Affirming the EFCA Statement of Faith “Without Mental Reservation”

Greg Strand – December 10, 2014 6 Comments

The EFCA Board of Ministerial Standing (BOMS) has been tasked by the Conference (the delegates at the bi-annual EFCA business meeting) to uphold the mandates of credentialing as determined by the Conference. The EFCA Statement of Faith (SOF) is foundational for churches to affirm in order to become associated with the EFCA, and the SOF is also foundational to affirm for all those credentialed in the EFCA.

One of the expectations is that all who are credentialed will initially affirm belief in the SOF “without mental reservation.” In order to remain accountable, every person credentialed in the EFCA is also required to reaffirm the SOF “without mental reservation” every five years. Some have asked what this expression means, especially as it relates to premillennialism (Article 9).

BOMS discussed this question and wrote the response below. As you read this, it is important to remember that BOMS has been tasked by the Conference to uphold the decisions made by the Conference, not make new decisions or to make concessions to the Conferences decisions. For BOMS, upholding this is a matter of integrity.

 

BOMS Definition: “Without Mental Reservation”

 Ministerial Credentialing

The EFCA credentialing document spells out the role of BOMS in carrying out the Conference decision on credentialing. Under “Requirements for Ministerial Credentials,” it states that all “Must subscribe without mental reservation to the Statement of Faith of the EFCA and agree to reaffirm that conviction every five years” (p. 2). Furthermore, BOMS ultimately defines what “without mental reservation” means as noted in our credentialing requirements, “All definitions of language or interpretation of individual cases shall be solely delegated to BOMS” (p. 2).

 “Without Mental Reservation”

The bottom line issue is the necessity of affirming without mental reservation our Statement of Faith in toto. Upon being granted a credential, and then every five years thereafter, the question is asked, “Do you subscribe to and affirm without mental reservation each article of the EFCA Statement of Faith?” The expression “without mental reservation” means that it is your personal conviction. It means you can affirm in good conscience, and without some unexpressed or expressed qualification, that you believe this statement to be true. It means you can affirm the statement without fudging, hedging or equivocation.  

Premillennialism 

The question is raised regarding “premillennialism” in Article 9 and whether or not one must affirm and reaffirm premillennialism without mental reservation, or if there is any wiggle room on that doctrinal issue. Though premillennialism is a non-essential as it relates to evangelicalism or soteriology, because it is in our SOF (recognized more as a distinctive, though still in our SOF which makes it an essential, even though not a soteriological essential) it is an essential for credentialing in the EFCA. Until or unless the Conference were to broaden our position, we will affirm premillennialism without mental reservation and require others who are credentialed to do so as well.

On the one hand, it is not sufficient to affirm merely that premillennialism is the position of the EFCA, or that you can minister within that framework without causing disunity.  You must affirm premillennialism as your own position, your own settled conviction.  On the other hand, it may be that your degree of certainty about premillennialism (as over against postmillennialism and amillennialism) is not as great as your certainty about other parts of the SOF.  Indeed, article 9 itself implies a certain humility about our eschatological views: Christ’s return will be “at a time known only to God.”  But the premillennial view must be your personal conviction.

The premillennial phrase in our SOF does not necessarily imply that those who hold an alternate view of the return of Christ deny the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures, that they lack integrity, or are unbelievers.  It means that, while we acknowledge there are other biblically viable views, we believe that the premillennial view is the best interpretation of Scripture overall.

 

 

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

6 responses to Affirming the EFCA Statement of Faith “Without Mental Reservation”

  1. Greg, any chance that this decision might be the stimulus to reopen the millennial question in the EFCA SOF?

    I certainly hope so, as I’ve suggested before.

  2. The pre-millennial position of the EFCA is a glaring violation of “the significance of silence.” I am sure there is a good historical reason, but if we are not going to claim a position on soteriology, it seems incredibly inconsistent to claim one on something as difficult to understand as eschatology. What is the history of the EFCA in this regard? Why has pre-millennialism remained so long in the SOF when it seems so opposite the EFCA’s values and culture? I say this with pre-millennial convictions myself, so I have no theological axe to grind. I am just curious about how this one area of non-essential doctrine has been allowed to stay when it seems all others have been cast out of the SOF.

    • Many agree. I would suggest you read chapter 9 on Article 9 in Evangelical Convictions. You can also learn some from reading through the teaching notes on Article 9.

      Premillennialism is a distinctive that remained in our SOF from 1950. This is why it is accurate to say that in the EFCA we mostly major on the majors and minor on the minors, premillennialism being the reason for the expression mostly.

  3. Which connotation of “premillennialism” does the SOF require one to hold without equivocation or mental reservation?
    1. Historical premillennialism of the early church, e.g., Irenaeus?
    2. 19th century modification of historical premillennialism?
    3. Darby’s 19th century dispensational premillennialism as popularized in the U.S. by Schofield?
    2.1. Pre-trib rapture? Mid-trib rapture? Post-trib rapture?
    4. Post-Scofield dispensational premillennialism?
    5. Some other connotation of premillennialism?
    Thanks for clarifying this.

    • Thank you for your question, Drew. In brief, the EFCA is premillennial, which includes the broader spectrum of premillennial views (Dispensational, Progressive, Historic). Thus, it would encompass the various views you delineate. But we are not pretribulational exclusively. There is a spectrum allowed including pre, mid, pre-wrath and post.

      Here is what is stated in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, pp. 221-222 (these are minimal parameters of what it means to affirm premillennialism)

      “In summary, our affirmation of the premillennial return of Christ in this Statement entails the following:

      1) The kingdom of God will not reach its culmination and fulfillment on earth before Jesus Christ comes in glory.
      2) God’s purposes include the public vindication of Christ. He will be seen to be the King of kings and Lord of lords by all, and he will establish his reign on this earth.
      3) God’s people will be vindicated with Christ in a public and visible way.
      4) The coming of Christ will not simply usher in some spiritual heaven divorced from this created order. In an intermediate stage, Jesus must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet, before he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, ushering in the new heaven and the new earth in the eternal state.
      5) Evil will not be overcome fully and completely when Christ returns in glory, but only after an intermediate kingdom which must precede that final victory of God. There will be one more uprising of the evil one at the end of the millennium, before the dawning of the new heaven and the new earth.

      “Further, we can also say what this Statement affirming premillennialism does not mean:

      1) It does not require a specific position on when Christ will come in relation to a time of great tribulation.
      2) It does not require a certain way of reading the Bible regarding the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, whether that fulfillment is found in the nation of Israel, in Christ, in the church, in the millennium or in the new heaven and the new earth.
      3) It does not entail a particular understanding of Israel and the church or of the current nation-state of Israel.
      4) It does not necessarily mean that Christ’s earthly reign must be a period of precisely one thousand years.”

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