Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Is the EFCA Arminian/Wesleyan (Lutheran) or Calvinist/Reformed regarding the doctrine of salvation?
Historically, Evangelicals affirm that because of sin, God initiates salvation. For one theological stream (Arminian/Wesleyan), they affirm that God initiates through prevenient grace. For another theological stream (Calvinist/Reformed), they affirm that God initiates through effective grace. Though there are differences, in both streams God initiates, and both affirm that He must do so because of the state of all of humankind after the fall of being spiritually dead. Evangelicals deny Pelagianism (condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431) and semi-Pelagianism (condemned at the Council of Orange in 529).
The framers of our 1950 EFCA Statement of Faith wanted to create a statement that was consistent with both Arminian/Wesleyan and Calvinist/Reformed views of salvation, but which required or endorsed neither. This same is true in our 2008 Statement of Faith in which we state “He [the Holy Spirit] regenerates sinners” (Article 6).
What this means regarding the doctrine of salvation, then, is that the EFCA allows Arminian/Wesleyan, Calvinist/Reformed and Lutheran views of soteriology. The fact of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is essential. Both regeneration (the Spirit’s work) and faith (our response) are essential for salvation, and our Statement of Faith affirms both without giving logical priority to either. Whether regeneration precedes faith (Calvinism) or faith precedes regeneration (Arminianism), we have placed this in a secondary category. On a doctrine related to this question, we also allow both perspectives of the possibility of apostasy (one can fall away and lose one’s salvation) and the perseverance of the saints (eternal security).
This does not mean, however, that each and every local church would have an equal number of those positions represented. Each local EFC church would lean in one theological direction more so than another. But whichever way the church leans, the church ought to be welcoming to the person who leans in the other theological direction
In the EFCA this theological doctrine falls into the category of the “significance of silence,” or that area in which we affirm “unity in the essentials, dialogue in the differences,” and without division.