Simple Free is not officially in the EFCA–Evangelical Free Church of America (technically the Evangelical Free Church is not a Denomination but an association of churches– but it acts in many ways like a denomination), but we do agree with the EFCA statement of Faith, so its probably worthwhile to take some time to highlight it and explain what it is exactly that the statement says and what it doesn’t say. Here is the statement in its entirety (below). It is very short, and consists of only 10 statements. Those statements highlight what the Free Church considers to be essential aspects of belief for a Christian. Some churches will find these statements to be too tight, others will find them to be too loose. Some churches have ‘essentials’ which I myself would consider non-essential, whereas some churches would not find these statements essential, and I wouldn’t feel at home there either. So statements are important, because they give you some idea of what really matters to a church. I will put up some blogs in the coming weeks on each of the 10 statements.
There are a lot of things to unpack in this statement, and thats what I hope to do a little in the upcoming blog posts. I sure hope people will respond with insights, responses and disagreements. Of course Christians from different denominations/associations get along and believe other Christians in others can be fantastically wonderful beautiful Christians. Sometimes people tend to think of denominations/associations as a means to decide ‘who is in, who is out’ but it might be more useful to think of denominations/associationsas a powerful societal/organizational structure to help bring about encouragement, accountability and resources for like-minded people who agree on basics so that they can do more together than alone (think especially of larger projects such as mission-aid projects etc which most churches couldn’t do very effectively or on a large scale on their own) Nevertheless, a statement like this is like a vision or mission statement– it is something you sign on for, and agree with. If you don’t buy in, then you aren’t going to be in the Free Church. Obviously that doesn’t mean you can’t be a Christian in some other denomination/association, but these statements are believed by anyone in the Free Church to be essential truths about Christianity and the Church.
The EFCA (of which we are NOT an official member) has as essentials theological distintive beliefs. These are beliefs about God, the Bible, our condition, who Jesus is, what he did, the Holy Spirit, what the church is and what its purpose is, Christian living, the return of Christ and the eternal significance of our lives. The Free Church would say that these distinctives highlight the essentials of what it is to be a Christian.
But silence is as important as speaking. There are thousands of things the statement does not directly cover and refuses to cover. What is at the core of the unity of the Free Church is that Scripture is taken as authoritative, so whatever your position is, it better have some serious backing in Scripture. Conversely, if you try to tell people in the Free Church that something is essential when its not specifically addressed in Scripture, or not clearly addressed in Scripture, then you are likely to be seen as too narrow. The Free Church has no particular position on Predestination for example (except that your view, whatever it is, had better be rooted in Scripture), or on how men and women should interact in marriage. You can be a Calvinist and be in the Free Church and hold your convictions about predestination, but you can’t expect to force your particular viewpoint of predestination on everyone else. The Free Church may have unspoken traditions or tendencies– you may find for example that there is a lot of tetotalling (not drinking any alcohol) but this is rooted more in the Scandanavian heritage than anything– from a time when you were either an alcoholic or a non-drinker. But these traditions are not Biblically based and so are not considered essential (although they may be rooted in some good arguments in their own right). The centrality of Scripture means that any one person’s opinion or viewpoint or interpretation is to be assessed and judged in light of the Bible. If you don’t take scripture seriously to begin with, then you probably won’t take the Free Church too seriously either. Here is the statement:
Statement of Faith
Adopted by the Conference on June 26, 2008
The Evangelical Free Church of America is an association of autonomous churches united around these theological convictions:
1. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
2. We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, 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. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
The Human Condition
3. We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
4. We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus-Israel’s promised Messiah-was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
The Work of Christ
5. We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
The Holy Spirit
6. We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
7. We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
8. We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
9. We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
Response and Eternal Destiny
10. We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.