Tuesday, May 01, 2012

When we don't agree on every theological issue!

When it comes to preachers, I have certain ones that are my favorites to listen to and I do so often.  The other day I was listening to one of these speakers.  I love this man's communication style and the way he presents his messages captivate me.  I was listening to as message he did that had me riveted.  As he spoke, God was really using his message in my life.  But about 80% of the way through the video of his sermon that I was watching on-line, he said something that went against every grain of my theological training and convictions.  He stated that he does not believe that the word translated "day" in the creation story is speaking of a literal 24-hour time period.  I was shocked!  How could one of my favorite speakers embrace something so diametrically opposite what I believe.  Obviously, I am more of a literalist when it comes to the creation account in Genesis.

So what am I supposed to do?  Should I never listen to this speaker again?  Should I have a book burning for any books authored by him that are in my library?  Is all credibility lost?  There was a day in which that is exactly what I would have done.  After all, how could I trust the other views of this individual if his view on whether the 6 days of creation were literal or not was off line?

But this is an area where God has grown me in recent years.  At first, this was one of the things that I was very uncomfortable with when God led me a little over a year ago to pastor a church that is part of the Evangelical Free Churches of America (EFCA).  You see, in my previous 24 years of ministry I have only been part of one group of churches and this group pretty much had decisive views on most areas of theology.  For the most part, we all crossed our theological "t's" and dotted our theological "i's" about the same way.  

But the EFCA is much broader in their scope.  They have a statement of faith that is very specific and in which I am 100% in agreement.  But there are many areas in which their statement of faith is silent.  The more I have read about the history and philosophy of the EFCA the more I have learned why they have done this.  There are certain theological issues that are non-negotiable.  For example, Jesus is God and is the only way to heaven.  That is non-negotiable.  The Bible is the inspired Word of God and should be the final authority for our lives.  That is non-negotiable.  Salvation is by faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That is non-negotiable (by the way, those are not the only items in the EFCA statement of faith, just some examples).    

But there are other items in which good men disagree.  Not all EFCA churches believe and teach the same way on these issues.  For example, when it comes to eschatology, I am decisively what is called "pre-trib."  In other words, I believe that the rapture of the church will happen before the tribulation.  I come from a fellowship of churches in which the majority of pastors probably would have believed that way.  Now I pastor a church in which not even everyone on my staff believes that way.

That is where I believe I have grown.  Don't get me wrong.  I have strong convictions about my views on theology and I will teach and preach them clearly in my ministry.  But I have come to realize that a "heretic" is not defined as anyone who believes different than I do an any issue of the Bible or theology.  On the non-negotiables...yes, that's true!  But there are many other issues and I have learned that I can learn from men and be sharpened by men spiritually even if we differ on some of these other areas.  

So, even though I am convinced in my mind and in my spirit that God created the world in 6-literal days, I will keep this one author's books on my shelf (even though we disagree on that point) and I will still watch his messages on the Internet (even though I think he is wrong on this point).  And even though I may at times have to spit out a few bones, I believe I will still be enriched by the meat he serves up through his preaching and through his writings.

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