Are you a 4-point American Evangelical?

An interesting sermon yesterday, and I mean “interesting” with every bit of passive-aggressive nuance that Minnesotans are famous for. We’ve been on a short summer series called “Unshakable”, looking at stories of the “heros of faith” in Hebrews 11. Not an especially earth-shattering topic, but it’s a chance to consider various aspects of faith. Yesterday we considered the story of Stephen, “a case study of faith to die for.” The underlying premise/question was “Do I have a faith worth dying for?” In that certain inimical pastoral way, the answer was boiled down to a four-point sermon outline.

Consider first that our church is a conservative, leaning very conservative, Minnesota Baptist church. I would call it a stereotypical conservative American Evangelical Protestant church, but that might sound negative (there’s that passive-aggressive tendency I referred to above). As such, we get a fair bit of “culture war” preaching in the guise of Biblical principles.

With that context in mind, “a faith worth dying for” was couched in the terms of the question, “what is biblically certain, but politically incorrect?”, with the story of Stephen woven throughout. Yesterday, at least, the answers – vastly summarized here – were:

  1. Life begins and finds its value in God. As human beings, we do not have the authority to determine for ourselves when to create and when to end life. (Gen 1:1)
  2. Male and female express God’s explicit design. Any other pattern or expression of relationship is biblically incorrect. (Gen 1:27)
  3. Israel is the Covenant land and people of God. There is no distinction between Israel the political state and Israel the Covenant land of God. (Gen 17:8)
  4. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. In the vortex of a pluralistic, relativistic culture, there has been, is and will only be one path for eternal salvation. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Rom 10:9-10)

Essentially, we ought to be willing to defend and/or die for any one of these expressions of faith. Or more generally, we ought to be willing to defend and/or die for an explicitly biblical lifestyle against the prevailing winds of current culture.

I know that in terms of accepting the above four points, I choke hardest on #3, Israel. TC just wrote about dismantling dispensationalism on his blog, rejecting that -ism’s viewpoint that “God has a distinct program for Israel and a distinct program for the church” in favor of Jesus as the New Israel with all peoples united in him (Eph 2:15-16). I don’t know for sure if my pastor is a dispensationalist, but my hackles tend to raise whenever someone starts pushing support of Israel as “the Christian thing to do”, whether it be political, economic, religious or theological. I guess I tie it too closely to escapist eschatology and ridiculous rapture watching, especially those American Christians who make a trip to “the homeland” as some sort of pilgrimage.

I wonder, which or how many of the above four points would you be willing to wager your life on?

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  1. Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

    Interesting question…

    I would be willing to wager my life on 3 & 4 (I tend to have problems with the way 1 & 2 get framed as “issues,” so I’m less certain about those). Qualifier on 3: I think there is a perpetual covenant land for a covenant people, but I don’t think this should lead Christians to blindly support the political state of Israel. What about when that political state decides to give up land? (…) That line of reasoning just seems to leave Christians in awkward situations.

  2. Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:43 AM | Permalink

    I’d be willing to wager on 1, 2, &4, since they are based on essential teachings of Scripture.

    Regarding #3, I put that in the secondary column even those some Dispensationalists tend to label Replacement Theology a heresy.

    Seems like he’s a Dispensationalist.

    Peter, #3 depends on too literal a reading of OT promises to Israel without factoring her Messiah as a worthy fulfillment and climax to her expectations.

  3. Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:08 PM | Permalink

    1, 2 & 4, with a very strong emphasis on 4. #3 is not Biblically accurate according to Romans and Galatians. I too believe the Jewish people will turn to the Lord in massive numbers at some point — but all the people of faith are the true Israel. I do not have trouble with dispensationalism per se — only if one does not complete that understanding with the structure of covenants — not necessarily with what is often called “covenantal theology.”

    By the way — #4 cancels out any possibility of another program for an ethnic Israel.

  4. Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

    for sure number 4.

  5. Posted July 28, 2009 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

    Hi, just a fleeting, random visitor from Brian F’s blog. Interesting post.
    I would go to the stake for the first sentence of #1, and nothing else in that list.

One Trackback

  • By New Leaven on July 27, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    Dismantling Dispensationalism: Jesus has become the New Israel…

    For Dispensationationists to insistent on “a distinct program for Israel and a distinct program for the church” is a failure to see Jesus as the New Israel: