Last week I introduced the term “ant language”. If you accept my premise and explanation it will allow you to identify and faithfully hold to the core beliefs of the Christian faith which we’ll get to in this blog and enable you to articulate them to your children. It also helps explain why serious Christians who love God and have a high view of scriptures can disagree on so many doctrinal and faith practice issues.
The vast majority of Christians have believed certain core doctrines for 2,000 years, like the deity, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Those beliefs must be held by every individual who claims to be a Christian. But who can honestly say that they truly understand the deeper mysteries of the doctrine of atonement, all the implications the resurrection for believers today, what goes on spiritually when a person is born again, baptized or when we’re taking communion?
Younger people see debates on these issues of theology where good Christians differ, not only as energy leaks, but the attitude and arrogance of the debaters themselves as sinful. It doesn’t shore up their faith. They want to run for the door. And they are. I think we can do something about that.
The Bible – our only reliable source for truth from God’s perspective.
Here’s my position on the Bible. I personally believe every story in the Bible is true. Adam and Eve, Noah, Job, Jonah, the Israelites, the parting of the Red Sea, God speaking from the mountain – all of it. Other Christians don’t. Have I had my doubts occasionally? Sure. But here’s the problem with cherry picking, the parts of the Bible we choose to believe. How in the world would I decide, which stories are metaphors and which actually happened? How could I possibly have enough faith in a book to have it be the blueprint for my life if I thought it was full of errors, or filled with Asops Fables type stories which aren’t actually true, but teach truth? If Adam and Eve is just a story, then maybe the resurrection story, is just a story.
I once had a calculator that started to make mistakes. I never was able to determine exactly which number, or function was the problem, so I threw it out. I needed to be able to trust my calculator 100% of the time. The same is true of the Bible. If I didn’t trust it completely, when a tough decision or problem came along I’d probably be tempted to cherry pick it for the truths that were convenient for me. There are a lot of things I wish God had never said – lots of inconvenient truth.
I can’t imagine standing before God someday and having him shake His head, disappointed “Oh, Clare, I just can’t believe that you believed every story and teaching in the Bible was true. I mean, come on! You lived in the 21st century for heaven’s sake – you’re a smart guy! I told those stories for simple desert dwellers to teach them truth. I thought you could figure that out. Well, the important thing is that you got Jesus and salvation right – so come on in.”
So, I believe it all, even if I don’t understand it all. Call me naïve’, but I just don’t trust myself to edit God.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16-17
The Most Important Things
A few years ago, in response to what some have called, the “emergent church”, I asked groups of men and women to take a few weeks and write down their answers to this question: What truths have all Christians since the early church believed, and will still be true 2,000 years from now, for people to consider themselves true Christians? The goal was not to identify all biblical truth – but only the core beliefs of Christianity.
In preparation I gave them the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. While admittedly the Apostles Creed has been edited over the centuries, these two documents are two of the earliest and most important doctrinal statements of the early church.
View them by clicking here: http://www.crchurches.net/resources/creeds/ApostlesCreed.html and http://www.crchurches.net/resources/creeds/NiceneCreed.html
By the way, the groups doing this exercise were diverse – young and old, new followers of Jesus and life-long Christians, minorities, members of emergent and traditional churches. The following is a summary of what they collectively came up with as the most important doctrines of Christianity. (It’s worth nothing that younger people lobbied to include a number of “how Christians should live” statements in this list.)
There is only one loving, eternal, sovereign God who exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning, out of nothing, God created the heavens and the earth and all living things and they were good and perfect.
The first humans, who God created in his image, sinned and all human beings ever since are driven by their sin nature to act selfishly and contrary to God’s written laws and even their own consciences.
Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of Mary, a virgin, and was both fully God and fully man. Jesus lived a sinless life, taught about the Kingdom of Heaven and how God wants us to live in this life. He died on the cross for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, and lives today with the Father.
All who desire forgiveness must be broken-hearted over their sin, repent, believe Jesus is the Son of God, and they will be born again by the Holy Spirit.
All those who are truly born again will bear witness to that fact by making it the purpose of their lives to live out the teachings of Jesus, summarized by the two greatest commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus Christ rules over the Kingdom of God on earth primarily through his church) all believers, everywhere) and local assemblies of believers who worship, love and obey him.
Jesus is coming again to usher in the final phase of his perfect kingdom, on earth. On that day he will judge the living and the dead. All those who truly believed and obeyed God will live and reign forever with him. Those who did not will be separated from God forever.
The Bible is God’s message to humans, inspired by God and is therefore absolutely trustworthy, and it is our ultimate authority for all spiritual and moral truth. It’s through the Bible that we best understand God’s work in history, the future and his will for our lives today.
Note: In all fairness, the early church didn’t always have the whole New Testament. However, they believed the writings of the apostles were inspired and were of God, long before their formal adoption into the canon of scripture.
I think they did a pretty good job! As I’ve said, there’s a lot more truth in the Bible than these truths. Many that I would defend vigorously – but few I would die for. I’ll embrace anyone who truly loves God, loves others and actually lives by these core truths, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, even if I occasionally wince when I hear them articulate what I believe is some really bad theology (as they probably do when they heard it from me as well!).
It’s Your Turn
Try doing this exercise yourself and then with your own family. It’s been my experience that when young Christians do this, they begin to “own” them as their personal beliefs and have far more confidence in the core doctrines so dear to all true believers. As a result, they’re far less likely to be blown by “every wind of doctrine” the next hip pastor or blogger comes up with. If we want our children to whole-heartedly embrace Jesus and the gospel that he lived and taught we’re going to have to be a lot more honest about what we really don’t know with certainty and be twice as passionate and committed to living out what all true Christians have always held dear.
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” II Timothy 3:3-4
Question: Are there any absolutely essential, core doctrines these groups or I have missed that a person must both believe and live out with passion to be called a true Christian?