Statement of Faith
"... if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9), forms the basic core of faith which a Christian believes.
The following intends to outline the central articles of faith, [with footnotes as necessary]; and where my belief covers more than expressly stated by each article, to interpret the article. Within the articles my concern is to represent the faith of the church. In this my confession is that they represent the essential thought of the church, though they allow themselves to be interpreted differently. The articles then are not final statements, but part of personal interpretations of the church's faith.
The central articles of faith are:
The Holy Spirit
|-||that he [ie. personal] loves man|
|-||that he reveals himself to man by the witness of the Spirit, the scriptures, and the church|
|-||that he demands [in as much as he is God and reveals himself to man, he is worthy of these without earning them, so he claims/demands them of man] belief, obedience, and worship|
|-||that there is no other god before him, but he alone is author and Lord of creation|
|-||that it is only as man approaches him in faith [paradoxical - given, but something that a person has (see also Hebrews 11:6)] that he finds him|
I believe in God, who has made himself known by the witness of the Spirit, the scriptures, and the church. In revealing himself to man I find that he needs nothing to authenticate himself, but bears witness to himself as holy, omnipotent, and loving, with both justice and mercy. When God confronts man he reveals not just himself, but also the nature of that man.
In that he is God and reveals himself to man, belief, obedience, and worship are not things which he must earn from man, but things which he has the right to claim from man (who was made in his image to reflect his glory or likeness). He allows man the freedom to reject that claim.
I believe that there never has been, is, or will be another god besides God, but that he alone is author and Lord of creation. He allows evil to exist in his creation, but he is neither the author of evil nor wills it. I believe him to be directing history to his own end, and that his purpose can not be thwarted by evil, though I feel this is paradoxical.
I believe that man has no claim on God, that he lives in his mercy. I find God to give what he demands to him who will receive it in faith, and that without this faith it is impossible to please God.
|-||that God has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Spirit - one God|
|-||that Jesus is the Christ looked for and witnessed to by the scriptures|
|-||that he became man [living the life claimed of man]|
|-||that in his death and resurrection he has defeated death and sin|
|-||that his action offers salvation to man|
|-||that it is only in Jesus that man finds/knows God [Jesus reveals the Father through the Spirit], himself, and his neighbor|
|-||that Jesus lives in the believer|
Having said that God has revealed himself as Son, it is affirmed that Jesus Christ is God.
I believe that Jesus though being in the form of God emptied himself and became man (that is, he did not impose himself on man as God), that he lived as man in the image of God, was crucified, and resurrected from the dead. The purpose of his life was not just of an exemplary/teaching character, but primarily to effect the salvation of man through his death and resurrection. In these he has defeated death and sin, and offers to man freedom from the power of sin (and its judgement) and life.
I believe that Jesus Christ reveals the Father through the Spirit in the believer, that he lives in personal fellowship with the believer. I believe that it is only in Jesus that man can find/know God, himself, his neighbor, and the world he lives in; and that apart from Jesus man can not be free - to be freed by the Son is to be free indeed.
The Holy Spirit:
|-||that the Spirit reveals and interprets the things [eg. Jesus, scriptures, church, consciousness of sin...] of God to man|
|-||that he [ie. personal] directs man to God|
|-||that he works in man|
I believe that Spirit works in man without the consent of man, directing him to Jesus, and that the Spirit works in the world.
I believe that the Spirit reveals Jesus and the consciousness of sin to believing man, but also the consciousness that he is accepted.
I believe that the Spirit continues to work in the believer, quickening his fellowship with God and man, sanctifying him, directing him to all truth.
|-||that man is made in the image of God [made to reflect his glory or likeness in belief, obedience, and worship]|
|-||that God has a purpose for man's life|
|-||that man has estranged himself from God [and his purpose], himself, and his neighbor by sin|
|-||that man by his own initiative can not deal with sin [ie. justify himself, and faces the judgement of death on sin]|
|-||that believing [repentance and faith (in what Jesus has done), not to be confused with feeling or experience] man is a new creature [freed from the power and judgement of sin - in relation with God]|
|-||that the scriptures [all reference to scripture is subject to the interpretation of the Spirit] witness to God|
|-||that they are authoritative for faith and conduct|
|-||that they reveal sufficiently what man needs to know for salvation|
Scripture is inspired, though not infallible (in itself). It is only the man who approaches in the Spirit who can understand it; not to say that much can not be obtained from careful study, but that it is possible to be technically correct and spiritually wrong. (In this I am saying something similar to 'scripture does not contain the word of God, but becomes the word of God in the light of the Spirit'.) As such, scripture is an instrument of the Spirit.
The scriptures are a unity in that they testify to one God, and that they testify to what it is for man to be in relation with that God. They are authoritative, but their authority derives itself from the Spirit who interprets, and not primarily from the writer or the words. As an authoritative instrument of the Spirit they become a significant criteria for faith and conduct. While they are not the final word of God, the scriptures can not be divorced from the Christian's understanding of God, the world, or himself, but must be an integral part of his faith. The scriptures then can not be taken lightly, nor can they be taken seriously and then discarded.
|-||that the church witnesses [reference to the church's witness includes the Spirit's interpretation] to God|
|-||that it recognizes the Lordship of Jesus|
|-||that it is the society of the redeemed|
|-||that its work is proclamation, fellowship, and nurture|
|-||that it has ordained for itself ministers [those set apart by the call of God for this function] to be responsible for the word and sacraments|
I believe the church to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, witnessing to God; that while there are many expressions of faith, the church is the society of the redeemed who acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I believe its work to be one of proclaiming the gospel, both the good news and the judgement, that all Christians are called to participate in its fellowship, and that it is responsible for their growth and discipline. For the purposes of discipline the church has the right of anathema, but no action of the church can damn man.
I believe that in ordination the church recognizes and requests God's guidance on those set apart for the ministry by the call of God. The minister is responsible for the word and sacraments, for presenting the gospel accurately in his life and teaching, and for doing all things decently and in order. The minister is not different from any other Christian, except for his calling and the degree of responsibility attached to his position.
|-||that the sacraments are outward visible signs by which believing man acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ|
|-||that with the sacraments God works in the believer|
I acknowledge the sacraments to be baptism and the eucharist.
Baptism is a public confession of an inner faith in Jesus as Lord. In the case of infant baptism the parents and the church acknowledge their desire that the child might confess Jesus as Lord, asking that God work in them and the child to make that possible.
In the eucharist the church both confesses the Lordship of Jesus and offers thanks for his saving action individually and corporately. The elements represent both Jesus and the church, a sacrifice to God, and denote the unity of the church as it partakes of one loaf.
I believe that God works in him who receives the sacraments confessing the Lordship of Jesus.
|-||that there is an end to history and a final kingdom|
|-||in the resurrection of the living and the dead [to judgement]|
|-||that believing man has life|
|-||that unbelieving man has no part in that life|
I live in the expectation of the second coming.
My understanding of man is that while he might significantly change his situation, he can not by his own initiative change his condition - that he can not bring about the kingdom on earth, but is the creature of another kingdom.
I believe in the resurrection of the living and the dead to judgement; that man's existence does not end with death, but that he is accountable for being made in the image of God.
I believe that 'belief' is a gift both demanded and given by God (not just by man's arbitrary decision); that 'belief' is more than assertion, but a statement involving one's total person.
The judgement is concerned with man's 'belief' in the action of Jesus. I believe that while God has mercy, his judgement must damn man who rejects him. I believe that the Christian is responsible for 'him who never heard', and that whatever decision God makes concerning 'him who never heard' is a righteous decision.
I believe that 'believing' man has life as a son of God in his kingdom, finally freed completely from the power of sin; and that 'unbelieving' man has no part in that life.
I believe that only in Jesus man finds/knows God, himself, his neighbor, and the world he lives in; that in Jesus man is freed from the power of sin, and though he continues to sin he may sin boldly - in Luther's sense - knowing that he is forgiven, but that he is not to become again the slave of sin (though he can repudiate his faith).
I believe that man is not his own, but is made in the image of God to do God's will. The Christian, because he is free, can both know God's will and do it. This is possible not through man's initiative, but because of God's initiative through the witness of the Spirit, the scriptures, and the church.
I believe that man is called to live in fellowship with God and the church. The Christian is called to love others, respecting their differences, and bringing them to Jesus.
I believe that the Christian is to live in the expectation of the second coming.