Looking for Home in a Post-Denominational Context
My grandparents were/are Episcopalian, Dutch Reformed, and Baptist. My Dad was saved in a United church, but received his early discipleship in a Brethren church. My mother is Baptist.
In my childhood, I spent time in a Brethren church, then (when we moved to a small town without a Brethren church) switched to a Baptist church. In my early teens said Baptist church split, and I – along with a handful of my friends – switched to a Mennonite Church. Later in my teens, I also spent time in a nearby Pentacostal church, which needed a bass player.
I earned my B.A. at the non-denominational Nipawin Bible College. In theory, they are non-denominational, but because the dean of education was Baptist, most of their education swung in that direction.
I am just finishing up my M.A. from Briercrest College and Seminary. They too are theoretically non-denomination. However, since their dean of education is resolutely Barthian, their education certainly leans in that direction.
[My wife was raised Baptist but has her own story of influence by Pentacostalism and Mennonitism. We are a good fit that way, although our beliefs don’t always line up exactly.]
Through all my church and educational life, people have encouraged me to not just believe what others believe, but to search the Scriptures to find out what I believe on various topics.
This advice I have followed. Below are my present beliefs on a range of important topics. (Listed in approximate order of importance).
Inerrancy vc. Errancy: I am unsure where I stand on this doctrine. Because of its importance, I will focus on it next.
Pacifism vs. Just War. I think that Just War is a perversion of Christianity. Although I am still sorting it out, I think Pacifism is the truest expression of Jesus’ teaching. (see posts under « pacifism » under index of topics to the right)
Calvinism/Arminianism: I will need to take some time, in later posts, to explain my beliefs. Basically, I think we need to balance both. I think it is a « matter of perspective. » If I were to look at the world from God’s perspective, I would be a Calvinist. If I were to look at the world from a human perspective, I would be an Arminian. Different passages of Scripture seem to speak from either perspective.
Eternal Security: I don’t think it’s as simple as saying, « One you ‘say the prayer’ you can’t lose your salvation. » We are secure as long as we are walking in fellowship with God. (posts to come on this in the future)
Hell: I believe in a literal Hell, which is a place designed for the Devil and his angels into which all who do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour will be thrown. This means that we must cut the chit-chat and start evangelizing ASAP. There is no mission, agenda, ideal or program as important as saving people from eternal conscious torment in Hell! (see posts under « hell » on tab, to right, « index of topics »)
Liberalism: After a battle which (without hyperbole) I can say to have been the struggle of my life, I have finally emerged from the clutches of academia, to hold a definite position on The Gospel, and the perversions of it in our culture, known as « liberalism » (see « what is liberalism« ). If I joined a denomination or church which did not take a hard stance on this topic, I fear that I would quickly feel constrained to either leave or to split the denomination. I feel that strongly about these issues! This is the new heresy of our day: we need a new Paul and a new Epistle to the Galatians to give us clarity and focus on these topics!
Emergent: I sympathize with many in my generation (e.g. Mark Driscoll, Bruxy Cavey) who feel the need for a fresh, exciting new « relaunch » of Christianity, which includes dropping some of the baggage concerning peripheral matters like rock music, social drinking, dressing like we’re stuck in 1952, and being married to a certain order of service in church. However, I do not sympathize with people (e.g. Brian Maclaren,Rob Bell) who are using this push for a « new » Christianity to introduce ideas from Liberalism (see above) into Christianity (post to come on this soon).
So, to summarize: some would find me very « emergent, » some would call me « anti-emergent. » It depends on the topic, and who is doing the name-calling. (Note: Lord-willing I will be publishing a short e-book containing my blog from my « emergent phase »)
Ethics: I believe that God has concrete moral standards for humanity. Breaking these standards is « sin. » Like a spouse who says they are married to/committed to parter « A, » while living and sleeping with partner « B, » a Christian cannot remain in sin while claiming to follow Christ. Therefore, as much as we emphasize God’s free gift of grace, we also must hold to the concrete standards of « right-and-wrong » outlined in the Bible (see « sin lists and why we (should) love them« ). Among the most important of these in today’s context are abortion and homosexuality.
Eschatology: I DON’T CARE about this topic! It annoys me. It puts me to sleep! It frustrates me! I THINK IT IS A USELESS AND DIVISIVE TOPIC!!! However, if I had to choose, I would likely say I am a post-trib, pre-mil rapture person. Meaning, I don’t believe in a Tim Lahaye-style rapture. I think the church will go through the tribulation, and be purified by it, just as the church has gone through (and been purified by) many, many such tribulations from its earliest days. I do not know when « the end » will come, but (just to counter-ballance others) I am tentatively leaning towards 3010 AD. We need to live our lives as though He may return imminently: we also need to live as though he may not return for another millennium – because nothing is saying that He can’t wait that long.
Israeology: This topic is, of course, tied to Eschatology and – to some extent – pacifism. I have not researched this topic as much as I need to. I do not know what I believe about the future of Israel, or how that will all work out. I have strong reservations, however, about the Evangelical push towards building a temple, and supporting the (secular!) state of Israel at any cost.
Environmentalism: The first commandment which God gave to humanity was to « rule creation » later, He told them to « care for and cultivate it. » Even though this world will eventually be destroyed, this mandate has not been revoked. We rich, materialistic Westerners need to repent of our attitude towards the environment, especially when we consider that this world may be around for another millennium. Where will our great-great grand-children be, if we continue to abuse the World at our present rate?
This being said, I still believe that eternity and souls are more important than trees and pandas. This issue is essential, but it is infinitely secondary when compared to evangelism and missions. (see here and here: more posts to follow)
Pentacostalism: I am part of what has been described as « the third wave » of Pentacostalism. Although I only briefly attended a Petnacostal church, I have been very influenced by Pentacostal ideas in books, music, literature and especially Scriptures. Although I don’t believe in a secondary « baptism of the Holy Spirit, » nor do I believe in so-called « sign gifts, » I do believe that speaking in tongues, prophecy, healings and the like are available to Christians today. I believe that God can and does speak to us – not just in Scriptures but through the internal witness of His Holy Spirit. (see post on « listening prayer« )
Complementarian: After a long and (sometimes bitter) struggle with the egalitarian movement, I finally landed on Complementarianism. (See posts here: a concluding/wrap-up sermon is to come!)
Philosophy: I follow Van Til’s Reformed Epistemology in as my basic philosophical/epistemological framework.
Karl Barth: I am not exactly sure where to put this, but I have also studied Karl Barth. Unlike most of the educated elite in our day, I have concluded that (while having some very good points on certain topics) the core of his theology is rotten. His thoughts are behind much of the « out there » beliefs of the Emergent church (for e.g. Rob Bell’s book Love Wins) So I would not be comfortable in a setting where Barth is seen as the answer to everything.
Now tell me, where do I « Fit, » considering my beliefs?!?
As you will no-doubt see, my determination to « just find out what the Bible says » has lead me to beliefs which are all over the denominational landscape. Especially difficult are my beliefs, on the one hand, in pacifism while at the same time appreciating and enjoying much Reformed and Baptist materials.
I used to hate denominations, feeling they are too constraining. Now, I long for one. Where can I call home? Where can I fit in? Where can I find like-minded people with which to do ministry?
It seems that whichever mission I choose, I will be constrained to forever be at tension with people on some points, while agreeing on others.
Perhaps there will be no « home » which will completely « fit » until we all « see clearly » at the end of time (1 Cor. 13:12-13)