Author: Serhii Chepara
Translating: Natalia Arndt, Nathan Day
For many our compatriots, from both “traditional” and “evangelical” churches, it is very important to know which church / religion / stream the person with whom they are talking is a member of. As a rule, if you tell someone about God they will immediately ask which church / sect you belong to.
Let us not criticize the superficiality of those questions and try to give a simple, but honest and precise answer to the question “What kind of church do you go to?”.
Religious doctrine connects people by religion, denomination does this by name, that is why Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist and other denominations exist. Two churches may have the same name, but they may still believe in different things as well. Thus Ukrainian Orthodoxy can be of Kyiv, Moscow or Autocephalous origin, Catholicism can be Greek and Roman, and Baptists – North American, European and Russian-Ukrainian. Ukrainian Baptists can also be heterogeneous, though to be a Baptist can mean different things to different Baptists.
So when you are asked “What the kind of Church is the Lviv Biblical Church?” …
I think that in different situations you should chose various answers. If people from Catholic / Orthodox church ask you this, the best response is that Lviv Biblical Church is a Protestant Church, and that is enough. Protestantism (unlike Catholicism and Orthodoxy) proclaims salvation by faith without works, universal priesthood, and does not pay too much attention to sacraments / ordinances. If a man from evangelical circles asks you this, you can say that we are an independent evangelical church and the teachings are close toBaptist doctrine. Sometimes one is asking whether we have anything common with Calvinism, so you should explain that we are not Calvinists. If the person has more profound knowledge then it makes sense to mention fundamentalism, dispensationalism, and the Dallas Theological Seminary. Actually, it is rare case that you will be asked these questions.
Fundamentalism claims that the Bible is entirely inspired by God, Jesus was born from a virgin woman, Jesus did real miracles, died and is risen from dead…
Dispensationalism is a hermeneutic key, according to which:
- “Israel” and “the Church” are two differententities. In the future, promises to Israel will be fulfilled literally. Israel is the wife of God the Father (Yahweh), the Church is the bride of Jesus Christ.
- The Bible is to be interpreted literally (not allegorically) by using its lexicon and grammar, as well as history. The Bible is literally, excepting some special cases where the allegorical interpretation is reasonable.
- Salvation,throughout all epochs (of dispensation), is always achieved by grace through faith without works.
According to some dispensationalists, while the object of a believer’s faith may change, it will always remain one of God’s promises. In the era of the Church, salvation is reached through faith in Jesus Christ, and his intercessory death for the sins of mankind.In fact, as to the doctrines of our church, it remains Baptist in the broadest sense of the word. Baptist doctrine, in addition to traditional Protestant doctrines (faith alone, Scripture alone, grace alone, Christ alone),proclaims two more teachings: 1) believers are baptized only in a conscious age; 2) separation of church and state. As we believe in these two teachings, we are Baptists in a general sense.The problem is that for many Ukrainian and Russian Baptists, being a Baptist is not only about believing certain doctrine,it is about following certain traditions, regulations, and liturgy. Sometimes for Baptists, to be a Baptist means wearing a long skirt, handkerchief, etc. That is why many Ukrainian and Russian Baptists would not call our church Baptist because of the lack of the formal traits that Baptists usually have. On the other hand, Ukrainian and Russian Pentecostals would call us Baptists, because our beliefs about the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the same as the Baptists’. On the other hand, most Ukrainian Baptists believe that salvation can be lost, while we believe in eternal security. Often the word “Baptist” is good to use to distinguish yourself from Pentecostal / charismatic teaching / movement, but you always have to pay attention with whom you are talking, and only then to give a particular answer.