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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bontrager

What is My Denominational Perspective?

I receive inquiries from time to time from people trying to figure out where I’m coming from in terms of my theological perspective. So, here it is.

The short version: I’m not a progressive or theological liberal. If I were to summarize my approach to theology, it would be an eclectic mix of ancient faith, evangelical and Charismatic. I look for the areas of agreement between traditions for the core of our faith. The theologians/scholars I most closely identify with would probably be Kenneth Samples, Craig Keener and Tom Oden. If I were pressed, I guess I’d describe myself as a Charismatic Anglican who loves to share my faith like a Baptist. I have linked to the key statements of faith that I adhere to on my BIO page. My theological approach has 4 key features: Scriptural authority, deference for tradition (when it aligns with Scripture), grace for mistakes and learning, and an allowance for the miraculous.

The Longer Version

My grandparents grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. My great-grandfather (George Gustav Theodore Leih) was a minister at the Reformed Church in Amsterdam where the royal family worshiped (Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam). My grandfather (Cornelius Leih) emigrated to America when he was 8 years old. My grandfather was my childhood hero. He had the spiritual gift of evangelism and modeled authentic Christian faith for me.

During the Depression (1930s), my grandparents heard Dr. Louis T. Talbot teaching on The Biola Hour. Despite growing up in the Reformed Church and living their entire lives in Dutch communities, Dr. Talbot’s teaching was their first exposure to the Gospel. It was at this time that they truly came to an understanding of Jesus as their Savior. Shortly after that, my grandfather transitioned from furniture salesman to evangelist and church planter. He went on to plant 8 Baptist churches throughout CA, many of which are still in operation.

One of my uncles (Virgil T. Leih) and two of my aunts are also ordained ministers. I am proud of our family’s heritage and I now follow in their footsteps.

I grew up in a Conservative Baptist Church in southern CA and attended an evangelical college, Biola University. I attended seminary at Talbot School of Theology, which is fitting given the role Dr. Talbot played in my grandparents’ conversion story.

In 1993, my husband (who also grew up in a CBA church) and I began attending at Bible class taught by Kenneth Samples. Ken was the first Calvinist/Reformed Christian we ever met. We began to look into Reformed theology and reading books like RC Sproul’s, Chosen by God, and listening to The White Horse Inn radio program. We visited and attended various Reformed and Presbyterian churches during this time, even attending a Reformed Baptist church for a time.

I discussed some of my personal influences in this older podcast with my friend, Kenneth Samples.

In 1995/96, we settled into attending churches in the United Reformed Church. We were very excited to be a part of these Reformed fellowships, which we viewed as doctrinally more accurate than other churches. During our years there, we journeyed deep into Reformed theology, including presuppositional apologetics and theonomy. In 2001, we baptized our oldest daughter into the Reformed church. In 1999, I began working at Reasons to Believe even though I had reservations about their evidential approach because I had been so heavily influenced by presuppositional apologetics (a feature of Reformed theology).

Over time, however, there were aspects of the Reformed tradition that became deeply troubling to my husband and I. We noticed that there wasn’t a strong emphasis on evangelism in URC churches. The churches we attended supported only a handful of missionaries (in contrast with our Baptist upbringing where mission work was a huge component of church life). The pastors actively and frequently ridiculed evangelicals from the pulpit who engaged in activities like street witnessing and taking friends to the Harvest Crusade. There were several other troubling aspects of church life, but most difficult for me was the pattern of protecting abusers instead of protecting the innocent.

In the early 2000s, we left the Reformed tradition and returned to the Conservative Baptist Church of our childhoods. Although we didn’t agree with all of their theology, because we still largely viewed ourselves as Reformed, we felt like the overall environment of the church was an emotionally and spiritually healthier environment for raising our children. That turned out to be a good decision for us. Our younger daughter was baptized at the Baptist church.

In the fall of 2014, my husband and I began a journey which led us to explore "continuationist" theology. Although we see excesses in some of these churches, we have also come to see value and a biblical foundation for some of their beliefs and practices. My husband enjoys praying for the sick and we’ve seen many, many miracles.

Around this same time, I also had a very good friend convert to being Coptic Orthodox. Her journey had a great impact on me and has influenced and deepened my appreciation for historical theology.

It was during this season that we migrated away from Reformed theology as a system. I discuss this aspect of our journey in this podcast.

During the quarantine of 2020, our family "attended" a very traditional, theologically conservative, Anglican parish via livestream. This was a wonderful season of increasing our family's understanding of the liturgy. During this time, our family started working through the Anglican catechism.

We currently attend a house church. We discussed this on the All The Things podcast.

And that's the journey so far. We will see what the Lord has next for me and our family.


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