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We knew that questions would arise when the revised Statement of Faith was approved by delegates at the 2008 Leadership Conference. This theological exposition provides a commentary on that statement, expounding its truths and clarifying both what it says and what it does not say. This book serves as a guide for anyone interested in what we in the EFCA have agreed to be our common theological foundation, our theological convictions.
It is the ethos of the EFCA to major on the majors and minor on the minors. We consider as “major” all those issues that are absolutely essential to an understanding of the gospel. Historically, however, the EFCA has held two convictions that some might call unique to our movement but not essential to an understanding of the gospel. Those are congregational polity and premillennial eschatology.
After much discussion, congregational polity was moved from the Statement of Faith articles to the preamble (and is retained in our EFCA Articles of Incorporation). While “congregational” is our chosen form of church polity, it does not rise to the same level of theological significance as the other articles.
The retention of premillennial eschatology was vigorously debated. It was finally determined to be a denominational distinctive and conviction rather than a gospel essential. Yet without it, the 2008 Statement of Faith would not have received the necessary two-thirds majority for passage. So it was retained in the Statement of Faith, with the understanding that it will be reviewed at some point in the future.
This book is an EFCA document—not the views and insights of just one person. Two individuals headed up the project and did the writing, but others reviewed and vetted the drafts.
Evangelical Convictions serves the EFCA’s pastors, leaders and members by conveying the theology, history and ethos of the broader EFCA movement. In many ways, the book’s purpose is the same as Dr. Arnold T. Olson’s This We Believe, which for 50 years has served to clarify the 1950 Statement of Faith.
Yes, a study guide and a new version of the membership manual are already in the works. Future resources might include a 10-week Bible study for small groups and new materials for training students in the local church.
Evangelical Convictions is theologically rich and deep but accessible to all who are serious about theology. The book delineates the parameters of our theology in a straightforward manner, while encouraging all within those parameters to appreciate the wonderful truth of our convictions.
Perceived weaknesses may include a lack of clarity on certain issues that we historically have put into the “significance of silence” category (those “minor” doctrinal issues that will be debated but over which we will not divide); as well as the fact that the authors did not interact with a lot of contemporary literature. The former speaks to our ethos (being centered on the essentials of the gospel while granting liberty on the nonessentials), and the latter arises from our desire to have a more timeless document.
Several theological issues such as the doctrines of creation, sin, atonement, miraculous gifts, ordinances, Christian living and eschatology were clarified, while still leaving room for some variation of beliefs within the EFCA.
Evangelical Convictions will be used as required reading for ministerial credentials, pastoral training and EFCA ReachGlobal training, and we envision it as useful in adult education in local churches and ministries. I believe that others will value this book as an exposition of how the EFCA is established on a gospel-centered theology.
I pray that our 2008 Statement of Faith will serve this generation as well as the 1950 statement served previous generations—that it will not only be used to affirm essential doctrinal truth and protect from doctrinal error, but also be used to proclaim the gospel, expanding God’s kingdom among all people. I also pray that this book will be a vital tool, an invaluable resource in the ongoing efforts to ensure we remain centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
*Visit EFCA.org to read the Statement of Faith, the Articles of Incorporation and more background on who we are as an EFCA movement.
Order Evangelical Convictions from NextStep Resources.
Bill Hamel has served as president of the Evangelical Free Church of America since June 1997. He and his wife, Karen, are members of South Suburban EFC in Apple Valley, Minn.