Reformed elder/teacher in a dispensational church

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Santiago, Feb 22, 2019.

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  1. Santiago

    Santiago Puritan Board Freshman

    When my wife and were preparing to move to Vancouver, WA, I tried to find a Reformed Baptist congregation. I only found one, but it was very small and had virtually no children. We then tried a dispensational Baptist church but we were told we could not become members or ever hold positions because we are amillennial and could not sign their declaration of faith and state that we are in full agreement with its mandatory premillennial declaration (apparently not being a premillennial is heresy these days in most Baptist circles). We ended up joining a non-denominational (Baptist-light) dispensational congregation. My daughter loves it and its the first time she can’t wait to go to church each week (she’s now 5- my son is still a toddler). I spoke with the pastor early on and he said this difference did not involve essentials of Christian faith so we could just state our differences and still become full members. I was later asked to be the junior high Sunday School teacher. Then I was asked to be an elder. The committee selecting the elder candidates probed into my doctrinal beliefs and didn’t feel that it disqualified me to be a spiritual leader. But, I feel strongly about not causing dissension or confusion (it is a young church- 10 years old- and most of the congregation are very new in the faith and coming out of Catholicism so they are easily confused). The pastor is careful to agree that other eschatological views are valid in his teaching but doesn’t go into them (understandably). But, my students ask a lot of questions that are answered very differently from reformed vs. dispensational perspectives- particularly relating the OT and NT. I’m trying to respect the beliefs of their parents but feel a little guilty that I am planting reformed seeds of thought in my teaching. When I provide sermons to the congregation, I try very hard to stay on neutral ground. I am finding all of this exhausting. The pastor and fellow elders respect me and say that they have no doubt I did a lot of deep study over the years to be where I am now (since they know I was raised Dispensational) but never ask the “why” question. Should I continue this balancing act as a teacher or step down? Ironically, I don’t feel the same level of strain as an elder. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.


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  2. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Your new church pastor seems to be exercising godly wisdom here in regards to different viewpoints in theology being permitted, and would probably just make sure to keep him up to date on just what you are planning to teach in your class. The tension will be when you find yourself trying to explain Bible doctrines from a Covenant theology mode, but that can be overcome by just stressing that it is another way to view the scriptures themselves.
     
  3. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior

    Advice given specifically within the context of the form of Polity at a non-denominational church:

    So long as you have expressed your confessional positions to the Elders and they have not placed any limitations on what you can teach, then faithfully teach sound biblical doctrine and pray for reformation in the doctrine and practice of the congregation in which you serve.:2cents::detective:
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  4. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    May I ask what form of dispensationalism they hold to at present? Are they just believers in premillennialism and the secret rapture or would they closely follow the teachings of the Scofield Reference Bible?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  5. Santiago

    Santiago Puritan Board Freshman

    Definitely more generalized- like reading Chuck Swindoll rather than Ryrie or Scofield. It is a Hispanic church so I doubt any have a Scofield Reference Bible.


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  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    So, in that case, they are not hard-core dispensationalists? They seem to be open to other views, which is at least a start.
     
  7. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Maybe staying away from eschatology is good. Honestly, if you emphasize the importance of evangelizing to Jews when applicable, that might be enough (not a bad topic anyhow). It sounds like their theology is broadly evangelical and isn’t so sharply defined. You might be able to openly present Reformed themes without offending their sensibilities.

    I’ve been praying for you that things settle to a good place.
     
  8. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    When you don't personally agree with your church's teaching on a matter, but a question about the matter comes up in Sunday school, one way to respond is to explain that believers sometimes disagree about what answer the Bible gives, and briefly explain the various views. I've done that a fair number of times.
     
  9. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

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  10. Paul1976

    Paul1976 Puritan Board Freshman

    If I might add a comment, I came from a church broadly similar to the dispensational ones you attended (probably closer to the first in terms of being militantly premillennial...). My journey towards reformed theology started with a pastor who was reformed suggesting some reading to me. I had no idea what reformed theology was, or even that this pastor was reformed. (The church was a bit unusual - a vaguely Baptist sort of non-denominational with two senior pastors who preached equally.) It took a while, but that was really what pushed me towards discovering reformed theology.

    I do appreciate that you are rightly not trying to make waves or overtly push a different theology than the church holds. I think you can continue to do that while helping people to see aspects of reformed theology for themselves. For me, being encouraged to read "Desiring God" was the biggest catalyst (Piper is generally respected in Baptist circles and is excellent at writing books undergirded by aspects of reformed theology in a way that dispensationalists are more able to read and appreciate.)

    The problem with dispensationalism isn't the wacky eschatology or dividing things into dispensations. Fundamentally, it is an overly literal hermeneutic. The two peoples of God (ethnic Israel and the church) is a direct consequence of a literal reading of promises made to Israel requiring a future literal fulfillment - any kingdom promises to Israel can't be fulfilled spiritually in the church, they have to be physically fulfilled to ethnic Israel. Ezekiel describes a temple with specific physical dimensions, daily sacrifices, and a river flowing to a freshwater dead sea? It can't be a picture of a time when God is powerfully present with his people and his blessings flow to the nations. It's gotta be specific future historical details of the millennium. Nevermind that daily sacrifices would be an affront to Christ's perfect sacrifice. Nevermind that this reading means virtually nothing to believers except for some extra details on a chart.

    When I was dispensational, I doubt anyone on this board could have convinced me from scriptures my position was wrong by showing holes in the eschatology (although there are many). What eventually convinced me is how vastly richer and more meaningful the text of scripture becomes when seen symbolically and spiritually. There are plenty of opportunities in teaching to highlight how rich a symbolic/spiritual reading of many texts can be that don't specifically contradict your churches theology that can help people to see some of the fruits of a more covenantal reading of scripture.
     
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That's good to hear. I have some problems with the dispie-light of Swindoll, but those are workable problems and don't entail two ways of salvation, etc. etc.

    This might help: what is the most objectionable dispie think they teach? Let's see what that is and if it is a deal-breaker.

    That's an important question to ask because I am pre-wrath, premil and some people just lump all premillennialisms together as dispensationalism.
     
  12. Santiago

    Santiago Puritan Board Freshman

    I doubt most of them would know what dispensationalism is if asked directly. I know I had no idea when I was in my late 20s and bought a Ryrie study Bible to use. The notes drove me crazy and it took some research to figure out what was going on with his interpretations. That’s when I realized I was dispensational-light and that I hadn’t thought many of my beliefs through to their logical conclusions. I think they are in the same boat, actually. They see Israel and the church as distinct. They believe in a literal 1,000 year reign that follows a mid-trib rapture. Reestablished temple, etc. I don’t think they have contemplated if the OT Law is actually capable of saving in and of itself or if Israel and the church will remain separate into eternity. I also don’t think it has occurred to the congregation that renewed temple sacrifice is blasphemy against Christ and His perfect atonement. True dispensationalism is getting hard to pin down since it has become more moderate (even DTS has calmed down quite a bit, right?). My hunch is that a vast majority would not agree with a lot of what Scofield, Ryrie, or Chafer had to say. It’s kind of like a few socialist programs being kind of attractive until one finds full-fledged communism emerging at the other end.


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  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I lean towards that. If they are mid trib then they have moved sharply away from old school Dispensational.
     
  14. Santiago

    Santiago Puritan Board Freshman

    Oops, I misspoke. Pre-trib rapture.


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  15. Joseph Knowles

    Joseph Knowles Puritan Board Freshman

    Similarly to this, I recently had the chance to give a presentation on covenant theology in a Wednesday night men's group. The teacher comes from a dispensationalist viewpoint (the class is on the topic of the rapture), but he has been open to giving other viewpoints a fair hearing. I think if you get opportunities to teach sound doctrine and all your cards are on the table for other church leaders, you should proceed with teaching what you are convinced is true.

    As an aside: I had a conversation recently with a church leader about language in a church document suggesting that pre-trib rapture was an essential doctrine on par with the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. I sat down with him to talk about it and (despite our disagreements on other things) he agreed that eschatology was not an "essential" in that way and was willing to take that language out of the document. So I hope those who find themselves providentially placed in similar situations don't just give up hope, but lovingly seek to persuade others of truth.
     
  16. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Amen!
     
  17. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Those of us holding to a form of Covenant pre Mil position might find some common areas to teach with them on concerning the Second Coming and Eschatology.
     
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