Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Premillennial

A few people I know are in the process of planting a church. They're doing this under the banner of an American church-planting organisation (I hadn't realised that such things even existed), and I'm totally supportive of the plant. But I had a read through of the 'statement of faith' of the parent organisation (on their website) and it managed to include the word 'pre-millennial'...

Why?

I'm not an expert on the theology of Revelation, but as I understand it, there are four reasonably common interpretations of the text (see below), two of which include the 'pre-millennial' return of Christ. However, the text isn't totally clear. Any of the four readings of the text(s) are plausible.
For what its worth, on the basis of this graphic presentation of the four options, I'd probably fall into the 'amillennialism' camp. But that's not really the point here.

The point is, why make this statement?

By specifying 'premillennial' in the basis of faith, the organisation is drawing a line in the sand that I do not believe has to be there. By making that statement they are -effectively- saying "only certain types of Christians get to be part of our church". And by making the statement they are acknowledging that there is another opinion; and rejecting it.

There are certain things that should be part of a statement of faith. "Jesus is Lord" is kind of central in all streams of Christianity, the bible is unambiguous on that. But why should a church take a definite stance on one side of an issue on which the bible is ambiguous?

Can we not have the grace to say "we don't know" on certain issues? Can we not graciously allow differences of opinion on non-central issues to exist within our churches? Can we not be a bit less dogmatic on our statements of faith?

8 comments:

Jason said...

You left off what one professor I had used to call"panmillenial" as in: it will all pan out in the end. :) I agree, that while there are some things that are non-negotiable, there are some issues that should not be deal breakers in determining associations and relationships among followers of Jesus.

Marcus G said...

Churches split on less than this. Less than a couple of unclear prophetic verses which may or may not be about the future and may or may not be poetic and may or may not be a reference to a culture of nearly 2000 years ago rather than the return of Christ?

Sure. You have to be God to love these people. Thank goodness he is.

I agree that it seems strict to insist on a badge of faith that says "I follow Jesus and like the colour yellow & was born on a Tuesday" before allowing entrance to a fellowship; as if people would otherwise be impurely infiltrating the place.

I'm afraid this particular debate passes me by. I do think it's based on a real misinterpretation of Scripture, but then who am I to presume I've got everything right...

Who am I? Someone who looks at that debate, and respectfully disagrees.

Ricky Carvel said...

Yellow?

I was born on a Thursday and prefer blue!

Heretic! ;o)

Mike Arthur said...

Great post as usual Ricky!

Yeh, I tend to lean with you guys about this. In my opinion if there's a divide on an issue in the church, Jesus didn't speak about it and there seems to be wise, solid Christians on each side it's probably a sign that it doesn't matter that much.

Markio said...

As much as I don't personally go in for this particular area of debate (Jason's professor has the best view I think), I imagine we all put up bariers around the type of Christianity we like, perhaps we just don't write it down.

Ricky Carvel said...

Oh yes, I know we all put up 'barriers' and divide the world into 'us' and 'them' but here the issue is that a church organisation has identified a barrier (what I consider to be a very minor one) and has formalised its place and made an issue of it. Potentially adding a significant number of folk to the 'them' category who could be 'us'...

Its either intentionally divisive (in which case I am thoroughly against it) or unintentionally divisive (in which case I am annoyed by it). Jesus was exceptionally welcoming to all; except those who made an issue of tithing their herbs while ignoring the bigger issues.

Markio said...

I've read somewhere (come to think of it, it might have been here) that doctrines are often used not to express religious convictions, but rather social-cultural-political opinions.

Take for example the statements of faith during the reformation, were they they to encourage faith in the risen Christ? Or were they there to explain what makes "our system" different from "their -decidedly corupt- system"?

Although not perfect, I think some freedom should be given to groups to say "this is us", "this is what makes us unique".

Ricky Carvel said...

Oh, I have no problem with a group stating their unique identity.

Except when that statement creates unnecessary division.

But the impression I get when reading the gospels is that Jesus wanted his followers to be united, not divided...