EFCA Theology Conference 2014

I’ve decided to do things a little differently this year and just continually updating this page with the new sessions in order. Would love to hear any questions or comments you might have!

A World Absorbing Text or a Text Absorbed by the World?

Dr. Richard Lints

Introduction – Cultural Saturation

Interpreting Overlapping Realities: Gospel and Culture


Micro and Macro Stories

The Gospel as Theological Framework and Theological Vision

Culture as Macro and Micro Stories

Pre and Post – Modernity

Defining Narratives

Democratic Consumerism

Technological Rationalism

Social Pluralism

The Great Irony

Reading Our Times

Beginning Clues

Reading the Scriptures as a Canon

Being Read by the Scriptures

Christian Faithfulness in the Face of Ancient Cultural Challenges

Dr. D. Jeffry Bingham

  1. Christian Faithfulness in the Face of Persecution
    1. The Accusations of the Culture

1. Christians were being accused by a culture that was very religious, the culture saw Christians as atheists. This was the main motivation for Roman persecution.

2. Christians didn’t make good Roman citizens.

3. Romans viewed Christians as incestuous

4. Communion is viewed as cannibalistic

  1. The Faithful Responses of the Christians

1. They explained in literature and conversation. Showed how monotheism was something allowed even among the Romans, pointing to poets and scholars (Plato in particular) to show that monotheism was already accepted.

2. Pointed to their care for others (orphans, neighbors, hungry) as their appeal to how they were good citizens.

3. They said they were a family and that’s just the way they refer to themselves.

4. Eucharist was the reason they came together. They explained to the community what they were doing and why.

Christianity is a very gory religion, characterized by the sloppiness of blood.

  1. Christian Faithfulness in the Process of Scriptural Definition
    1. The Proposed, Erroneous Models of Scripture

On the one hand you had Marcion who cut most things out of the Bible, and then the other hand had add everything.

  1. The Faithful Responses of the Christians

The sacred text, if nothing else, included the Old Testament Hebrew Bible.

So they said nothing gets into the Bible unless it’s in harmony with the OT. And if they are universally embraced by Christians throughout the world. We don’t accept any text that doesn’t put the slaughter of Jesus as its’ focus.

Where is the Lord’s supper in your meetings?

The Opportunity to Learn from the Challenge of Race

Dr. Vincent Bacote

Mandela’s Death and movies like 12 Years a Slave show us the problem of apartheid and puts the legacy of racism right in front of us. Thought it may be in front of us, we may be tempted to avert our gaze.

  1. “Our” Issue and Our Mission: A commitment to Bible and the obligations of the gospel

Using the issue of race to enslave people is completely missing the idea of the greatest commandment: love God and love others. The Bible talks about it.

  1. Dancing with history: facing the world and society we have inherited in the modern West; why race remains a challenge for all of us in spite of improvements

These issues don’t simply disappear.

  1. Considering the Experience of Minorities: What can the church learn…and perhaps anticipate in the future.

The question of a lack of power. People become accustomed to accepting the fact that they are lacking in power. There’s also the question of hope.

  1. Considering Some Core Beliefs: How does our Christology, Soteriology and Ecclesiology lead us toward persistent and patient progress on the lingering question of race and the prospect of the evangelical church as a cultural minority?

Theology and ethics need to be seen together. Which Jesus do you emphasize? Which text do you go to when talking about Jesus? What do people experience at your church that helps deal with the issue of race?

If you’re going to be people of the book, are you considering all the book teaching us? Or are we just pragmatists?

  1. What Posture Should We Take: Faithful Presence, or something else?

Your context makes a huge influence as to what your suggestions can be.

  1. To Consider: What vision might we have for the future?

At one level, Christians out to be a counter-cultural people practicing a counter-cultural reality. People will notice this because it’s not typical for people to live with other people who are not like them.
Need to have a disposition of massive patience.

Regression happens within the church as well (the crisis of marriage is also taking place within the church)

A commitment to public engagement without messianic ideas.

Understanding the Times and Understanding the Places: Theological Localism

Dr. Fred Sanders

  1. Theology with a local accent

It’s just a matter of fitting in – the message of the cross should offend, not our way of talking about it (i.e. sports)

  1. Two methods: correlation and proclamation

Correlation: identified in Paul Tillick – philosophy raises the questions, theology answers them. Explains the contents of Christian faith using questions.

Proclamation: identified in Carl Barth

I suggest using theological localism.

  1. Taking action: Men of Issachar in every place

See 1 Chronicles 12:32. Seen in Augustine’s City of God.

  1. “Theological Engagement with California Culture”


Evangelicals in 21st Century American Culture

Dr. Leith Anderson


  1. Living in challenging times

We get caught up in our time and forget about previous times issues

  1. Theology of Culture

Do you consider culture to be the friend, or the enemy of Christ?

  1. Matthew 13:24-30 – parable of the weeds

Looking back – where we came from

  1. Liberalism & Fundamentalism

Scopes vs Monkey trial in 1925, fundamentalists increasingly marginalized. Most of the world didn’t even think of fundamentalists, then along came Billy Graham

  1. Billy Graham & today

Evangelicals are now ¼-1/3 of all people in the US, so what do we do with that?

Looking around – where we are

  1. Globalization of Christianity

Now the largest & fastest growing religion. 20,000 new believers in China every day

  1. Evangelicals in America

We are the dominate Christian force

  1. Demographics

Segregation in America remains strong

  1. Theology

Homosexuality and the exclusivity of Christ

  1. Church in adversarial circumstances

Conclusion: How then shall we live?

Speak the truth, but always in love

Don’t be quick to come to conclusions


As long as people have the Bible and the Holy Spirit they’ll be ok.

EFCA Theology Conference 2014 Pre-Conference Part 2

The final part of the Pre-Conference from Dr. Fred Sanders

Tacit Trinitarianism

God has no unmet needs – there are no needs outside of the divine life

  1. Getting saved – an evangelical practice. The eternal son becomes the incarnate son to make others an adopted son bringing them into relationship with God.
  2. Knowing Jesus personally – generally trying to point to a deeper reality of communion with God. “ask Jesus into your heart” (Eph 3, being strengthened in your inner man) Puritans used that heart language, book My Heart, Christ’s Home. Jesus is present from heaven, it’s the Spirit who is indwelling. This means being indwelt by the Holy Spirit who makes Christ present here on earth being poured out from the right hand of the Father.
  3. Devotional Bible reading – this comes from a high view of Scripture, we know the Bible is God’s message to us.
  4. Understanding Scripture’s big story – the big story of Scripture is very evident, about how the Father sends the Son and the Spirit
  5. Conversational prayer –
  6. Evangelism –
  7. World mission –
  8. Daily spirituality –

EFCA Theology Conference 2014 Pre-Conference

The pre-conference at this years EFCA Theology Conference is on the doctrine of the Trinity and is done by Dr. Fred Sanders from Biola. Here are the first two lectures and links to the Prezi slides that were used.

Approaching the Doctrine of the Trinity

The Trinity-try to understand it and you’ll lose your mind, try to deny it and you’ll lose your soul.

  1. Teaching the Trinity as an inviting doctrine

The word of the Trinity is not far away, you don’t need to get advanced degrees to understand.

Trinity is primarily for categorization and building up the understanding of believers.

  1. The basic component of the doctrine

One being in three persons, we don’t say God is one person and three persons, or God is one person and three persons

  1. Three key texts

Trinity is not in the Old Testament because the OT was a time of promise, we don’t find the doctrine of the Trinity revealed in the OT, but we see shadows of it. Then the New Testament is the time of fulfillment, the Messiah and the Spirit already came. The revelation of the Trinity is in the events of the Father sending the Son and the Spirit.

  1. John 1:1-3 – takes you from the beginning of the Gospel to the beginning of the whole Bible. What we have in Jesus Christ shows us what happened before creation, which leaves us with God.
  2. Matt 28:18-20 – doctrine of the Trinity is in Scripture, even if the word itself is not. Trinity just means “threeness”
  3. 2 Cor 13:14 – the revealed character of these three persons (see also 1 John “our fellowship is with the Fathe rand the Son”

Overall idea: salvation is by & from & in & with the Triune God

  1. Heresies to avoid
    1. Tritheism – three gods (kind of Mormonism)
    2. Modalism – 1 god doing 3 things, manifests himself in 3 ways (oneness Pentecostalism)
    3. Subordinationism – 1 real god, a couple lesser gods (Arianism, Jehovah’s witness)
    4. Illustrations
      1. There’s nothing like God or God’s trinity
      2. Most illustrations are a little helpful, but mostly just show Trinitarian heresies
      3. The main things are the plain things: God the Father saved us by sending the Son and the Spirit.

The Trinity is not a distraction from the gospel, but a super-condensed explanation of it.


The Deep Things of God 

  1. Grace as God’s gift of himself

Grace as free forgiveness, grace as power for service (John 3:16, Gal 4:4-6, Eph 1:3-14)

  1. The two hands of God

The incarnation and atonement are the means to the end of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

  1. The economy of salvation

God gives himself as the gift of salvation

  1. The happy land of the Trinity

Rob Bell Comes Out

Rob Bell has moved in some pretty drastic ways away from the Evangelical church. With his book Love Wins last year he questioned the existence of hell, to a “tweet heard ’round the world” from John Piper saying, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Rob has made quite a name for himself, started by planting a successful church (in terms of numbers) in Grand Rapids, MI. He has since stepped away from the church and moved to LA where he is apparently working on a TV show about his life. In a more recent move, Rob Bell has now come out in support of same sex marriage saying, “Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

This shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone. As soon as one questions the authority of Scripture the rest of their theology will come crashing down around them. This also happened to Brian McLaren, who in September of last year married his son to his son’s boyfriend.

I continue to be grateful for the Evangelical Free Church in dealing with some of these very important and timely issues. I live blogged their most recent theology conference titled ‘Sex Matters’ and you can now listen to every message here. A more appropriate view, in both the biblical and historical sense, is found in Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waitingwhich I encourage anyone interested in this issue to read. This issue isn’t going to disappear anytime soon and Christians need to continue to be willing to take a stand that many people view to be unpopular and passe. Christians will regularly need to be counter cultural and pray for the strength to stay strong no matter what those around us are saying.

EFCA Theology Conference 2013

The audio and power points from this years EFCA Theology Conference: Sex Matters are now available online. If my notes from it weren’t good enough, you can listen to the conference in it’s entirety here. I hope it’s helpful!

EFCA Theology Conference – My Thoughts

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the EFCA Theology Conference in Denver and was really stretched and encouraged in my thinking on the issue of sexuality. The most powerful session for me was Wesley Hill on his struggle with homosexuality. Never before had I talked to someone who struggles with same sex attraction, yet is willing to submit it at the foot of the cross and call it sin. We live in a broken side world, as evidenced by looking around us. All of us are sinners and have our certain areas where we are more prone to temptation than others, I think it’s safe to admit that for most of us, sexuality is a very hard issue, especially being a single man as I am right now. But what should we, as the church, do to reach out to single people like Wesley and myself?

I’ve talked about this very important issue before (“Where Are All the Young People“) and was reminded of it again this week. The church is called to be a family (see Jesus in Matthew 12), yet so often we don’t treat each other as the family we are supposed to be. As someone who is single, I can so often get overlooked in the ministry of the church, and most churches I’ve been to have a fantastic youth group ministry, a thriving couples-with-small-children ministry and some even have a great college ministry, but what about the single 20-somethings who are trying to figure out how to figure out a schedule, budget, and where best to use their time? We need the encouragement and support of those in the church, and those in the church are primarily those who are older and married. So again, PLEASE just come talk to us, invite us over and invest in our lives! I promise you again that we won’t bite!

Tied in to this is the issue of homosexuality. As it becomes more prevalent, we in the church need to know how to reach out and welcome those who are, as Wesley described himself “gay celibate Christians.” Wesley has written why he uses the term “gay celibate Christian” in a recent blog post that you can read here. The church needs to be a place where even single people can feel loved and as a part of the family. The Gospel should bring us together in the same way that growing up together in a family does. We should be willing to lay down our lives for our friends, just as Christ laid down his life for us. This is an issue in my life as well-I so often focus on myself and my needs instead of the needs of the body. I’ll close with this final thought from 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has past away; behold, the new has come.” May we continue to cling close to the cross as we daily repent, die to ourselves and remember to live in Christ, who will give us the strength we need to not give in to temptation.

You can buy Wesley Hill’s book on Amazon, and read his blog here. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him and am incredibly grateful for his faithfulness to God’s word as he attempts to follow His will in his life. Thank you, Wes, for being open and transparant this week with your struggles, you are in my prayers.

EFCA Theology Conference – Session 8

What Can Medical Science Tell Us About Sexual Orientation? – Daniel Beals, MD

Medical Definition of Gender:

Male and Female He created them – Genesis 1:27

Fundamental to self-identity: first question when a child is born, it permeates all of our thinking: blue/pink, different goals in life

Who decides?

How do they decide?
Is a medical definition different from other definitions?

How well has Medicine defined sexual identity in the past?

What can we infer from Sexual Identity to Sexual Orientation?

Medical Definition

Good at defining what is wrong, but not what is normal

Specialist have a narrow perspective on definition

Medical knowledge changes

Gender identity as a definition: first used by Dr. John Money, psychological perspective

Ambiguous Genitalia: Dr. Ladd, Boston Children’s Hospital, Surgical Perspective

Disorders of Sexual Differentiation (> 2000): All inclusive definition of anatomically definable genital disorders

Gender Identity Disorder (Gender Dysphoria): All inclusive definition of distress and discomfort one feels between one’s physical sex and one’s gender

Sexual Orientation: Opposite Sex, Same Sex, Not simple with DSD

What Makes Up Gender Identity?

Genetic: X and Y Chromosomes, the SRY gene

Endocrine: testosterone, estrogen

Phenotype: What do things look like? How do things work?

Environment: Parental role models, assumed gender roles, peer pressure


What do we Know?

No known genetic link to GD or SO

No known endocrine link to GD but known correlation with SO

No known phenotypic link to SO but known secondary correlation with GD

Known correlation between environmental factors and GD and SO

What do we really NOT know?

Do not have a full understanding of genetics

Do not have a full understanding of endocrine influences

Do not have a good long term follow up of attempted therapies

What does Medicine tell us about Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation?

In cases of DSD, it may be very difficult to have a clear answer

Sexual orientation issues can sometimes be explained by endocrine abnormalities

There is no medical explanation to problems with GD

Environment plays an important role in gender, both normal and abnormal

We must be cautious as medical knowledge is far from complete

EFCA Theology Conference Session 7

The Theology of Sexuality Applied: Teaching/Training of Youth in the Home and the Church – Stan Jones

What are our Objectives in Sex Education and in Parenting?

To prevent immorality?

To equip and empower our children to enter adulthood capable of living godly, wholesome lives

Don’t focus too narrowly and negatively, such as focusing on only preventing sexual immorality and the ravages that illicit and irresponsible sex; this goal is too small, too limited, too narrow. Our most important goal in sex education should be to equip and empower our children to enter adulthood capable of living godly, wholesome, and fulfilled lives as Christen men and women, Christian singles, wives and husbands.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

A Summary of Key Points in the Theology of Sexuality

We are embodied, we are gendered sexual beings, we are relational, we are made in God’s image, we are broken and twisted, we encounter objective reality when we have sex, we are souls under construction

We are souls under construction

Given/Discovered Constructed?

Given: Evolutionary Psychology Reproduction as an evolutionary impulse in the context of a meaningless universe; sex, like life, is meaningless

Atheist Delusions (David Hart)

The Five-Factor Model of Sexual Character:

Needs – Relatedness and Significance





Twelve Principles of Christian Sex Education in the Family and Church

Principle 1: Sex education is the shaping of character

Principle 2: Parents are the principle sex educators

Principle 3: First messages are the most important

Principle 4: Seize those “teachable moments;” become an “askable” parent

Principle 5: Stories are powerful teaching tools

Principle 6: Accurate and explicit messages are best

Principle 7: Positive messages are powerful

Principle 8: “Inoculate” your children against negative beliefs

Principle 9: Repetition is critical; repetition is really, really important

Principle 10: Close, positive parent-child relationships are crucial

Principle 11: Sexuality is not everything; keep your perspective

Principle 12: Our God can forgive, heal, and redeem anything

EFCA Theology Conference Session 5

The Witness of Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles – Robert Gagnon

Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10

Romans 1:24-27: Opposed to some, or all, forms of same-sex intercourse?

Three main arguments made to discount Romans 1:24-27

  1. The exploitation argument: Paul only knew of exploitative forms of homosexual practice in his culture
  2. The orientation argument: Paul had no concept of a homosexual orientation
  3. The misogyny argument: Paul feared homosexual practice would upset male dominance over women

The plot structure of Romans 1:18-32

Stage 1. God’s power and divinity is manifested in creation

Stage 2. Humans suppress the truth and foolishly exchange

Stage 3. God’s wrath is manifested in giving over humans to self-degrading desires

Stage 4. These sinful deeds merit death

Intertextual echoes to Genesis 1:26-27

References to creation and Creator

Rom 1:23 echoes Genesis 1:26

Romans 1:26-27 echoes Genesis 1:27

The point of these echoes – idolatry and same-sex intercourse together constitute a frontal assault on the work of the Creator in nature, those who suppressed the truth about God visible in creation they went on to suppress the truth about themselves visible in nature

The argument from nature

The truth about God is visible and apparent in material creation (1:19-20)

The truth about God’s will for sex is visible in our gendered bodies (26-27)

Pagans do not have to have Genesis or Leviticus to be held accountable for this knowledge, they are “without excuse”

Innate desires are unreliable guides

The mention of lesbian intercourse in Romans 1:26

The mention of mutual gratification in Romans 1:27

The conception and practice of caring homosexual relationships in antiquity

Absolute nature arguments in the Greco-Roman world

Why Paul is not saying, “Don’t judge homosexual practice”

The one whom you obey, that it your Lord. Don’t say with your mouth that you follow God but then continue to serve sin, that is your Lord

What even scholars supportive of homosexual unions admit

1 Corinthians 6:9 (& 1 Tim 1:10) Opposed to some, or all, forms of male-male intercourse?

Meaning of malakoi “soft men”

Meaning of arsenokoitai “Men who lie with a male”

The Bible’s alleged ignorance of sexual orientation

Grego-Roman theories of a congenital basis for some homoerotic attraction

Differences with contemporary theories and beside this point

Did Paul get “nature” confused?

What even scholars supportive of homosexual unions affirm

The Bible’s Alleged Misogynistic Bias against Homoerotic Unions

Ignoring concerns for structural complementarity in ancient texts

Absoluteness of Bible’s prohibition suggest priority of gender over status

Women’s liberation as a stimulus for opposing all male homosexual unions

An absurd corollary

View of women in the Bible fares well relative to its cultural environment

EFCA Theology Conference – Session 4

A Theology of Human Sexuality – Ben Mitchell

A Few Caveats

Our anthropology requires charity

Our language anticipates double entendres

Our calling demands compassion

Our experience requires humility

Our task calls for courage

Our responsibility requires us to contextualize the question

Why so Important?

The order that God has given us (Gen 2:24-25)

Paul says sexual immorality is not even to be mentioned among those in the Christian church (Ephesians 5:3)

Why Such a Difficult Subject?

A confused culture in which our paradigms have shifted radically

A marginalized church

A challenged Bible – both from the outside and the inside

47% of people who say marriage is becoming obsolete still want to be married

Sexual Morality: Creation

Human sex and sexuality are important, powerful and good aspects of God’s creation (Gen 2:15-25 – bonding, procreation, Proverbs 5:15-20 – pleasure, fidelity)

They don’t cease to be man or woman but their flesh is joined in such a way that we call them one flesh

Stanley Grenz Sexual Ethics

There are only two ways to be human, as male or female, at its core is a fundamental incompleteness

Goods of sex and marriage

Procreational good – Gen 1:28; 9:1

Relational good – “humanity which is not fellow-humanity is inhumanity” Barth, CD

Public good – ordered and regulated relationships in human society


The relational purpose of marriage (Gen 2:24 – one flesh, sexual and non-sexual companionship, giving of one’s person to another)


There is a casual connection between words or pictures and human behavior

“Shame” is part of the natural human condition. It is counterpart of natural human modesty

The political purpose or result of pornography is to make us shameless

There is a connection between shame and self-restrained and therefore a connection between shame and self-government or democracy

Self-restraint is necessary to the moral and political well-being of the community

Pornography threatens self-restraint and then threatens democracy

Conclusion: therefore, government has at least a modest interest in censoring pornography (as a protection of democracy)

By Walter Evans “Beyond the Garbage Pale”

Sexual Morality: After the Fall

Sexuality and sex are disordered

Sex is to be expressed according to God’s instruction: not outside the covenant of marriage (Heb 13:4), sexual lust is forbidden (Matt 5:27-30)


Not the most important thing in the world!

1 Corinthians 7:1-5


The healing purpose of marriage (1 Cor 7:9)

“Marriage functions to provide needed restraint and discipline as the God-given place of healing for our sexual nature” – Gilbert Meilaender

Celibacy or singleness



Gift parallel with marriage? (1 Cor 7:7, 32-35, Adam and Eve were married, Jesus was single)

Pastoral issues: identity and self-worth, solitude and loneliness, sexuality and celibacy – see C.S. Lewis Four Loves specifically his chapter on friendship


According to sociologist Patricia Morgan, cohabitation relationships are fragile

Cohabiting couple accumulate less wealth than married couples

Cohabiting women are more likely to be abused

Cohabitants have more health problems than married couples

Children of cohabiting couples often suffer

Cohabitation: the biblical witness

Creation-only appropriate expression of sexual intimacy is the bond of marriage

Singleness is an inappropriate context for the sex act “One flesh” is reserved for married couples

No permission for cohabitation in scripture

Marriage and the marriage bed are held up as honorable


Helmut Thielicke Theological Ethics vol 3, Sex, p. 271

Sexuality: Redemmed and Celebrated

1 Timothy 4:1-5

“Salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ is not redemption from sexuality, sex or our sexual impulses. It is rather redemption within our created sexuality, necessitated by distortions of the Fall”

God’s Will for Today – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8