Monday, July 09, 2007

On statements of faith

There are many, many reasons why i love Christian, confessional, statements of faith and think they are altogether neccesary for a church or parachurch organisation. Here are four of them:

The Gospel is precious. We need to defend it. As Paul said with his closing words to Timothy, there will be a time when people will no longer accept sound doctrine but will instead surround themselves with teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-5). We have reached that time. Inside the church people are sneering at central, orthodox, Biblical doctrine as rarely they have done since the Reformation. Even something as straighforward, as vital as penal substitutionary atonement is no longer safe from this tidal wave of pride and ignorance. Statements of faith that reflect what the Bible says about such matters will protect a church or organisation from this kind of suicidal folly. Thats obviously what they must do primarily. They must reflect the Bible's position on a number of important issues, and communicate them clearly. The Bible is there to be understood...lets understand it and defend it. We mustn't be afraid to use non Biblical language to define what the Bible says. The word Trinity isn't in the Bible itself, but you can be sure that our God is a triune God, and we need to defend Him as such.

The Gospel is precious. We need to display it. Much like the crown jewels are safely in cabinets that can not be breached, but can be seen though, we need lost people to know what we believe. Statements of faith are an evangelistic tool. If non Christian students want to know what UCCF stands for, they need only to log onto the website, find the DB page, and there it is, in all it's glory. And i really do mean glory. When i spoke at RUCU the other week, i got such a rush of adrenaline and feeling of joy signing a DB for them. I could have been offended: 'i used to help lead RUCU, now i'm a relay worker...who are these guys to question what i believe?' (I do wonder, incidentally whether thats what keeps many people from signing a DB, but anyway), but instead i felt such joy. Yes! i cried. Yes i believe these truths by the grace of God and i want to display them and write my name on them! Thank RUCU for this chance. Statements of faith display the glory of God to all who look.

The Gospel is precious. We need to hold people accountable to it. My heart is a sinful place. If it wasn't for the Lord, there's no way i'd wake up a Christian each morning, no way i'd want to embrace and delight in Him. No way at all. I need to be held accountable to what will save me from Hell. I loved that when i was a Relay worker at any point during the year Bish could have pulled out a DB and challenged what i believed about it, in response perhaps to a pastoral issue, or a sinful habit, or even just for a chance to rejoice. That sounds like a prison? It is a prison! And goodness me it's a prison i need to be in for the rest of my life if i am to have any hope. Oh tether my heart to yours Lord that i might live. Keep me in the prison, the joyful, life giving, yoke-easy, burden-light prison that i need to be in. Never let me move away from the Truth.

The Gospel is precious. We need to build our friendships on it. I have more in common with the brothers and sisters i'll meet in Bulgaria next week than with some people i've known since i was four. And to type that hurts me and makes me want to tell all my friends about Jesus. Which is a good thing. The Emergent Village website says this: you won’t find a traditional statement of faith here. We don’t have a problem with faith, but with statements. Whereas statements of faith and doctrine have a tendency to stifle friendships, we hope to further conversation and action around the things of God. Isn't that just plain odd? Of course, i'm not advocating that we drop all our friendships with people who can't sign statements of faith...but for that to appear on the website of a popular Christian movement is very very sad. I am blessed with some great friends. There are three or four people who i count as my best friends, and i love them dearly. I love their company, their sense of humour, the things they can do that i can't, i love that they make me want to be a better person. But what do i really love? Man, the conversations that we can have, the life giving, encouraging, edifiying and affirming conversations because of what we believe. Imagine trying to have a conversation like that with someone who claims 'not even to understand what the Bible means'. Paper thin. Hopeless. I would hate it. My best friends encourage me, and hold me accountable because of our confessional stance on the truth. If they fell into unrepentant sin i would let them know...i would literally Bible bash them, because i love them, and they need to know the truth. I hope, and know, they would do the same. Confessionality gives us that. And i never want to lose that.

A couple of disclaimers:

We must never think that just because we've signed a statement of faith we are saved. It's about the heart, not about the pen. I believe that being able to wholeheartedly and in good faith sign a statement of faith is a good sign you're saved, but lets not confuse the fruit with the root.

The things outlines in our statements must reflect the Bible. Must must must. Or we may as well sign receipts when we come into membership. If you can't find what your statement of faith in the Bible throw it away, open up the Word, and start again.

I haven't mentioned church discipline, but i think thats fairly easy to imply from points two and three. Well, probably fomr all of them.


thebluefish said...

you should go on holiday more often. good stuff brother.

Kath said...

lots to affirm here obviously, but, I wonder, some of the best life affirming, worldview enhancing conversations i've had are with people who don't really believe in the total authority of the Bible, or the truth of Christianity... They have been conversations that have encouraged me in my faith, helped me see the world from a different point of view etc.

We need to watch ourselves here, to be careful, statements of faith are BRILLIANT but there is much conversation, delight and life changing moments beyond their boundaries, and even without them as the foundation for chats...

A lot of the time I have no idea what bits of the Bible mean... There is truth and reality beyond the DB and we need to embrace that whilst standing firm on the stuff we can be sure of... the DB should widen out our framework to embrace conversation, that's where the emergent church stuff should challenge us to think beyond our boundaries and have deeper conversations, but we can also challenge the way of thinking that says we don't need DBs cos they narrow things down. In the wrong hands they do, in the right hands they are platforms to see the stars better from...

Anyway, what you probably need right now is some encouragement, so am praying Bulgy goes well, love the students, tell em about reality and ask lots and lots of questions. Take care man, hope you get the gist of this!