Monday, 3 September 2012

The Confession

Though I've long since forgotten the context of our discussion, I remember something a friend once said. He said, "it's in our denominational rule book." He confessed that the thing in question was not biblical, per se, but was denominational.

I have long since struggled with doctrinal and denominational confessions, and especially so if they come across as favouring one group of Christians over another. In my way of thinking, far too many confessions are simply promoting further dissensions and factions in the Body of Christ which is already far too divided. Sometimes I think that we seem to have forgotten that such things are, according to Galatians 5: 19-21, "acts of the sinful nature." I also confess that sometimes I too have been guilty of this very thing myself. God forgive me.

Having said that, recently I came across a confession that I do whole-heartily embrace. It is penned by an author that I have come to greatly respect in recent years, Frank Viola. Though I have not yet had the privilege of meeting Frank in person, I do count him as a friend and a brother in the Lord, and for that I am grateful. If you're not familiar with Frank Viola or his many fine books, I encourage you to visit him at Beyond Evangelical.

And now, here is A Collective Confession of Those Who Are Moving Beyond Evangelical.

*We have grown tired of the media routinely characterizing “evangelicals” as if we were all part of “the religious right.”  
*We are turned off by the left vs. right posturing and the left vs. right political/theological debates.  
*We’ve looked to the right and do not wish to venture there. We’ve looked to the left and do not wish to venture there either. The direction we feel pulling our hearts is above and forward.  
*We believe that both the religious right and the Christian left have vital truths to contribute. We also believe that they are both missing vital truths. We believe their focus is mainly “issues” rather than Jesus Christ.  
*We want to see the Christian right and the Christian left learn from one another as well as learn from those of us who are not part of either stream. We feel that all Christians should be open to learn from one another, for we are all parts of the Body of Christ. None of us has the lock on all truth. Each member of the Body has a portion of the riches of Christ.  
*We are sickened that so many evangelical Christians are either legalists or libertines. We want Christ’s lordship and we want His liberty as well. We wish to follow Jesus without being legalistic or libertine.  
*We hold to the orthodox teachings of Scripture regarding the Person of Christ, His work on the cross, the inspiration and truth of the Bible, the Triune nature of God (the Godhead), but we are weary of Christians dividing over peripheral doctrines and their own private interpretations of Scripture on non-essentials. We passionately agree with Augustine’s sentiment: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.  
*We’ve grown weary of the way that Christians routinely mistreat their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, being quick to judge their motives, thinking the worst of them, condemning them, slandering them, gossiping about them, etc. We believe that being a Christian means treating others the same way you want to be treated (Matt. 7:12)—the “forgotten words of Jesus.” With deep remorse, we empathize with the words of Ghandi: “If it weren’t for the Christians, I’d be a Christian.”  
*We’ve grown tired of the shallowness that marks so much of evangelical Christianity today. The same sermons, the same principles, the same teachings, etc. We are looking for depth in the Christian life. We know there’s more to Jesus Christ, more to His church, and more to the spiritual life than what’s been promoted in establishment Christianity. There is a cry in our hearts that says, “There’s got to be more than this.”  
*We are saddened that the doers, feelers, and thinkers of the body of Christ have separated and isolated themselves from one another instead of learning from each other.  
*We’ve grown sick of the entertainment-driven, duty-driven, guilt-driven message that’s laced in most Christian sermons and books today. Human-induced guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit are two very different things.  
*We are tired of the tendency of some Christians to elevate certain sins that others commit while minimizing or justifying their own sins.  
*We’ve grown tired of Christian leaders attacking and competing with one another, instead of networking together and supporting one another.  
*We’re weary of the “good ole’ boy system” that’s present in much of establishment Christian today because it ends up elevating and protecting the status quo and silencing the voices of the prophets.  
*We’ve grown sick of Christians saying nasty things about their fellow brethren whom they don’t know personally on social media networks. And then justifying it in the name of God.  
*We are saddened that so many Christians will believe what they hear about other believers second or third-hand, instead of going to those believers themselves and simply asking them questions in good faith.  
*We’ve grown weary of some Christians falsely branding their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ with the words “heretic” and “apostate” when those same believers actually uphold the orthodox creeds of the faith.  
*We’ve grown tired of Christians trying to rope us into the liberal vs. conservative battles of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  
*We abhor elitism and sectarianism. We are open to all Christians of all stripes, receiving all whom Christ has received (Rom. 15:7).  
*We stand for the unity of the Body of Christ. At the same time, we fiercely and passionately stand firm on our convictions regarding the absolute and unvarnished supremacy of Jesus, His indwelling life, God’s timeless purpose, and the church as a Christ-centered community.
Thank you, Frank Viola, for a timely and important word. A big thank you also goes to Kurt Willems over at The Pangea Blog where I first saw "A Collective Confession of Those Who Are Moving Beyond Evangelical." I will be back to your blog as well. May we all prayerfully take it to heart and may God be glorified in it. Peace and blessings, my friends.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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