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.
Our 2017 Theology Conference will be held February 1-3 on the campus of Trinity International University. The theme of the conference is Reformation 500: Theology and Legacy – The Gospel and the EFCA. In the introduction to the conference, we will focus on the EFCA’s roots in the Reformation and the Reformation’s legacy in the EFCA.
We are excited for this Theology Conference. Not only are we addressing the Reformation, a timely and important theme in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, but we have some of the foremost scholars addressing the various themes/topics of the Conference.
Our preconference will also be excellent, as we address, in a debate format, the important theme of “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible Speak Definitively on the Age of the Universe?” This will be followed by a time of focusing on the application of these matters in the context of a local church, providing guidance to pastors and leaders as they think about, navigate and lead through these discussions.
“We believe in one God, Creator of all things,” we profess in our Statement of Faith. This is a summary of the Bible’s teaching on the doctrine of creation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” (Gen. 1:1); “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good,” (Gen. 1:31); “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1); and “all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16).
While affirming God is the Creator of all things, does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe? Does affirming inerrancy mandate a certain hermeneutic? Does our hermeneutic require a certain interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis? Additionally, what is the relation between our biblical conclusions and science? And how do we as believers who affirm the inerrancy and authority of the Bible carry on these discussions as theologians and scientists in the context of the local church?
An Academic Debate
C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, and Albert Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will shed light on these issues in a debate format. They will address these issues and answer the question, with Collins answering “no,” and with Mohler answering “yes.” After the debate, we will address the implementation and application of these matters in the context of a local church, providing guidance to pastors and leaders as they think about, navigate and lead through these discussions.
More specifically, it is one thing to carry on this discussion, even a debate, in an academic setting. Collins and Mohler will present their positions, and do so strongly along with their differences, and then warmly shake hands and it is done. They will return to their respective denominations and local churches who likely see things similarly.
A Local Church Discussion/Debate
However, it is another matter when these views are held by two elders in the same local church. In these situations, how are these matters discussed and debated among elders with differing views, strongly held, with proponents of one view claiming adherents of the other view deny biblical inerrancy? How should pastors lead this discussion before it becomes a debate? How should the approach differ if one already is in the midst of debate, disagreement and conflict?
Although it is easier to lead in the former setting, many will find themselves in the latter situation. Most do not consider the importance of this discussion until after it has become an issue with sides and positions sharply drawn. Pastors, elders, leaders and churches need help and guidance to know how to think about, navigate and lead through these issues in the context of their local church ministry.
In our final concluding session of the debate, we will include a case study of this debate from the context of a local church for attendees to discuss in small groups. It is important that we think about and learn from one another before it becomes an issue in the local church. As part of this time, we will also learn from one another: how would/will you respond to the situation presented, how will you prevent it from happening, how will you guide the discussion, how did you respond if you experienced something similar, what resources do you recommend, what is going well, what did not work, what counsel would you give to fellow pastors and leaders, among other questions. We will also provide a list of resources so you have some materials to help in guiding and leading this discussion before it becomes divisive.
We affirm without reservation or equivocation the biblical truth “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). We profess with conviction, “We believe in one God, Creator of all things” (EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 1, God). We also profess with that same conviction “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” (EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 2, The Bible). With these foundational and essential truths, we humbly and charitably engage in dialogue and debate regarding the question, “Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?”