Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Snapshot of Faith...

I'm part of a confessional denomination and that means that creeds and confessions are an integral part of the working out of their faith. In order to be ordained, I must write a Statement of Faith and present it to the Presbytery. In my ordination vows I must seek to uphold those creeds and statements of faith that have been written before and recognized as sound (we even put them into a nice book)

Anyway, as friends of mine are going through the process to write theirs, I took some time to go back over and read what I wrote last year, in preparation for becoming a Candidate myself. When I had written my statement, I took a considerable amount of time, asked friends for their input as well as mentors and pastors. I made amendments according to some of their critiques and when I was done, I felt pretty good about it.

But when I went back and looked at it just a few days ago, I realized how contextual it was. I realized how much a very few courses here at PTSem had influenced what I wrote (not necessarily negatively). I realized that it was especially 1st Article heavy and very lacking in regard to Jesus & the Holy Spirit (not to mention the Sacraments, which I didn't even list or explicate). And it was at that time that I realized just what a Statement of Faith really is. It is a document, contextually contrived and limited in scope. It measures the thought and belief of a person or people at a given time, especially related to the issues they find most pressing at that time. It cannot be otherwise, we are human and time is what we are currently bound to. Our perspective is limited.

Just like the photo above, a Statement of Faith is a snapshot of belief at a given time. The photo above just happens to be the same field at PTSem that we play intramural football & sometimes ultimate frisbee on - but not when it looks like that. We play in the Fall and Spring, not in the snow. That picture is of one moment in time which does not explain that field in all its entirity. That field changes. The weather changes. It gets used for different things.

When I presented my statement to my Church last Spring they grilled me on some points (even though they weren't technically allowed to ask me theological questions - but they didn't know that 'cause the Pastor who leads that committee was away and another was filling in - but it ended up being good). They asked me about capitalizing "Virgin" Mary, they asked me about my view of Biblical infallability and they asked me about the Sacraments, and why I hadn't mentioned them. And as I reflect back on those items and others, I realize that I'm not sure I believe the same things I did then, or at least the things I THOUGHT I believed then. Because I hadn't reflected on the Missional task of the Church, the atoning working of Christ or the nature of Sacraments. Or at least not well enough. And a year from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now there'll probably be other elements that I had not fully throught through, reflected on and developed that I would want to add to what I'll present next year.

My faith is developing. My faith is changing. My faith is not stagnant nor should it be. I am not perfect, I cannot perfectly interpret Scripture or know the mind of God and so I do not believe I can yet perfectly come up with anything but a Snapshot of Faith, one that is always provisional, always open to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and the critique of good men and women, seeking to align themselves with Scripture and submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ.

That being said, I invite you to read my Snapshot of Faith from May '05 and comment on it or critique it:

I believe in God who is one, in three. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, perfect unity in divine and holy community, always having existed and always to exist.

I believe in God who created the universe and who is continually at work nurturing and transforming everything to God’s eventual and perfect will.
I believe in YHWH whose manifest presence was revealed to Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, to Isaac and Rebekah, to Jacob, Leah and Rachel, to Moses and to Pharaoh, to the Israelite people and to the nations they conquered and were conquered by.
I believe in God whose voice both calls out in love and whose ear listens for our cries.
I believe in God whose eyes both watch us in our sleep and in our waking.
I believe in God whose hands both reach out in loving compassion and in righteous judgment.
I believe in God who both proclaims and enacts good news for the poor, sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.
I believe in God who I cannot control, cannot contain, and cannot even fully explain – but God who desires to make us and all of creation complete by following and worshipping YHWH alone.

I believe in Jesus the Christ, Son of God, who being fully God, was born some 2000 years ago in Palestine of the Virgin Mary, fully human in order to restore humanity to right relationship with God.
I believe in Jesus the Christ who living rightly before God and humanity, died on a Roman cross in obedience to the Father, providing salvation to humanity, being resurrected on the third day, is now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who was sent by God the Father, upon the ascension of Jesus the Christ into glory, as the living and powerful presence of God in each and every believer, enabling us to lead lives of holiness and drawing us into communion with God and our fellow humanity.

I believe that humanity is created in the image of God; due to the fall it is under the effects of sin, but due to the work of Jesus, no longer subject to its power.

I believe that the Church is God’s chosen instrument to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, good news for the poor, sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.
I believe that God’s call to the Church, in all its connectionality, is to both enact and proclaim blessings and not cursing, peace and not destruction, love and not hatred, mercy and not judgment to a world that is in desperate need of the saving faith and power of Jesus.

I believe that the Bible is the reliable and infallible proclamation of God’s Word, inspired and authoritative in all matters of life and faith...

(It should be noted, the final elipse is an addition today)


theonegoing said...

I like how you recognized how your courses informed your statement of faith last year. A good exercise would be to see what remains the same and what changes over the years as you review your statement of faith. The questions from your Presbytery will be directed toward me as well...

Adam said...

Don, when it comes around to my Statement of Faith writing, I'll be posting about the process for sure. We had to do something similar for my Christian Doctrine course at Whitworth, and so I have a document called ADAM'S CREDO from 2001. Reading back through it now is I N T E R E S T I N G....for sure! My goal is to redo that credo this year (which is what I'll turn in for my Statement of Faith -- oh how fun it will be to see how it's changed), and then, as Jeff was eluding to, redo it every 5 years, to keep track of the progression of my beliefs - what things stay the same, what changes, what things do I begin to see as being 'essential' and what things do I consider to be up for grabs.

I'm really excited to do it - it's the one part of the Candidacy that I'm really looking forward to, writing it.

But I'll be sure that my church out in Idaho doesn't grill me on theological stuff...I'm gonna have my Book of Order ready to throw at them if necessary ;)