A Statement Of Faith
The two greatest gifts God has given us are the written Word (the Bible) and the living Word (Jesus). I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, inerrant in its original autographs (2 Timothy 3:16). Its words are revelatory, authoritative and understandable. It is attested by history, unthreatened by science, vindicated by prophecy, and is completely trustworthy for faith and practice. The vitality of one’s spiritual life is directly affected by the devotional relationship a believer has with the Bible.
Scripture reveals that there is one God, eternally existing in three persons. Though the word itself is not used in the Bible, the concept fills its pages (Matthew 28:19, Mark 1:9-12, Acts 20:28, Romans 15:12-13,30, 2 Cor.13:14, Hebrews 9:14). A full respect for the deity and personhood of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is essential to preserve God as the sole agent in creation and redemption. It is no accident that in anti-trinitarian religions two things happen: salvation becomes works-based, and the authority of the Bible must be supplemented or undermined.
Person and Work of Christ
The full deity and humanity of Jesus must be maintained to carefully balance the scriptural data. All the vocabulary of salvation is defined in Christ. Propitiation (freedom from wrath), justification (freedom from condemnation), redemption (freedom from sin’s power), regeneration (freedom from our sin nature), sanctification (freedom to be holy), and glorification (freedom for eternity) are all provided through Jesus’s death and resurrection (1 Cor. 1:30).
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not just an impersonal force (as in Arian theology) but is indeed the fullness of God (Acts 13:2; Romans 15:30; 1 Cor. 12:11). The Spirit equips us for ministry (Exodus 30:3-4 / 1 Cor. 12); he fills with holy ardor (Judges 6:34; Ephesians 5:18); he convicts of sin (Psalm 51:1); and he empowers our witness (Zech. 4:6, Acts 1:8). While not a cessationist, I believe that the more dramatic and mystical gifts of the Spirit (e.g. tongues, prophecy, healing, etc.) are much more rare and precious an experience than is often claimed by those in the Pentecostal stream. Much chicanery is being laid at the feet of God these days. “Do not quench the Spirit,” Paul warns, but then a verse later, he adds, “but test everything.” (1 Thess.5:19,21)
Only when awakened by the grace of God can a person repent and believe the gospel. This is not to say that God predestines those who will be saved and those who will be damned. I am more sympathetic to Wesley then Calvin in this regard, and would argue that through evangelism, preaching and outreach, God pours out grace which awakens the spirit of the lost to his or her plight, and creates the possibility of a free choosing or rejecting of the gospel, an action which God foreknows but does not foreordain (cf. Romans 10:14-17).
Jesus came to earth to redeem people, and create a new community, unlike anything ever seen on earth before. While this “body” must not be equated with the kingdom of God, its message and mission are pointers to the kingdom, which is present in part among believers and is coming one day in all fullness (Luke 17:20-21; Romans 14:17). The church of the New Testament age is diverse. Racial barriers must fall in the church of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). Old Testament patriarchicalism must move aside to make room for women serving at all levels of leadership. The church is both a missionary community – looking upwards, reaching outwards – and a worshiping community, of blood-bought saints drawn together by the Lord’s saving presence among them, symbolized through the rites of baptism and communion.
During our Lord’s earthly ministry, he confronted two groups of Jewish leaders whose respective theologies symbolize the two extremes between which most Christians conduct their spiritual lives. The Pharisees represent the legalist – those who live by the letter of the law and an ever-expanding rule-based tradition. The Sadducees represent the “antinomians”, theological ‘liberals’ who live fast and loose with God’s laws and question the authority of his Word. It is enlightening to realize that both groups found in Christ a common enemy. To get at the marrow of true spirituality, the believer must avoid legalism on the one side and license on the other. The Christian must also learn strive for a holiness which is both personal and social. Evangelism and social action go hand-in-hand. Righteousness and justice together are the foundation of God’s throne (Ps.89:14).
The Christian must delicately thread his or her way between two expectations of our Lord. On the one hand, Jesus expects his people to prepare for his coming and to be discerning of the signs and times around them (Matthew 16:1-3). Yet Jesus would not have us become too infatuated with eschatological speculations because these can distract us from the real work he has assigned to us (Acts 1:6-11). A balanced end-times theology should create renewed passion for God and an ever-mounting zeal for holiness. It should stimulate us for saving souls and for doing all we can to renew our society, bringing it more into conformity with the values of God’s heavenly kingdom. Legend has it that Francis of Assisi, when asked what he would do if he knew the Lord was coming the next day, replied, “Plant a tree.” I like his answer.
The Role Of The Minister
Pastoral leadership is given by God to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). A good teacher will teach others to teach (2 Timothy 2:2). I firmly believe that my task is to disciple and train leaders and future leaders – to be less a shepherd over a herd of listless sheep, and more a rancher who oversees training that will promote the expansion of God’s work. The church functions most fruitfully and joyfully when as many of its members as possible have been trained and encouraged to use the spiritual gifts God has given them.
Though it seems a strange addition to a Statement Of Faith, the times in which we live demand that churches and pastors affirm their faithfulness to the classical, biblical view of human sexuality—that we are created either male or female. And that the way male and female share their sexual natures together is in the committed bond of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Our Lord’s example of compassion to the sexually broken serves as a model for how we can be “welcoming” of sinful humans while “affirming” God’s truth, rather than the harmful behavior of the sin-sick.