Basic Beliefs

When I read other blogs, I am always curious about the essential beliefs of the writer.  So, here are some of mine:

Yes, there is a God, the I AM, and this God is revealed thus far to humanity in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 1 This God is an eternal community. This God is love.  This God is powerful.  This God can create and destroy.  This God is humble and gracious.  This God created all that exists and sustains all that exists.

I believe the Bible is scripture inspired by God, composed by men and women through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I lean heavily toward believing that in the original languages it is without error.  Even though the various books of the Bible were composed with messages for particular persons and people groups, and these messages were packaged and understood within the cultural framework of the original audience, these messages contain precepts and truths that endure for all time, for all people.  Its truths can be distorted and misunderstood, but correctly discerned and interpreted, the Bible is the authoritative guide for life and salvation. The canon of scripture is closed now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have come. Jesus was the living Word revealed to humanity, and the New Testament was written by those who witnessed Jesus. Jesus is in heaven, and those who witnessed his life are deceased, so no further revelation is needed. Yes, I believe in the gift of prophecy from the Holy Spirit, and I believe philosophical theology has its merits:but every essential thing we need to know for life and salvation until we get to heaven is in the Bible.

I believe the tenets of the Apostles’ Creed. 2 And I mostly believe in the Nicene Creed.  Supposedly Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox all accept this creed (except for the filioque clause rejected by the Orthodox), but I think that Protestants define some of the creed’s concepts differently from the other branches. I am sure we each think that we have the most original, pure interpretation.

Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and Son or just the Father?  I don’t know.  Perhaps there was a big controversy between east and west with no agreement because both sides are wrong. The question of procession could be rooted in a deep misunderstanding of God. 3 I believe the Holy Spirit is that defining nature of God who is the source (if source is even the right word) of the Father and Son rather than vice-versa. The Spirit proceeds to us because we are being brought into this divine communion.

And I have to say, I don’t really believe in the “apostolic church” in quite the same way as the Catholics and Orthodox do. I respect apostolic succession. It is more biblical and traditional than I was taught even in seminary, but I maintain that the authority to minister ultimately comes from the name of Jesus. 4Even though Jesus established apostolic authority, he let ministry move outside the confines of that apostolic authority because it is about Jesus. The apostles were much more keen on their authority as the basis of their ministry than Jesus wanted. When they came to him, complaining that people were casting out demons in his name even though they were not associated with the apostles, Jesus told them that any ministry in the name of Jesus is good. To counter and say Jesus’ words in Mark 9:38-41 only apply to ministry not church authority misses the context of the apostles’ concern regarding the authority recently given to them. The apostles had been given authority, and they were concerned that others were operating without being authorized or ordained to do so. Jesus was the one who gave the apostles authority, but he is also the one in juxtaposition to their authority says of the unauthorized minister, “do not stop him.” Therefore, when I say that I believe in the apostolic church, I mean that I believe the church is based on the teaching of the apostles; furthermore, the integrity of the message was originally preserved through succession from the apostles; however, formal “apostolic succession” is not necessary for ministry within the church. I also believe the church is apostolic because it has been sent by Christ out into the world to make disciples of all nations.

The other slight qualm I have about the Nicene Creed is that I believe baptism is a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, not the actual means whereby we receive forgiveness of sins.  It is our faith that brings new life.  I think the Nicene Creed conflates the profession and forgiveness a little too much.

Now that I’ve rejected a few quasi-central elements of this very old creed (I’m using a translation based on the later version from 381), let me say I do like that this creed affirms that Father, Son, and Spirit are all God.  I like that it gives an overview of Jesus’ life, authority, and his return.  I like that it affirms the communion of saints and the identity of believers as the church.

This text is from the an Orthodox site: 5

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages;

Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made.

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;

And He rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father;

And He will come again with glory to judge the living and dead.  His kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets.

In one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come.

Amen.

 

Salvation.  Yes, I believe we need to be “saved.”  I think that all humans are born separated from the life of God.  Jesus lived and died and rose again. He offers new life, forgiveness of sins, and communion with God to all who simply confess who he is.  He taught, “whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward (Matthew 10:41).” 6  He also taught that he was the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

Other important scripture regarding salvation:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. ~ Ephesians 2:4-9

God is so gracious and so humble and so not power-hungry that his/their plan is not only to graciously give life to us but also share his/their throne with us. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…” This is not being seated on a lounge chair beside a pool (though that would be lovely). That chapter in Ephesians had just described how Jesus is seated on the throne above every single power. And then it says we are seated with him. The Ruler of the Universe wants us to join him in his rule.

And this gift of life and power is not the result of anything we do. It is simply a gracious gift given to us that we receive by faith.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” ~Romans 10:9-13

 

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

I have many more beliefs than listed here.  But you’ll have to wait to hear the others!

And now, a song.  Or seven songs.  The following clips are from perhaps my favorite Christian artist, Rich Mullins.  He died in 1997 in a car wreck. The first song is called “Creed,” featuring the hammered dulcimer in the intro.  I include this clip of music that you might not like because I think of this song whenever I encounter any creed.  It’s actually the Apostles’ Creed, only slightly modified.  I like Rich Mullins for the poetry and heart of his songs, and the hammered dulcimer is pretty cool.  He captures faith.


 

 

 

Notes:

  1. I usually refer to God with masculine singular pronouns.  The reason why I use singular pronouns is to emphasize the unity of God.  The reason why I use masculine pronouns is that Father, Son, and Spirit are all referred to as “he” in the New Testament.  Both male and female are created in God’s image, indicating both male and female are expressions of who God is.  And throughout scripture, masculine and feminine imagery are used to describe God.  These things indicate God just might be far beyond any label.  But for congruence with the pronouns used by Jesus about the Father and Spirit and about Jesus in the New Testament, not to mention that it’s just easier, I retain the masculine pronoun.
  2. Some translations say that Christ descended into hell. Other translations say that Christ descended to the dead. I lean toward the latter translation, but I do not exclude the possibility of Christ at least visiting hell.
  3. Some people have suggested this question of procession is the result of Greek philosophy rather than biblical teaching, but I am not inclined to reject a question simply because of its origin. This world has a myriad of cultures with unique perspectives and questions, and I think God can handle our inquiries. Scripture itself was created in the midst of cultures, and scripture addresses the immediate cultural concerns of the original audience. I trust that sufficient truth was revealed addressing the original culture that we can extrapolate truth to apply to the questions of other cultures.
  4. I consider the freedom to minister in Jesus’ name and ordination to be distinct topics.
  5. It is from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  There are many translations of the Nicene Creed.  All of them are fairly similar.  I deliberately chose an Orthodox version over Protestant or Catholic, but there are many Orthodox versions I could have used.  The version listed here is not the most gender neutral version I could have chosen.  The reasons for choosing this particular one are that it was readily located on the internet and seems to be an authorized version.
  6. This verse and the following are from the New International Version.

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