Archives For EFCA Statement of Faith

At the EFCA One conference, during one of the plenary sessions we corporately confessed the EFCA Statement of Faith, which was followed by a time of corporate prayer.

This was grounded in the notion of lex orandi, lex credendi, which means “the law of praying [is] the law of believing.” The heart of this expression refers to the relationship between worship and belief, belief evidenced in what we pray, the heart of worship.

In this service we broke up into groups of 3-5 people. We corporately confessed each Article of the Statement of Faith, which was followed by a time spent in prayer focusing on that Article. I have included this below.

We did this in 20 minutes, taking two minutes for each Article. Confessing each Article took about 30 seconds and we prayed for 1 ½ minutes. The two items focused upon in prayer were thanksgiving and petition/intercession. Due to the limited time, I encouraged people to pray brief prayers. I also guided them by informing them that not all will pray on each Article, but that everyone will pray.

Corporately confessing our Statement of Faith accompanied by prayer was a deeply rich and meaningful time of affirming truth in the context of worship.

EFCA Statement of Faith

God 

  1. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
  • Thank God for who He is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.
  • Might we rest in His sovereign power, and have a sense of our role in his gracious purpose to make all things new for His glory.

 

The Bible 

  1. We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. 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.
  • Thank the Lord that He is there and He is not silent.
  • Might we believe, obey and trust God and His Word.

 

The Human Condition 

  1. We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from  God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
  • Thank the Lord that through Christ we have been rescued, reconciled and renewed.
  • Might we look at others as fellow image-bearers and be assured the only hope is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus Christ 

  1. We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
  • Thank the Lord for the heavenly intercessory ministry of Christ on our behalf.
  • Might we engage in intercessory prayer for others.

 

The Work of Christ 

  1. We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
  • Thank the Lord that Jesus Christ is our representative and substitute, the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins.
  • Might we recommit to the truth that Jesus’ atoning death is the only ground for salvation.

 

The Holy Spirit

  1. We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
  • Thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit’s ministry of regeneration, union with Christ and adoption.
  • Might we grow in Christ-like living and service.

 

The Church 

  1. We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
  • Thank the Lord for the truth of justification and becoming part of the church with Jesus as the Head and we are the body.
  • Might we proclaim and manifest the gospel.

 

Christian Living 

  1. We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
  • Thank God that He who began a good work will complete it.
  • Might we love God supremely and others sacrificially, be delivered from the evil one, and make disciples among all people, bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.

 

Christ’s Return 

  1. We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
  • Thank God that the crucified Lord is the conquering King and He rules and reigns.
  • Might we cry Maranatha, and live with constant expectancy and a sure and certain hope that results in godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.

 

Response and Eternal Destiny

  1. We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.
  • Thank God for His end-time verdict and plan realized in a new heaven and new earth to the praise of His glorious grace.
  • Might we worship God for His grace and mercy in granting eternal life, and might we sense the weight of eternal conscious punishment and our call to be ambassadors.

In 1997 the EFCA Board of Ministerial Standing (BOMS) began a five-year reaffirmation process for all those credentialed in the EFCA, requiring that they reaffirm belief in the Statement of Faith (SOF). The reason is that often doctrinal drift occurs after one has been credentialed. If those shifts are not tracked and there is little to no accountability, it has a huge effect on the local church, and if left unchecked it will eventually influence, infect and affect negatively the denomination.

Included in the reaffirmation was the expression pertaining to the complete SOF, “without mental reservation.” Where did this expression originate?

In the midst of the Fuller Seminary debate of the 1960s, some faculty were shifting their position from belief in the inerrancy of Scripture to a view of “limited inerrancy,” or more accurately errancy. (This is why the further definition of affirming inerrancy in matters of faith and practice is problematic. It potentially falls into the limited inerrancy view. No proponent of inerrancy ought to be content with that definition. Affirming inerrancy means it is also true in matters of history and science [although not a science textbook, when addressing matters pertaining to science, it is inerrant].)  Thus, although their confessional statement clearly and explicitly stated belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures, some of these faculty signed the confessional statement but they did so with “mental reservations.”

Ken Kantzer attended these meetings, along with other TEDS professors, Gleason Archer and John Warwick Montgomery.  These three were the contingent representing TEDS which was rooted in a strong commitment to the inerrancy of the Word of God, a position originating in the EFCA’s SOF, since TEDS is a confessional school of the EFCA. (To read of some of this history, cf. George M. Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995], 47, 224-228.)

During this time in 1997 when BOMS carried on this discussion about the importance of reaffirming the SOF, Ken Kantzer was serving on BOMS as the TEDS tenured faculty representative.  This, or he, is the genesis of the expression and expectation of what the EFCA now requires of all those initially credentialed and when they reaffirm their commitment to the SOF every five years: “Do you subscribe to and affirm without mental reservation each article of the EFCA Statement of Faith?”

This provides some history to yesterday’s post on what BOMS means by the expression. BOMS will get questions about Article 9 and “premillennialism,” and whether or not it is necessary to reaffirm that belief “without mental reservation.” This is included in our SOF which means it must be affirmed as one affirms and reaffirms the SOF. This is the SOF affirmed by the Conference and it must be upheld until or unless the Conference makes a decision to revise it.

This is one reason why that until or unless the Conference revises the SOF, and in this case removing premillennialism, we cannot credential those who have mental reservations on premillennialism. This decision is rooted in accountability and integrity. Most understand there are different issues between some statements in the SOF, and most would consider the SOF to consist of gospel essentials with the exception being premillennialism, which would be considered more of a distinctive. The majority of those in the EFCA concur: they would not want someone to have “mental reservations” on the Trinity, the Scriptures, the full deity and humanity of Christ, or any other article for that matter, though most, if not all, of those cannot say the same thing about premillennialism.

In a sense what we can say is that although premillennialism is not a soteriological essential, it is an EFCA distinctive and since it is in our SOF it does at least become an “essential” for the EFCA. This may be confusing, viz. how many essentials do we have?, but in the EFCA in discussing our SOF we need to discern what kind of essential we are discussing. (Our SOF has two major essentials, soteriological essentials (Articles 1, 3-10) and an epistemological essential (Article 2, the word of God), with two EFCA distinctives (congregational autonomy (preamble) and premillennialism (Article 9).)

Though this may well be an accurate description of those in the EFCA, and though there is a difference in doctrinal weight as noted above, it would be a dangerous and unwise step to allow people to affirm the EFCA SOF with “mental reservations.” If it is allowed on premillennialism, why not one or any of the others? I understand there may be and are reasons and rationales for making a distinction. But at the end of the day, one must not begin to make concessions to a SOF or it begins to be compromised. When affirming a SOF there ought to be no hedging, crossing of fingers or winking, affirming while denying. If any change is made, it must be discussed and decided by the Conference, and then once determined, that is what we affirm.

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.

 

 

How does Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, relate to the Statement of Faith (SOF) and credentialing. What kind of authority does EC have? 

The Board of Ministerial Standing (BOMS) has been asked this question, particularly as it relates to credentialing and the five-year reaffirmation of the SOF. The origin of the question is that some conclude all that is necessary is to affirm belief in the EFCA SOF. The problem is the breadth of individual interpretation and understanding. Who deliberates the various ways individuals affirm the SOF?

There are numerous historical examples in which this individual interpretation has occurred which undermines a SOF. In one instance, one taught at an Evangelical college and converted to Roman Catholicism. When it came time to reaffirm the college’s Evangelical SOF, the professor signed it in “good” conscience and claimed it could be done based on one’s own understanding and interpretation of the SOF. Without some exposition or commentary on the SOF, who determines whether this person can legitimately do this or not?

This is one of the ways a SOF is undermined. One in “good” conscience states they affirm the SOF “without mental reservation,” but they do so based on their own personal understanding of the SOF. But a SOF is not so elastic that it is open to any and all various interpretations. Otherwise it means something other than intended. Someone at some point needs to define/explain what is meant. In the EFCA, we have been up-front with that so people know what it means, along with the parameters.

BOMS has affirmed the following statement.

 

Statement of Faith and Evangelical Convictions

It is important to precede our BOMS statement by what has already been written in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, p. 19:

This book, published under the authority of the EFCA Board of Directors1, seeks to give clarity to the theological convictions contained in our Statement – spelling out what is affirmed and what is denied (and what is not addressed). Beyond that, it will expound these convictions – helping the reader understand and appreciate the wonderful truth contained in this brief and concise confession.

1. This book was drafted by members of the Spiritual Heritage Committee, but its content was vetted by numerous EFCA pastors and others in various areas of EFCA leadership and ministry, including President William J. Hamel, members of the Board of Ministerial Standing (which includes District Superintendents and the Chair of the Ministerial Association), representatives of ReachGlobal and faculty from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Evangelical Convictions and Credentialing

In discerning the meaning of the Statement of Faith as it pertains to credentialing, BOMS uses Evangelical Convictions as the “determinative guideline” as spelled out in the following statement:

Evangelical Convictions is a theological exposition of our Statement of Faith reflecting a consensus of the EFCA, as affirmed through the EFCA Board of Ministerial Standing and the EFCA Board of Directors, regarding the meaning of our Statement of Faith, and it is the determinative guideline in responding to questions raised during the credentialing process related to the Statement of Faith.