It should surprise absolutely no one who knows me well that I spend way too much time putting myself and others in boxes. In fact, I once wrote a post in which I confessed the sin that is sometimes present in doing just that. In any case, since my return to historically orthodox Christian theology in mid 2013 or so, I’ve wrestled with finding my people.
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis explains that one can’t actually be a mere Christian. Mere Christianity is just a hallway off of which distinct Christian traditions hang like rooms. You really shouldn’t just hang out in the hallway; for the sake of your spiritual formation, you need to enter a room. I’ve described elsewhere that I hail from the Churches of Christ. While there is quite a lot of good about the Churches of Christ (they sure love the Bible and affirm the centrality of Communion), there is also quite a bit amiss. The central issue I have had with the Churches of Christ as someone who cares about church history and historical theology is that the Churches of Christ, as a whole, are largely ahistorical. Among other things, this has meant that Churches of Christ are unbound by any kind of confession or even broader sense of basic orthodoxy.
If there is “no creed but the Bible,” then we are lost forever in the maze of pervasive interpretive pluralism. Of course, as a matter of practice, Churches of Christ have largely been unified in their readings of Scripture, but I have known folks (not many, of course, but it is telling that they were considered members in good standing) who denied the Trinity (the word is not in the Bible) or (more commonly) who insisted that since Sunday school, kitchens, and missionary boards (to name a few) are not authorized by Scripture, then they are forbidden. Aside from dangerous heresies (like denying the Trinity), this approach is a large exercise in missing the point. (Now, to be clear, I am allowed to critique the CoC since they are my patrimony; leave my family alone and I will leave your baptist/presbyterian/epicopalian/methodist family alone!)
So, when Amanda and I left the Churches of Christ and joined a non-denominational church, it might look like on the surface that we were not making such a big transition (well, we weren’t really; neither of us were committed heart and soul to the Restorationist project), but there is actually quite a bit of daylight between an average Church of Christ and an average non-denominational church. For starters, the non-denom usually has a confession of faith that binds the consciences of the members. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the non-denom usually understands itself as part of a much broader evangelical project that includes Christians from across the spectrum. Even in theologically moderate Churches of Christ, almost every aspect of identity is related to one’s CoC heritage. Our non-denominational church, while having a relatively robust statement of faith, nevertheless understands itself as a big-tent kind of place. It welcomes theological diversity on issues that it considers adiaphora. But it, at least, has clear theological boundaries. My post today is an attempt to set out, in general, where I find myself on matters of secondary importance within orthodox boundaries. This kind of post largely satisfies my need to categorize and label myself.
- I am a small “o” orthodox Christian
- I am a Protestant.
- I am an evangelical.
- I am a soft-inerrantist (I would say that the Bible is without error on all matters to which it intends to speak; context is very important)
- I am a Calvinist as regards soteriology, though I believe the mechanism by which God effects our election is his middle knowledge. This would also make me a Molinist. See this article for how this works. This is also a great article.
- I am a moderate charismatic. I affirm that the ordinary charismatic gifts (tongues and prophesy, namely) are operative today, but I largely believe that the signs and wonders that authenticated the Gospel proclamation by the Apostles has ceased as the ordinary means of operation. Obviously, however, God can do what he wants.
- I affirm covenant theology and reject dispensational theology
- I am an amillenial futurist who, nevertheless, sees many of the prophecies in Daniel, Revelation, the Gospels, and elsewhere as having partial fulfillment during the first century, specifically in the destruction of Jerusalem. In particular, I hold to a future anti-christ (of which Nero was a type), a future apostasy of the Church, and a future Great Tribulation, all preceeding the second coming of Christ. Thus, I often resonate with partial-preterist interpretations of these prophecies while insisting that there will also be future fulfillment of them. I reject “rapture” theology as an innovation and as built on poor exegesis.
- I am a complementary-egalitarian in gender roles for the church and the home, affirming that both men and women can be called a pastors and elders in the church and that marriage ought to be ordered toward non-hierarchical mutual submission while simultaneously affirming the complementary ways that men and women relate to each other out of their essential gender characteristics. I’ve written about this here.
- I am a congregationalist and I affirm rule by elders.
- I believe in two sacraments (rituals ordained by Christ that communicate grace to the recipients): Baptism and Communion; Christ is spiritually present (in the sense Calvin meant) in Communion.
- I affirm other things, called sacramentals, that also communicate grace but were not directly ordained by Christ, principaly marriage and ordination.