Summer 2017

Majoring on the Majors

Valuing our shared gospel above winning an argument

My first month at National EFC (now Cornerstone EFC), I met fellow EFCA pastor Jim Ramsak. We became fast friends, enjoy­ing fiercely competitive tennis matches as well as attending many district and national conferences together. I grew to respect Jim’s deep faith and his love for the Word, though we had some theological differences.

In our understanding of the working of God in Christian conversion, Jim is Arminian in his theological framework, while I come from a Calvinist perspective.1

You can imagine some of the theological tussles we’ve had over the many years. I admit that I had to contain my competitive nature and not seek to “win the argument” at the expense of our friendship.

Several years ago I was asked by our district superintendent to lead a seminar talking about living with our differences, particularly in the Calvinist/Arminian debate. I agreed, but only if I could do so in tandem with my friend Jim.

At the seminar I presented the Arminian view, while Jim presented the Calvinist, and then we discussed our differences. We gave each other great respect by learning the other’s position well enough to present it credibly. Those attending said they most appreciated the spirit in which this discussion took place—two brothers, united in Christ, agreeing on essentials, dialoguing our differences.

This is one of the features of the Evangelical Free Church heritage that I most appreciate: that we are a fellowship of believers united by the saving work of God in Jesus Christ—the gospel. Our very Statement of Faith is centered on this good news:

  • It sets forth the nature of God, who initiates the gospel, and the authority of the Bible, which expounds the gospel.
  • It affirms the nature of humanity, which makes the gospel necessary; the person and work of Christ, which is the heart of the gospel; and the work of the Holy Spirit, who applies the gospel to our lives.
  • It tells of the new community of the church, which the gospel creates, and the new life to which the gospel calls us.
  • And finally, our Statement of Faith looks to our future hope in the coming of Christ, which the gospel declares, and the response of faith, which the gospel requires.

We are a people formed by this glorious gospel!

We in the EFCA have affirmed a commitment not to let secondary issues divide us.

Along with our focus on the gospel as that which unites us, we in the EFCA have also affirmed a commitment not to let secondary issues divide us. We talk about “majoring on the majors.” Though all that God has revealed is important, we recognize that we ought to emphasize what is more central to the Bible’s gospel revelation, as that has been clearly affirmed by the Church through the ages.

Certainly, we can have convictions about other issues, but they ought to be held with some humility and grace in our relations with other believers.

This attitude was on display again in February 2017 at our annual EFCA Theology Conference. At the pre-conference event, Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, and John Collins, Old Testament professor at Covenant Seminary, debated the question: “Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?”

Dr. Mohler argued in the affirmative, Dr. Collins in the negative. Both believe in the inerrant authority of the Bible and both hold that Adam was a historical figure, the first human being made in the image of God who was accountable to God and whose sin led the human race into corruption.

Their interaction was respectful and engaging as they argued vigorously for their opposing positions. In the end, they shook hands in Christian fellowship, recognizing each other as brothers in Christ.

Jim Ramsak and I have held similarly vigorous conversations. Yes, I have tried to persuade Jim of the truth of my position, but I have also sought to listen and learn from views that differ from my own. I’ve learned that it is important to ask good questions, treat the convictions of others with respect and honor the relationship.

In the end, Jim and I have walked away from our conversations with greater respect for one another and a more lasting friendship because of our mutual commitment to the gospel.

Let’s not be afraid to enter into those discussions, but let’s do so with respect and grace, recognizing our unity in Christ.

1Simply stated, these two theological views differ, among other things, on the emphasis given to divine sovereignty and human freedom in Christian conversion. Explore this in more detail at Strands of Thought.

Bill Kynes has been senior pastor of Cornerstone EFC in Annandale, Virginia, since 1986. He is also a member of the council of The Gospel Coalition, the Trinity International University Board of Regents and the EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee.