For many in the emerging movement there is a good reason to express the Christian faith by appealing to the creeds: that reason is ecumenical. By appealing to the creeds one is able to get way behind and well beyond fundamentalism and the sectarian tendencies of denominationalism.
Most of us are aware that Fundamentalists and most evangelical denominations define the faith for themselves. In effect, they define others out. So, the impulse to stake a claim for the whole church has given many of us reason to express the Christian faith by appealing to the creeds.
Instead of identifying with only one “brand” of the Christian faith, those who appeal to the creeds to identify the basic content of their faith are able to appeal to the core of the Church through all time and everywhere. Essentially, “orthodoxy” believes that there is an identifiable content to the Christian faith and that it can be articulated. No one has ever explained the creeds as expressing all of that faith, but it has always been a conviction that the central creedal statements are at the core of that faith. Denial of which jeopardizes Christian faith.
So, to see the wisdom in this, let me give you four creed-like statements: the Nicene Creed, a fundamentalist doctrinal statement, an evangelical affirmation of the faith, and the “beliefs” of the church started and formerly pastored by Brian McLaren, Cedar Ridge Community Church. What do you think of the wisdom of letting the Nicene Creed, or one of the classical creeds — like the Apostles’ Creed — be “our creed”/confession/doctrinal statement today too?
Last comment: I do not believe we should ever publish our local church doctrinal statements unless it is below or after (on a piece of paper) one of the classical creeds (Nicene is the earliest; some use Chalcedon; others use Nicean-Constantinopolitan). It should be seen as a local, modern, rendition of what the Church has always believed. Publshing them without the creeds turns the Church away from its history and gives the idea that no one has every gotten it right.
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker 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 worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
That’s the basics; that’s the core. Now notice what happens in American fundamentalism. If it got any longer we’d need a briefcase to carry it. Notice also that it gets into some name-calling.
Here’s a fundamentalist statement of faith, from the Independent Fundamentalist Churches of America:
Section l. Articles of Biblical Faith
Each and every person, church, or organization, in order to become or remain a member of IFCA International, shall be required to subscribe to the following articles of faith:
(1) The Holy Scriptures
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired Word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible and Godbreathed ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12-13).
(2) The Godhead
We believe in one Triune God, eternally existing in three persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-coeternal in being, coidentical in nature, coequal in power and glory, and having the same attributes and perfections (Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
(3) The Person and Work of Christ
a. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, without ceasing to be God, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, in order that he might reveal God and redeem sinful men (John 1:1-2,14; Luke 1:35).
b. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for all mankind as a representative, vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice, and that the sufficiency of this atoning sacrifice to accomplish the redemption and justification of all who trust in him is assured by his literal, physical resurrection from the dead (Romans 3:24-25; Romans 4:25; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Peter 2:24 and 2 Peter 2:1).
c. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, and is now exalted at the right hand of God, where, as our high priest, he fulfills the ministry of representative, intercessor, and advocate ( Acts 1:9-10; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2).
(4) The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
a. We believe that the Holy Spirit is a person who convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and, that he is the supernatural agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the body of Christ, indwelling and sealing them unto the day of redemption ( John 16:8-11; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14).
b. We believe that he is the divine teacher who guides believers into all truth; and, that it is the privilege and duty of all the saved to be filled with the Spirit ( John 16:13; 1 John 2:20,27; Ephesians 5:18).
(5) The Total Depravity of Man
We believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God, but that in Adam’s sin the race fell, inherited a sinful nature, and became alienated from God; and, that man is totally depraved, and, of himself, utterly unable to remedy his lost condition ( Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 3:22-23; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3,12).
We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 2:8-10; John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
(7) The Eternal Security and Assurance of Believers
a. We believe that all the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever ( John 6:37-40; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:1,38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 1 Peter 1:5).
b. We believe that it is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word; which, however, clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an occasion to the flesh ( Romans 13:13-14; Galatians 5:13; Titus 2:11-15).
(8) The Two Natures of the Believer
We believe that every saved person possesses two natures, with provision made for victory of the new nature over the old nature through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit; and, that all claims to the eradication of the old nature in this life are unscriptural ( Romans 6:13; Romans 8:12-13; Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 3:5-9).
We believe that all the saved should live in such a manner as not to bring reproach upon their Savior and Lord; and, that separation from all religious apostasy, all worldly and sinful pleasures, practices and associations is commanded of God ( 2Timothy 3:1-5; Romans 12:1-2; Romans 14:13; John 2:15-17; 2 John 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
We believe that it is the obligation of the saved to witness by life and by word to the truths of Holy Scripture and to seek to proclaim the gospel to all mankind ( Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
(11) The Ministry and Spiritual Gifts
a. We believe that God is sovereign in the bestowment of all his gifts; and, that the gifts of evangelists, pastors, and teachers are sufficient for the perfecting of the saints today; and, that speaking in tongues and the working of sign miracles gradually ceased as the New Testament Scriptures were completed and their authority became established ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:7-12).
b. We believe that God does hear and answer the prayer of faith, in accord with his own will, for the sick and afflicted ( John 15:7; 1 John 5:14-15).
(12) The Church
a. We believe that the Church, which is the body and the espoused bride of Christ, is a spiritual organism made up of all born again persons of this present age ( Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
b. We believe that the establishment and continuance of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament Scriptures ( Acts 14:27; Acts 20:17,28-32; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-11).
c. We believe in the autonomy of the local church free of any external authority or control (Acts 13:1-4; Acts 15:19-31; Acts 20:28; Romans 16:1,4; 1 Corinthians 3:9,16; 1 Corinthians 5:4-7,13; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
d. We believe in the ordinances of believer’s water baptism and the Lord’s supper as scriptural means of testimony for the church age ( Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42; Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
We believe that the Scriptures interpreted in their natural, literal sense reveal divinely determined dispensations or rules of life which define man’s responsibilities in successive ages. These dispensations are not ways of salvation, but rather divinely ordered stewardships by which God directs man according to his purpose. Three of these – the age of law, the age of the Church, and the age of the millennial kingdom are the subjects of detailed revelation in Scripture ( John 1:17; 1 Corinthians 9:17; 2 Corinthians 3:9-18; Galatians 3:13-25; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2-10; Colossians 1:24-25; Hebrews 7:19; Revelation 20:2-6).
(14) The Personality of Satan
We believe that Satan is a person, the author of sin and the cause of the fall; that he is the open and declared enemy of God and man; and, that he shall be eternally punished in the Lake of Fire ( Job 1:6-7; Isaiah 14:12-17; Matthew 4:2-11; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
(15) The Second Advent of Christ
We believe in that “Blessed Hope,” the personal, imminent, pretribulation and pre-millennial coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for his redeemed ones; and in his subsequent return to earth, with his saints, to establish his millennial kingdom ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Zechariah 14:4-11; Revelation 19:11-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
(16) The Eternal State
a. We believe in the bodily resurrection of all men, the saved to eternal life, and the unsaved to judgment and everlasting punishment ( Matthew 25:46; John 5:28-29; John 11:25-26; Revelation 20:5-6,12-13).
b. We believe that the souls of the redeemed are, at death, absent from the body and present with the Lord, where in conscious bliss they await the first resurrection, when spirit, soul and body are reunited to be glorified forever with the Lord ( Luke 23:43; Revelation 20:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Philippians 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
c. We believe that the souls of unbelievers remain, after death, in conscious misery until the second resurrection, when with soul and body reunited they shall appear at the Great White Throne Judgment, and shall be cast into the Lake of Fire, not to be annihilated, but to suffer everlasting conscious punishment ( Luke 16:19-26; Matthew 25:41-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Jude 1:6-7; Mark 9:43-48; Revelation 20:11-15).
Section 2. Movements Contrary to Faith
Ecumenism is that movement which seeks the organizational unity of all Christianity and ultimately of all religions. Its principal advocates are the World Council of Churches and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
b. Ecumenical Evangelism
Ecumenical Evangelism is that effort to promote the gospel by bringing fundamentalists into an unequal yoke with theological liberals and/or Roman Catholics and other divergent groups.
NeoOrthodoxy is that theological movement which affirms: the transcendence of God, the finiteness and sinfulness of man, and the necessity of supernatural divine revelation of truth; but, while using evangelical terminology, seriously departs from orthodoxy: in accepting the views of destructive higher criticism, in denying the inerrancy of the Bible as historic revelation, in accepting religious experience as the criterion of truth, and in abandoning important fundamentals of the Christian faith.
d. New Evangelicalism
(NeoEvangelicalism, New Conservatism)
These terms refer to that movement within evangelicalism characterized by a toleration of and a dialogue with theological liberalism. Its essence is seen in an emphasis upon the social application of the gospel and weak or unclear doctrines of: the inspiration of Scripture, biblical creationism, eschatology, dispensationalism, and separation. It is further characterized by an attempt to accommodate biblical Christianity and make it acceptable to the modern mind.
We believe that these movements are out of harmony with the Word of God and the official doctrine and position of IFCA International and are inimical to the work of God.
Section 3. Covenant of Faith
In subscribing to these articles of faith, we by no means set aside, or undervalue, any of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; but we deem the knowledge, belief and acceptance of the truth as set forth in our doctrinal statement, to be essential to sound faith and fruitful practice, and therefore requisite for Christian fellowship in IFCA International.
Now here’s an evangelical one, much milder than the previous one, this one from the Baptist General Conference:
1. The Word of God
We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, fully inspired and without error in the original manuscripts, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that it has supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
2. The Trinity
We believe that there is one living and true God, eternally existing in three persons, that these are equal in every divine perfection, and that they execute distinct but harmonious offices in the work of creation, providence and redemption.
3. God the Father
We believe in God, the Father, an infinite, personal spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power and love. We believe that He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of each person, that He hears and answers prayer, and that He saves from sin and death all who come to Him through Jesus Christ.
4. Jesus Christ
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. We believe in His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles and teachings. We believe in His substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, perpetual intercession for His people, and personal visible return to earth.
5. The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit who came forth from the Father and Son to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify, and empower all who believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Christ, and that He is an abiding helper, teacher and guide.
We believe that all people are sinners by nature and by choice and are, therefore, under condemnation. We believe that those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior are regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
7. The Church
We believe in the universal church, a living spiritual body of which Christ is the head and all regenerated persons are members. We believe in the local church, consisting of a company of believers in Jesus Christ, baptized on a credible profession of faith, and associated for worship, work and fellowship. We believe that God has laid upon the members of the local church the primary task of giving the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world.
8. Christian Conduct
We believe that Christians should live for the glory of God and the well-being of others; that their conduct should be blameless before the world; that they should be faithful stewards of their possessions; and that they should seek to realize for themselves and others the full stature of maturity in Christ.
9. The Ordinances
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has committed two ordinances to the local church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water into the name of the triune God. We believe that the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ for commemoration of His death. We believe that these two ordinances should be observed and administered until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
10. Religious Liberty
We believe that every human being has direct relations with God, and is responsible to God alone in all matters of faith; that each church is independent and must be free from interference by any ecclesiastical or political authority; that therefore Church and State must be kept separate as having different functions, each fulfilling its duties free from dictation or patronage of the other.
11. Church Cooperation
We believe that local churches can best promote the cause of Jesus Christ by cooperating with one another in a denominational organization. Such an organization, whether it is the Conference or a district conference, exists and functions by the will of the churches. Cooperation in a conference is voluntary and may be terminated at any time. Churches may likewise cooperate with interdenominational fellowships on a voluntary independent basis.
12. The Last Things
We believe in the personal and visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth and the establishment of His kingdom. We believe in the resurrection of the body, the final judgment, the eternal felicity of the righteous, and the endless suffering of the wicked.
Finally, here’s one from an emerging church, the church previously pastored by Brian McLaren.
Cedar Ridge Community Church
These beliefs are at the heart of all we say and do at Cedar Ridge Community Church. We´ve included references from the Bible if you would like to study the Biblical basis for these beliefs.
I. We believe in the historic Christian faith, reflected in these statements:
We believe that God is the loving Creator of all that exists, both seen and unseen. God is eternal and completely good, knowing all things, having all power and majesty. God exists as the Trinity, in three persons, yet one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God passionately desires relationship with us and towards this end continually invites us into a relationship of faith, friendship, learning, and service.
John 14:6-9, 15-17 and John 16:7-15
2 Corinthians 13:14
1 John 4:9-10
About Jesus Christ
We believe that God expressed himself in human form through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified for the sins of us all, was buried, rose again from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
Colossians 1:13-23 and Colossians 2:8-14
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
About the Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit, sent from God to live inside all who believe in Jesus Christ, teaches, comforts, and empowers us, giving each follower diverse gifts, fostering unity, interdependence, productivity, Christ-like character, and love among Christians.
Romans 5:5 and Romans 8
1 Corinthians 12-14
Ephesians 3:16, Ephesians 4:3-4, and Ephesians 5:18
John 14:26 and John 16:7-14
About the Bible
We believe that God speaks to us in the Bible, and that it is our privilege to seek to understand God´s message and apply it responsibly to our lives. The Bible is our standard in all we say and do. God’s unchangeable Biblical message ought to be presented in relevant and contemporary ways, free of religious jargon and understandable to the people of our community.
2 Timothy 2:15 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17
2 Peter 1:16-21 and 2 Peter 3:14-18
Psalm 19:7-11 and Psalm 119:9-16
We believe that all people are created with dignity and value in the image of God, to live in a vital relationship with God. However, through our sin (failing to live by God´s moral standards), we break our intended relationship with God and we experience the destructive consequences of that broken relationship, spiritually and socially, in this life and beyond. However, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to rescue us from those consequences and to restore our broken relationships with God and others, through Christ´s death on the cross, a perfect act of redemption for each of us. Salvation comes to people on the basis of God´s grace through their faith in Jesus alone. They receive the free gift of forgiveness and are spiritually reborn through repenting of their sin and believing in Jesus Christ. Good works and a holy life, although totally unable to save anyone, are the natural product of repentant, believing people.
I Peter 2:24, 3:18
Romans 3:9-28, Romans 6:23, and Romans 10:9-10
John 3:16 and John 5:24
II. We believe in teamwork.
We work in lay-led teams, which are in turn governed by a board called the Leadership Team. We seek to exercise and respond to leadership in a Scriptural manner, and to work in partnership with one another.
Matthew 23:8-11, 18:15-17
1 Corinthians 16:15-16
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
1 Timothy 5:1, 17-23
III. We believe in responsible financial stewardship.
We encourage people to handle their finances discreetly, honorably, and responsibly, and to practice regular and generous giving.
Matthew 6:19-21, 24, 33
1 Corinthians 9:7-14, 16:1-2
3 John 5-8
2 Corinthians 9:5-12
1 Timothy 5:17-18
IV. We believe in community.
We express our strong value of community by seeking to reach out and connect with a diversity of people. We want to be personal and caring in a world that is increasingly fragmented and impersonal. We are not afraid to be vulnerable, human, and honest with each other. We believe our spirituality fulfills rather than denies our humanity, and we believe this approach strengthens community.
Galatians 6:1-5, 10
2 Timothy 4:1-5
V. We believe in unity among Christians
Cedar Ridge recognizes diversity among Christians in nonessential areas. We do not press for uniformity in these areas, but rather encourage people to search the Scriptures, seeking balance, mutual understanding, humility and love. Additionally, we seek to respect one another´s differences without a quarrelsome, arrogant or divisive spirit, and to return continually to the great commandment, to love God and one another.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Romans 14:1-15:7, 16:17
2 Timothy 2:14-17, 23-26
So, what I see going on for many of us is to identify the core of the faith with what the Church has always believed. Further, it enables us to hold hands with the Great Traditions: Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and Protestantism — without denying differences but affirming where we all can agree.
Tomorrow I’ll look at other kinds of orthodoxies.