re New Covenant.” I can’t imagine.
One of Jesus’ own statements of His mission included this same passion for the victimized: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4, emphasis added). If that was Jesus’ heart, wouldn’t New Covenant Christians want to have the same passion? (Also: Luke 18:1-8.)
For exclusively New Covenant and epistolary justification for this kind of language, my mind immediately goes to passages like James 5:1-11.
Now, perhaps your concern is at least partially that you don’t think the Church qua Church is supposed to do seek justice–that church-based “justice ministries” aren’t a biblical category.
I can sympathize with that, I guess. I think this statement reflects the heart of God for those who have been put under the thumb, but it doesn’t spell out how we’re going to do that or what that looks like in specific (it would take a lot of more statements to do that anyway–you just can’t spell everything out in a doctrinal statement–we didn’t even with protecting us against Open Theism). I think the words “justice” and “oppressed” would be defined like we do all other words in our SOF–by their biblical definitions and their contemporary analogies.
I don’t think this statement requires the Church qua Church (gathered in worshiping community) to do this, but does state that believers are to do it. Does that make sense?
I agree that a statement about gender and s3xuality would have fit well in this section, too. I encouraged the drafters to consider an addition like that and wish that it had made it in. But I’m not going to quibble–there is definitely a call to sanctification here!
I hope that the 2008 SOF “grows on you” so that you can embrace it as an improvement.
Far from thinking you are a conservative nut, I’d suggest that your concerns are all quite valid, and I acknowledge the possibility that the “slippery slope” can and often does happen. I’d just reiterate that my support for DADT was strictly and only for the accurate implementation of that policy alone; I just don’t think that we ought to support/oppose things because of “what could happen”, you know?
I consider myself a conservative as well; if you read this blog for any length of time, you’d probably come to that opinion as well. I am a bit of a libertarian; I call myself a “libertarian conservative”, believing in maximizing freedom to act (while giving no quarter in the right/prerogative/responsibility of the church to speak boldly against immorality wherever it might be found). I do not believe, for instance, that current U.S. policy toward drugs is effective; I believe that we’ve thrown billions of bad dollars after good. In the next breath, I’d say/teach/preach that it’s always morally wrong to be “drunk with wine” (or “high on drugs”) so that we cannot be filled with the Spirit.
But of course this is pretty far afield from the actual subject, now isn’t it? 🙂
Thanks for responding and thanks for your encouragement. The floods looked quite intimidating on the TV and Internet. I hope you and yours are well and safe.
My problem with the new “justice for the oppressed” plank is one of definition, context, and mission.
Currently, I can name five denominations that are being torn apart by militants from the GLBT lobby who have effectively used “justice for the oppressed” as a hammer to do the job. Same-s3x marriage and ordination of actively homos3xual “ministers” are now a reality in some of those denominations. The Methodists narrowly defeated a measure [50 to 46%] that would have allowed active homo-s3xuals in the pulpit. The Presbyterians just voted [27 June] to remove their ban on actively homos3xual clergy.
Our entire culture has transitioned from homos3exuality being a mental disorder in the 1970’s to where it is being accepted in the Church, glamorized in the media and movies, and now protected against “hate speech” by the government.
So, the context of our new “justice for the oppressed” plank, with the back drop of what is going on in the culture and in so many Churches is troubling to me.
The definition of just who the oppressed are is key. [I wanted an amendment from the floor to identify the oppressed as being those biblically defined as oppressed, but was informed that the rules would not allow such and amendment to be proposed.]
Looking at the james 5 passage, verses 1-6 seem to define the oppressed as those being taken advantage of financially. They are being oppressed by their employers. The admonitions are against the rich folks that are exploiting their workers. There appears to be a definite transition in verse 7, where the “brothers” are addressed and encourage to be patient, waiting for the Lord’s justice. The verses 1-6 seem to be a prophetic warning to those outside the Church.
Again, when Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, they were most definitely not part of the Church. Also, they were actually in a position to dispense justice. They were a party in The Great Sanhedrin…the legislative and judicial bodies in Israel. How is this even remotely like the Church? The Church has neither judicial nor legislative authority in our country. Since the Church does not have this authority and does not have this role in society, it is not an insturment of “justice” in our country.
I can find no mandate by Jesus or the apostles that puts the Church in the business of “justice”. It isn’t our mission.
Having said all that, I do not believe that Christians are supposed to seek injustice for the oppressed nor are we to be ambivalent about their plight. Yet, how are we to perform or “live out” this new plank of our SoF? Again, are we to start holding candle vigils? What exactly is the Church supposed to do to stop rich non-Christians from exploiting their workers [if we use the Biblical definition of “oppressed”]? Even as individuals, what does this mean? I suppose that those attending our Church who employ others could be urged to pay them a decent wage.
This plank has the potential to be greatly mis-used [as demonstrated in multiple other Churches] if a Biblical definition of “oppressed” is not strictly maintained. If a Biblical definition of “oppressed” is strictly maintained, it is virtually meaningless to the whole Church, unless a person is an employer. The application is extremely narrow and it seems a bit silly to put it into our SoF. Why not put in a plank that encourages all soldiers and policemen to be content with their pay? Both have about the same breadth of application.
The fact is, there is no definition provided for who the oppressed are, and there is no guidance on how the Church is to provide justice for them in the SoF.
So, what was the point? It poses potential for great harm and provides virtually no benefit. Why do this? Why add this to our SoF? There is no Scriptural mandate from Jesus or the apostles for this to be any part of the mission of the Church.
Ok, it’s late [again], and I am starting to talk in circles.
Thanks for the dialogue. [That goes for you too, Byron.] As they say, “Education begins a gentleman, conversation completes him.”
God bless you both,
PS. Byron, thanks for providing this blog space to dialogue. It is really useful for me to “gather my thoughts” on this subject.
PPS. Byron, you said, “I just don’t think that we ought to support/oppose things because of ‘what could happen'”. What about support/oppose things because they are “likely to happen”? I think it is likely that we agree on most things, but I do think we have a different view on possibilities vs. probabilities. Our society is not random. There are definite groups manipulating the national world view and they are not folks of good will or fairness.
PPPS. Back in August of 2006, I came across this article in which the Council on Foreign Relations in which they are starting to map out a way to manipulate Evangelical Christians to achieve the CFR’s goals. Here are some money quotes:
“But fostering Muslim-evangelical dialogue may be one of the best ways to forestall the threat of civilizational warfare”
“…working with thoughtful evangelical leaders to develop a theologically grounded approach to Palestinian rights, for example, will broaden the base for thoughtful — though never anti-Israel — U.S. policies.”
“But evangelical power is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and those concerned about U.S. foreign policy would do well to reach out.”
The CFR are the “movers and shakers” and they are targeting Evangelicals for manipulation.
They also are actively recruiting Evangelicals:
You know, I’m not making this stuff up. And here we are, two years later and we suddenly have a “justice for the oppressed” plank in our SoF. Go figure. Like the old saying goes…just because your paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
I am not as negative on the Plank 8 justice statement, but I do share the concern. I live in a very political town, and I notice that the churches around here (mainline/liberal) see their mission in terms of politics. They see justice as being served by joining the cause of the day – global warming, immigration and gay rights are three biggies. These groups tend to diminish personal action, or changes in heart. They certainly do not discuss the wrath of God. they tend to maximize voting and public policy. The rationale is the giving mercy is like tending the wounded at the bottom of the cliff, rather than building a fence at the top.
I do think that the institution of the church ought to tread carefully in poltics, but that as citizens we do have a calling to be good citizens.
I find Jeremiah 29 helpful. (I can’t confine my thinking on social involvement to only NT passages – should I?) There they are to seek the welfare of the city (Babylon!) in which they are captives. I think that is our role. Despite some spokesmen, such as Dobson, who think America is a Christian and sort of the new-covenant nation. I live as an alien in a liberal, secular, progressive, deep “blue” combination college town and state capitol. Here evangelicals are aliens. Most of my evangelical brothers are either silent or strident on 2 or 3 “moral issues.”
I share the wariness, because this politizing the church could be how we choose to interpret plank 8. However, I don’t think we need to. and I do think that there is a lot of conern for fairness, money, the outcast, in the teaching of Jesus, in some of the people we find in Acts. the Gospel of Luke has a strong theme in how we handle money and wealth. Consider Acts 10 – Cornelius life, consider how Zacchaus acted after meeting Jesus, consdier how radical it was to tell someone to sell everything to follwo Jesus, consider Acts 17 and the movement of peoples among the nations….
You will not find a concordance hit on “social justice” bc that is a 19th Century term. You will find, if you are looking lots of scripture that says that our life here on the earth, as we await the world to come, is to be guided by a higher loyalty.
I think we should be mostly indirectly political. The message changes us and our fellowships, adding another witness to the gospel, which is what has the power to change cultures.
This was a very under-discussed part of the new SOF as most of the interest was in the millennial issue.
I’ve been thinking about the “how” of living out our faith with justice for the oppressed.
It’s a good question, though I don’t think it needs to be fully answered before we embrace the statement. I think the statement if fully biblical.
Here are some preliminary ways, I think we, as new covenant Christians are to live out our faith with justice for the oppressed:
If God does and tells us so so often in Scripture (see my posts above), I think we should, too. I should be concerned about those who are victims of injustice.
“Thy will be done…”
This is the main way this call is lived out in Scripture. Prophets denounce injustice. James speaks strongly to those who are mistreating workers. Jesus lambasts the Pharisees.
Does that mean “candle light vigils?” Maybe. I think there are many ways to speak out when we see something is wrong.
The unborn human prey of the abortion industry need a voice. I think we, as new covenant Christians (not necessarily always as a gathered Church, as I said above) should be that voice.
I’m not sure all of the ways that this would work out Scripturally, but I’m sure that I am called to “live justly” and not oppress others. And, when I have a call to step into a situation or act, then I need to do it in faith (James 2).
Not everyone is going to live this call out in the same way. We have different circumstances, calls, gifts, opportunities, and yes, interpretations of what justice looks like in a given situation. But, can’t we all agree that God calls us to want justice, pray for justice, and seek justice for those who have been denied it? Anything else (full ambivalence or malice towards the oppressed), it seems to me, is sub-biblical and ungodly.
P.S. I understand George and David’s concerns about the politicizing possibilities of social justice language and how it has been misused in other church groups–I have a PCUSA friend who is living in that frustrating reality.
But from my perspective, the answer is not to retreat from love for the oppressed (falling into the ditch on the other side), it is to stay balanced and do it in a biblical way.
Most (all?) of the groups that this has happened to have also walked away from a formal or functional understanding of the primacy of the Scriptures. But our family of churches actually strengthened our commitment to the Bible in our most recent SOF: “As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”
That’s not backpedaling.
Thanks for listening to my rambling $.02