I'd appreciate feedback on any or all of this statement. It's a work in progress - I tried to support most of it Biblically, and address as many issues of faith and doctrine as I could, but I'm certain there are things that I forgot/overlooked/am too ignorant about to have anything to say. It's something I'd always wanted to get around to, and now I'm doing it as part of the materials for raising support for my post-graduation internship in the church.
I believe that Jesus Christ is and was fully God (John 8:58, Acts 13:38) and fully man, with all human emotions (John 11:35, etc.), limitations, and experiences, having taken ?voluntarily and willingly ?upon himself human form (Phil. 2:7), in order to, in some way, enable fallen men to come before God the Father (John 14:6). I believe that the life of Yeshua bin Yusuf, Jesus the legal son of Joseph, is a historical fact, including his birth to Mary, Joseph wife (Luke 1-2), his life, ministry, death (as related by the Jewish historian Josephus, as well as the four Gospels of the New Testament), resurrection, and ascension (Luke 24). I believe that he will come again at the end of history to judge the living and dead (Revelation 20:11-15).
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah attested to by the Jewish prophets and prefigured by Jewish law. I believe that fulfillment and happiness lies in a personal relationship of gratitude towards, love for, and obedience to Christ (John 14:15). The characterization of Christ and His teachings that I have seen revealed in Scripture, meditation, and prayer is one of peacemaking, love, sacrifice, righteousness, and humility (Matt. 5:1-14). I believe that Christ has been eternally and everlastingly present in relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the most important element of Christianity: acceptance of the truth of His miraculous birth, life of love and guidance, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection and ascension is critical for a Christian believer, second only to a personal understanding and experience of His person (Romans 8:1-8).
God the Father
I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who created all things (Genesis 1-2), and is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7), omnipotent (Eph. 3:20), and omnibenevolent (Ps. 18:30). I lean towards a limited view of omnipotence (i.e., that omnipotence is limited to those actions logically possible), because I believe that God will, sovereign over all things, allows his willing self-limitation, though I am also open to an unlimited view of omnipotence. I take a skeptical view of open theism, and lean rather towards a belief in an atemporal God, who is not constrained to experiencing and moving through time in the same manner that we do. I believe that shalom (completeness, wholeness, rightness) and goodness are tied to and defined by the character and being of God.
I believe that the perfection of God encompasses many attributes, including (but not limited to) His perfect mercy, grace, love, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, and strength. I believe that God desires for all created beings to be in a loving relationship with Him, through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) and the Holy Spirit, and for all creation to give Him praise and rejoice in Him eternally, and that these goals are accomplished through His grace given to mankind (James 1:17).
The Holy Spirit
I believe that the Holy Spirit is and has been present and active in the world (Genesis 1:2), and is so in the hearts and lives of men and women. I believe that the continual indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a gift unique to the Christian believer (Acts 2:18), but that the Spirit may also come upon those who do not have a relationship with Christ (Acts 2:17), in order to stir them to action, reveal truth to them, or otherwise act in their lives. I believe that many functions of the Spirit are revelatory, including revealing sin, the need for salvation, the comfort of belief in Christ, etc. I believe that the Spirit, like Christ and the Father, has been eternally present in relationship to Christ and the Father. At the moment, I hold to no view on the doctrine of procession and the filioque clause, though I recognize the necessity for a Christian in ministry or position of spiritual authority to have understood and acknowledged the historical and theological difficulties associated with that debate, and to have prayerfully considered them.
I believe that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are simultaneously one being and three entities, the mystery of the three-in-one relationship extant therein uncomprehensible to human minds. I believe that it is fundamentally important to emphasize the monotheism of Christianity and also to emphasize the relational aspect of the three entities within the Trinity, and view as heresy any theology that claims Trinitarianism as a polytheistic doctrine, or the nature of God to be less than three-in-one, or any member of the Trinity to be less than fully God. It is important, too, to emphasize that the Trinity is a Biblical concept (Matt. 28:19). I believe that the Godhead possesses and defines all Good characteristics, including male and female attributes. As such, though I see God as male because of His self-revelation as such through Jesus Christ and Christ descriptions of His Father, I also emphasize the need for a subtle view of gender roles and characteristics of the Godhead (Is. 55:8-9).
I believe that man was created in the image of God , and that the purpose of man existence is to praise God, to e His glory? and to rejoice in Him throughout eternity.
I believe that the fundamental problem of man, and consequently the universe, is sin, defined as ebellion, conscious or unconscious, against the will of God, and pursuit of an end other than the fulfillment of that will?(Isaiah 53:6). I believe that the ultimate origin of sin is one of the unknowable mysteries of the Bible, but fully affirm that God is not, in any way, responsible for its creation. I believe that men are, as a species, sinful (Romans 5:12), but that the sin nature is not essential to man nature, but rather a perversion of the true nature of man, the template of which has only been seen in history in the fully human Jesus Christ (Romans 6:5). I affirm the stewardship of man over all of creation (Gen. 1:28). I believe that man was created with real free will (Deut. 30:16-17), but that this is reconcilable with the sovereignty of God (Eph. 1:4).
I affirm that no man can, by virtue of his own efforts, be blameless before God (Romans 3:23), but that all men may, through an acceptance of Christ sacrifice, find salvation and eventual restoration to an eternal relationship with God (Romans 6:11, John 3:16).
I condemn Gnosticism, and any theology that proclaims humans or the human Christ to be disembodied and only spiritual beings (1 John 5:6): I affirm embodiment as characteristic of humanity, and the fundamental ontology of human beings to be both physical body as well as disembodied soul, both of which are present in our earthly journey and will be present, in a changed form, after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:35-54).
Other Beings/Angelology and Demonology
I believe that there are such beings as angels (Luke 1:26, Matthew 1:20, Mark 8:38, etc.) and devils (Jude 1:6), including Satan. I believe that all things are created by God. I believe that the primary purpose of angels, as revealed in Scripture, is to present the will or messages of God. I believe that men may be, have been, and used to be tempted, accused, and possessed by demons, but that their powers are limited by the loving will of God. Most of all, however, I acknowledge the scarcity of Biblical information on the subject of angels and demons, and, at the moment, remain hesitant to judge otherwise-Biblical theologies for any particular doctrine of such beings.
I believe that salvation, the removal of an individual man or all men from a state of sinfulness and distance from God, was accomplished through the atoning death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:21-28), and is effected in each individual life only through the power of the blood of Christ to place an individual under the aw of the Spirit?(Romans 8:1-2). I lean towards the view that salvation is only effected by a life-changing, conscious understanding of the necessity of Christ death and the subsequent establishment of a personal relationship between the individual and Christ, but remain curious about certain theologies (such as those of Karl Rahner) which proclaim that the gift of Christ sacrifice may be accepted unconsciously in certain special circumstances (especially in consideration of Romans 2:12-16). Above all, I see the Church, in proclaiming the message of Christ death, as God chosen people in this age, to carry the message of salvation throughout the world (Matt. 16:18, Eph. 5:23-27).
I believe that salvation is an internal transformation with external consequences; that, at the moment of salvation, the believer in Christ is justified and sinless in the eyes of God, but that this inward justification will be confirmed by outward signs (James 2:20). I believe that the signs of each inward transformation are highly variable, and cannot be enumerated specifically, but that common to every actually saved believer is a love for God and, thereby, an increasing obedience to and awareness of the fullness of God commandments (John 14:15, 1 John 3:18).
I believe in Heaven as a real place, in the eternal and everlasting presence and glory of God, made beautiful by that presence. I believe in Hell as a place of eeping and gnashing of teeth?(Matt. 13:42, Luke 13:27) and of utter and truest darkness (Jude 1:6). I believe that the ultimate decision regarding salvation is, has been, and always will be dependent on the judgment of God (Rom. 2:16). Regarding any sort of theology of predestination or double predestination, I remain undecided, though I do reassert the sovereignty of God will as an element of any theology.
I believe that Scripture is God-inspired (literally, od-breathed?, a source of divine revelation, and useful for many types of teaching and learning (2 Tim. 3:16). I affirm the infallibility of Scripture, but draw a distinction between infallibility and inerrancy; I remain undecided on, leaning towards denial of, inerrancy. I believe that any part of Scripture may be understood by anyone, irrespective of their level of understanding or knowledge, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Despite this, I believe that it is important for the Christian believer to desire to increase his or her personal understanding of the textual and cultural context of every part of the Bible, because I believe that it is critical for the reader to approach the Bible from a place of humility: in pursuing scriptural revelation, one ought to approach the text with an attitude of humility, eager for correction and teaching, rather than an attitude of pride, eager to see in the Scriptures what the reader has already decided ought to be there, in order to avoid the possibility of subscribing to a self-centred, rather than God-centred, understanding of the Bible.
I believe that the Scriptures were written by sinful, imperfect men, inspired by perfect God, and translated/transcribed by such men. As such, I understand the difficulties inherent in accepting any one translation of the Bible, and suggest that Christians take seriously, and use for reference, the various legitimate competing vernacular texts. I do not think that it is incumbent upon every Christian to achieve any level of understanding of Hebrew or Greek, but affirm that any believer desiring to pursue hermeneutics or Biblical exegesis beyond a basic level should consider strongly pursuing such capabilities.
I have little understanding of the Apocrypha, but lean towards the Protestant view of the Biblical canon: 66 books, with the books of the Apocrypha as useful but non-authoritative works. I strongly believe in the historicity and historical verifiability of the canonical books, and view the Gnostic Gospels and other similar non-canonical works claiming Scriptural status as heretical. I believe that commentaries and other writings can and should be used to gain perspective of the words of Scripture, but that ultimate authority in interpreting Scripture lies in the Holy Spirit.
I believe that prayer may take many forms (intercessory, petition, praise, thanksgiving, confession, etc.), but that all prayer is fundamentally a dialogue with God, modeled on the Apostles?Prayer (Matt. 6, Luke 11) laid out by Christ for His disciples. I believe that a strong prayer life includes not only spoken or explicit communications with God, but also extends into the manner and details of one life and daily activities: in such a manner, I believe that one may learn to ray ceaselessly?(1 Thess. 5:17) and thereby be in continual communication with God.
Because of verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and stories such as those in Daniel 6, I think that prayer is not only beneficial to the Christian believer and a natural complement to his or her theological growth, but that the believer is called to regularly come before God in prayer, as an individual and corporately with others. In fact, I believe that it is in prayer for and with others that the work of the Spirit to create bonds between brothers and sisters of the Church is best done.
I tend to pray to God the Father, but believe that prayers to Christ and the Holy Spirit are not heterodox. I view prayers to Mary, canonized Saints, and any other entities as unbiblical, and am strongly cautious about condoning views of prayer which would see such prayers as an major part of the expression of the Christian faith.
I believe that the writings of the Desert Fathers and early Church leadership should be taken seriously as guides to church polity and governance, but that the ultimate guide to the direction and structure of the Church is the leading of God, revealed to those called as members of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:4-6).
One area of doctrine that I have been wrestling with over the last two years is that of church structure and definition. I believe that there are two churches: the earthly church, comprised of those who claim to accept Jesus Christ as son of God and Lord of their lives, and the true Church, comprised of those . Not all of those who publicly proclaim to be in the church are truly so (Gal. 2:4), and I think it is possible that there are those who will never proclaim to be in the church who are (Rom. 2). However, I wonder how important a well-defined structure is to the functioning of the Church and the entrance of the Kingdom of Heaven into the hearts and lives of the secular world. On the one hand, I believe that God is a God of precision and exactitude (as demonstrated in Gen. 6, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc.), and that this is reflected in His revealed will. On the other hand, I also believe that God reasoning and plans are inscrutable to man (Is. 55:8-9), and that His secret will is thus unknowable. In-part because of this view of God will, I think that it is important to emphasize the need for a historically grounded, highly structured, organized church, adaptive to contemporary needs and worldviews, while also emphasizing the need for a highly flexible parachurch, often less-grounded in church history and organized around specific goals and theological emphases. The question of how to support and be active in both, or which to emphasize over the other, is one on which I still have much thinking to do.
My uncertainty regarding the various ways of structuring the Church also pertains to the ordination of pastors, ministers, and priests. At the very core, I see the role of pastor or Church leader as a God-given ability (Eph. 4:11), to be used for the advancement of the Kingdom of God and the salvation and growth of Christians. The question of the Church role in discovering, nurturing, training, and promoting these gifts is also one on which I desire to spend much time, along with the questions of who ought to be permitted to teach, preach, or be publicly acknowledged as a minister.
I believe that the Church should be present in every day of a believer life, in common prayer, fellowship, eating, worship, and shared experiences (Acts 2:42-47). The Sabbath day of rest, moved from the modern Saturday to Sunday, having been chosen by the historical Catholic church as the day of assembly, should be honored both in order to deepen the fellowship and faith of the individual believer as well as the congregation of all saints as well as to follow a God-ordained model (Heb. 10:25, Mark 2:27, Gen. 2:2).
I believe that many spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12, Romans 12, Eph. 4) are granted to different individuals. I tend to lean away from charismatic understandings of spiritual gifts, and am partial to a cessationist view, but openly seek further conviction on these matters.
I believe that evangelism ought to be approached as the good proclamation of a good message (eu-, ood?or ell?+ angelos, essenger?or essage?, and that it is among the joyful, central, duties of all believers in Christ (Matt. 28:16-20). I believe that evangelism will take many forms, including lifestyle witness, initiative outreach, ministries within the church, overseas missions, etc (1 Cor. 9:22). Most importantly, however, any form of evangelism is effective only through the grace of God and the work of the Spirit in men lives and hearts.
I also place critical emphasis on the fact that we, as followers of Christ, ought to strive to bring our personal spiritual lives into consistency with our proclamations of the Gospel and the truths revealed to us through prayer, meditation on Scripture, and other believers, in order to present a broad witness of the fullness of the life-changing revelation of salvation.
Though I deny the view of the ocial gospel?proclaimed in many mainline Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, and other denominational churches, I am strongly convicted that for Christians o be doers of the Word, not hearers only?(James 1:22) involves living lives consistent with the messages we proclaim, including the image and character of God reflected in His Creation, especially in the natural and human worlds, and the radical peacemaking, love, and forgiveness preached by Christ.
Towards this end, I think it important for Christians to understand the continual refrain found in Scripture on serving the poor (Is. 61, Matt. 25:40), disenfranchised (including the targets of racism, socioeconomic discrimination, and age or gender bias), and needy (Luke 6:17), and to commit ourselves to pursue means to do so more and more effectively and lovingly. It is also important for Christians to examine Biblical views of stewardship and understand how those views play into, or sometimes contradict, popular views of environmentalism and conservation.
I am also convicted that, as citizens of various countries and members of various demographics, Christians must also realize that their actions have ramifications on a political scope. I believe firmly that Christians should not buy into partisan views or agendas, but rather emphasize that the political duty of a Christian is motivated by the same factors as all other duties in life: to serve God and demonstrate His character, love, and salvation to all men.
Christianity and Other Religions
I believe that other world religions represent solutions ?at best incomplete, at worst thoroughly wrongheaded ?to the emptiness of a life lived without a personal relationship with God. As such, I believe that there is some grain of truth within each religion, and the duty of Christians in dialogue with believers of other faith traditions is to, through appeal to the Holy Spirit and living Scripture (Heb. 4:12), learn to separate truth from falsehood, in order to affirm the true desires of non-Christian believers while exposing the falsity of claims to salvation or fulfillment that lie outside of Christ.
I believe that Christians ought to approach adherents of other religions with the attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:3-8): to affirm them as worthy creations of God and potential adopted children of God (Eph. 1:5), and, as a result, to approach apologetic and polemic discussions not as an exercise of intellectual or spiritual dominance ("It is a wicked prayer to ask to have someone to hate or to fear, so that he may be someone to conquer." - Augustine, City of God, IV.15), but rather as an opportunity to ive the reason for the hope that you have? with gentleness and respect?(1 Peter 3:15). Throughout such dialogues, I believe that the spirit of the true Redeemer may shine truth and light into the lives of others, drawing them to Himself.
I believe that the end of history, the time of the return of Christ to udge the living and the dead?(as the Apostolic Creed proclaims, from 1 Peter 4:5), is quickly approaching, and has been imminent (1 Thess. 5:2) ever since the Ascension of Christ; that, in fact, the end of history has been looming near throughout the entire age of the Church.
While I do affirm that the end of history will bring with it great torment and sorrow to those who have chosen to live in rebellion towards Christ, I believe to have received enough conviction from my personal meditation on Scripture and relationship with Christ to be significantly troubled by many popularly-held views of the End Times, especially those concerning Rapture. However, due to my theological ignorance on these matters, I am highly interested in a thorough study of the Book of Revelation, in order to further form my doctrines regarding eschatology, prophecy regarding the future, and the like.
The Christian Life
In addition to the other views I have listed above regarding living out the Christian life (in particular, Phil. 2 and Acts 2), I think that the passage in 1 Timothy 3 on the qualifications of a church deacon (v. 8-13) to be excellent guidelines, in general, for the outward actions springing from a repentant and Spirit-filled soul in this age of the Church.