Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and founder of 9 Marks has been preaching through Revelation.  He preached on Revelation 20 on Sunday and made a statement regarding millennial views and church unity that is creating some buzz.

I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether near-ly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation. (transcript from A.J. Gibson)

Full disclosure: I am premillennial.  My particular denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America, recently had this debate when rewriting their statement of faith.  Historically the premillennial position has been a part of the statement, and they decided to keep it.  There is certainly a camp within the EFCA that would like to see it gone, and I can sympathize with that for the reasons that Dever gives.

What do you think?  Is it a sin to require a particular millennial view?

HT: Andy Naselli via Justin Taylor

28 comments
  1. Just read this a few days ago:

    “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: … and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16, 19b

    I wonder if church leaders inadvertently sow seeds of discord when they include eschatological positions in their statement of faith?

    And how about those that specify a certain biblical translation (i.e. KJV)? Or how about the cessation of spiritual gifts or the opposing view? What doctrinal statements should a church require their members to agree to? And what is the purpose of members agreeing to such a doctrinal statement?

    Maybe the motives behind such statements might reveal the real issue? Maybe doctrine is just another way to exercise control over members? Maybe the quest for doctrinal purity is just another form of idolatry.

    Here is an interesting statement from a church in your neck of the woods. http://www.twinpinesbaptist.com/beliefs.php

  2. Thanks for posting this. I am a pastor in the EFCA. I was saddened that in our Statement of Faith revision we maintained our insistence on premillennialism.

    Is it a sin, though? It does seem foolish, proud, and counterproductive to cause unnecessary division over a doctrine that Christians have never yet agreed on. And yet every group/organization/movement draws lines somewhere. I do know that some of the arguments over the issue were indeed sinful, but I don't know that I can call the decision it sinful — perhaps short-sighted and regrettable.

  3. Just out of curiosity. . . would you hold it against me if I said I was a full preterist? I wonder if I would be debated then? If people would divide against me?

    To be honest, eschatology has been a hard one for me. I have always been one that needs to be convinced from scripture anything that I hold to, and this is something I have not been convinced yet. I know Kim Riddlebarger has a very convincing series on amillenialism. I am afraid that people to quickly take views on this subject though.

    And then came our friendship with Kelly Birks. He is one of the most amazing, godly men I know. (if you google him, you will find more against him than for him, but from those who don't know hom personally). But he is a good friend, and one who takes scripture serious. His preaching is amazing, and I can't tell you how much I have seen Christ in him. I could go on and on about my respect and love for him and his wife. He is one of my favorite people.

    But when he asked me to listen to his end times series, I did so thinking he was a crazy person. Thinking only crazy people could be full preterists. And yet, the series made a lot of sense. If anyone is willing to listen to it, let me know, I will get you the info. And please, do not write me off until you listen to it yourself.

    In fact during my study, I contacted my friend Rick Ritchie (Modern Reformation contributor, and an incredible biblical scholar) and I asked him about Kelly Birk's views. It seems that Rick reviewed one of Kelly's books for Baker Book Publishing, and they did not publish it because it had too much scripture. Rick on his own study found some of Josephus' thoughts on what was seen in AD 70 interesting. I could talk more about that later.

    All of this to say, I don't know what I believe on this. I only know that I do think too many buy into an end times view too quickly. I also think that sometimes, the fights we have about such things can be a distraction to other things.

    And just so you know, I have studied eschatology from the time I was thirteen. I was every youth pastors worst nightmare as I sat with my Bible open demanding every word to be proven from scripture. And so far, no one has.

  4. How about I say that Mark Dever is sinning by not allowing infant baptisms in his church?

  5. How about we accuse Mark Dever of sinning because he doesn't allow infant baptisms in his church?

  6. More precisely: Premillennialism has many areas of positive relevance to daily Christian living; and the alternatives have negative impact on Christian spirituality. For instance, there is no reason why Preterism shouldn't slide into a heretical claim that Christ's second advent and the general resurrection have already occurred. The apostle Paul already dealt with this error, with Hymenaeus and Alexander, who were excommunicated for holding and teaching those doctrines. Prtial preterism maintains its 'partialness' by sheer brute force of will only, but its own principles by nature will sweep you into the Hymenaean error.

    Postmillennialism fosters delusional ideas about the degree of spiritual enlightenment and social progress possible in a fallen world that is still ruled by the devil and populated by unregenerate people. In fact, both amillennialism and postmillennialism endanger people, because of how they both undermine Christians' vigilance against the devil. Postmillennialism also provides theological mulch for the poison weed of Theonomy.

    To take it further: many of our EFCA churches are being split right now by radical home-schoolers who are following the teachings of Vision Forum. Vision Forum is a Theonomist organization, and its theonomist social agendae spring directly out of postmillennial eschatology. Theonomy is a legalistic trpa, and the death-knell for world missions, because it steers the Church off into social and political activism. In extreme cases, it promotes the overthrow of the United States Constituion.

    People who say that millennial eshcatologies have no bearing on how Christians live their lives have not studied Church History.

  7. Where's the line drawn? I would agree with you motives are very important.

    That statement of faith you link to is wild, where's the W,X, Y & Z though?

    I'd say that statements of faith like the one you linked to is pretty outrageous. I'm not familiar with that particular church where did you run across it?

  8. I'd say welcome to emergent theology if you were a full preterist, or at least you and Rob Bell would have a lot in common. I do have a problem with that particular position as it basically dismisses the relevancy to the church today and when it comes to passages regarding Christ's return is problematic (understatement of the year).

    I would say the most important thing to take away from eschatology is that Christ is returning for His Church… do we really need to bicker about timelines?

  9. Touche!

    Every church does take positions on issues that compared to say the Deity of Christ seems minor.

    I think the important thing to consider is how do you treat your brothers and sisters in Christ who hold a different position?

  10. Any dangers with premillennialism?

    I agree with you those positions can lead to problems.

    I would disagree with the “many” of the EFCA churches facing that. What district are you in? Also, my wife and I homeschool and I've not even heard of the Vision Forum – so I wouldn't say it is widespread in the homeschooling community.

  11. Any dangers with premillennialism?

    I agree with you those positions can lead to problems.

    I would disagree with the “many” of the EFCA churches facing that. What district are you in? Also, my wife and I homeschool and I've not even heard of the Vision Forum – so I wouldn't say it is widespread in the homeschooling community.

  12. Vision Forum may be having its harmful effect mor eon indy Bible churches and Baptists. It's been my misfortune to run headlong into it locally. If you go to the link ThatMom, which I list on my blog under “Links I Like”, there's a lot about it there. Vision Forum is quite a bit more influential than you yourself might know. It's a dangerous group — neo-Confederate and Theonomist.

  13. Love it. Thanks for the point. Of course I am I pado baptist, in a credo baptist Church. Does that make mean I am sinning??

  14. Please don't put me in the same camp as the emergent Church. You should know me better than that. It would be like me saying, “You are a Credo Baptist, so therefore you must be a Methodist, since they believe in believers baptism too.

    The comparison really hurt.

  15. Maybe I will consider that. First I need to get some good armor, as I am afraid of the things that will be thrown.

  16. No you're not sinning, you're just misguided 😉 (just kidding).

    I would love for you to post on that topic sometime. You can do a why I do post, and I can do a why I don't. Then perhaps each of us do a rebuttal.

    Done in love of course. By the way, again I didn't mean to offend you with the emergent church comment. I was being flippant and it didn't come out well. So I'm sorry!

    1. @Shane Vander Hart, it sure does Shane.

      As to Dever’s comments I think in essentials it is important to draw the line but I think not requiring unity on an issue such as this puts unity at risk just as much as forcing the issue. What I mean is, I would be concerned that just letting people believe whatever they want could cause more issues than if a church group can say “This is what we believe…” Does this make sense.

      To be honest, I am getting somewhat uncomfortable with Dever and his influence. He seems to want to be dogmatic about things but then not dogmatic either. So is he dogmatic about not being dogmatic?
      .-= brian´s last blog ..On the book of Revelation =-.

  17. Postmil and premil mirror each other, so you isolate a problem with one, it's opposite is a problem with the other. For every charge of triumphalism larged at the postmil comes the counter-charge of “pessimillennialism” at the premil. On and on, forever and ever, Amen.

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