Creed (1) – Why Study Creeds, Theology and Doctrine (Teaching Notes)

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Creed: Understanding the Background & Ramifications of Our Beliefs – a new adult education series at Christ Church Santa Fe, 2012

So, why study creeds?

  • General intellectual interest: history, religion, etc.
  • Shouldn’t – “doctrine divides”
    • Question: would eliminating all creedal statements and confessions really clear up the confusion and division?
  • “No creed but Christ!”

This is what I call the “Deception of intention/sentiment, over substance.” It’s not as important that you believe, as it is what you believe: James 2:19

  • “It is never enough to say that you “believe.” ‘The real question remains: what do you believe about Jesus? Reality has a way of foisting this upon us. When you consider that Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, and a whole host of other religions all acknowledge a belief in Jesus, it should be obvious that affirming a belief in Jesus is simply not enough.” – L. Charles  Jackson, Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed (Kindle Locations 41-44). Kindle Edition.

No one is without a creed, theology, or doctrine of some kind.  All of us have some way of explaining who we are, how we got to where we are, and have proposals for how to “fix” things – in us and around us.

Significance:

Origin of Creeds

Scripture:

  • Genesis 12:1-3
    • “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (the Shema)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

  • Matthew 16:13-20

“…You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (v. 16)

  • Acts 16:25-40

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.”

  • Romans 10:9-10

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (Lord’s Supper); Matthew 28:18-20 (baptismal formula)
  • Hebrews 13:15-16

History

  • “Faith, like all strong conviction, has a desire to utter itself before others—’Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; ‘I believe, therefore I confess’ (Credo, ergo confiteor). There is also an express duty, when we are received into the membership of the Christian Church, and on every proper occasion, to profess the faith within us, to make ourselves known as followers of Christ, and to lead others to him by the influence of our testimony…This is the origin of Christian symbols or creeds. They never precede faith, but presuppose it. They emanate from the inner life of the Church, independently of external occasion. There would have been creeds even if there had been no doctrinal controversies. In a certain sense it may be said that the Christian Church has never been without a creed (Ecclesia, sine symbolis nulla). The baptismal formula and the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper are creeds; these and the confession of Peter antedate even the birth of the Christian Church on the day of Pentecost. The Church is, indeed, not founded on symbols, but on Christ; not on any words of man, but on the word of God; yet it is founded on Christ as confessed by men, and a creed is man’s answer to Christ’s question, man’s acceptance and interpretation of God’s word.” –
    Philip Schaff (2009-06-10). Creeds of Christendom Volume 1: The History of the Creeds – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 516-527). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition
  • The question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
  • “Jesus pushed Peter to this very point when He insisted that Peter answer the question, “Yes, but who do you say that I am?” [cf. Matthew 16:13ff; Mark 8] Sooner or later, in this world or in the next, we will be responsible for how we answer this question.” – L. Charles  Jackson, Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed (Kindle Locations 89-91)

So, why study the creeds of the Christian faith?

Because living and believing are inseparable parts of our existence.  In order to live out the truth of the gospel in our lives, we must believe the truth with our minds and cherish it in our hearts, because ultimately the “truth” of the creeds does not rest on or in themselves alone, but on the One they all point to – the God of the Bible, as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  • “It is in the New Testament that confession in the sense of acknowledging allegiance to the faith becomes prominent.  Confessing God’s name (Heb. 13:15) or the ‘name of the Lord’ (2 Tim. 2:19) is the mark of a believer.  And, since God has revealed himself and his truth decisively in Jesus Christ, confessing Christ becomes the hallmark of genuine Christianity. Jesus taught that ‘Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven’ (Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8; cf. Rev. 3:5)…Reflected here is the secular Greek use of the word to denote solemn and binding public testimony in a court of law.  Confession of Christ, then, is no private matter, but a public declaration of allegiance.  Such claims can, however, be spurious, and are revealed by a lifestyle incompatible with a genuine relationship to Christ (Titus 1:16)…Confessing Christ, then, requires both a matching Christian lifestyle and a matching Christian theology.” – Douglas Moo, “Confess, confession” in Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible (111)

[Chris Gensheer is Pastoral Assistant at Christ Church Santa Fe, NM.  He leads and teaches regularly at the Adult Education Class Sundays at 9:30am. To listen to the audio from this class, click: http://www.christchurchsantafe.org/#/worship/christian-education]

Tim Keller on Denominational Renewal

Well,

It’s actually Tim Keller commenting on Greg Thompson’s talk from the 2008 PCA Denominational Renewal conference, and I think it is well worth the time linking and encouraging you all to read.

Click here for the full article.  Here’s a sampling:

As I read this terrific piece, however, it made me think about how we actually will have to do denominational renewal. The PCA is the great and tense place that it is because it is perhaps the only Presbyterian denomination that hasn’t purged or lost one or two of its historic wings. George Marsden says that Reformed churches have always had what he called ‘doctrinalist’, ‘pietist,’ and ‘cultural-transformationist’ wings. Weirdly, they all grow out of aspects of Reformed theology. Historically, they’ve produced some major splits–Old Side (doctrinalist) from New Side (pietist) in the 18th century, Old School (doctrinalist/pietist) from New School (reformist) in the 19th century. The OPC, though a doctrinalist church, grew and then shed a pietist wing (New Life Churches.) The CRC, though basically a cultural-transformationist denomination, had a doctrinalist split off (the URC.) In God’s providence, the PCA has significant numbers in all three wings.

Church planting & missions success? How would you define it!

We’ve been discussing some pretty interesting things in my class, God’s World Mission. One of the most profound is it evaluate the elitist mindset we can have as Western Christians that think “missions” happens when some Anglo-Christian folk waltz into a foreign community, begin to tell people about Jesus and claim that that is when God started working in said area.

It seems that the same could be said for N. American Church Planters at times. Now, as a whole I think that most missionaries, church planters and agencies that support them all, have very good intentions; we want to see people come to know Jesus Christ in real and transforming ways. But often times our methods and attitudes can be tainted more with elitism, than with humility and true, practical, Biblical theology. So, as a would-be church planter, its good to get some perspective check on these matters.

This thought comes from Ben over History in the Making:

“‘It just didn’t work out’ is a bad excuse by cultivators when God’s whole purpose for the plant was to tenderize a community. Likewise, when harvesters make headlines without acknowledging the yeeears of cultivating work that went-on before them in their cities… they strip God of credit.”

We neglect the reality that every corner of this world is His, and He has been working – sometimes ambiguously, sometimes quite clearly – much longer at redeeming His world and the people’s within it than we ever have.

So when it goes well with a church plant, and they are growing and engaging their community and the culture at large – lets praise God! And when it doesn’t seem to panning out, only a handful of people give their lives to the Lord, even though the pastors and leaders are sharing the gospel and teaching it faithfully – lets praise God for that too, that His word will not return void (ultimately, at least) and that He has begun a good work in that part of the world, that someday will be reaped. After all, “from Him, and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36)

Thoughts, anyone? Agree? Disagree? Too naive? What do you think: How would you define success: as missionaries, as church planters, as commissioned members of Christ in extending the kingdom of God?

[Caveat and Disclaimer: This is not a post about the shortcomings of any particular agency, group, or even socio-political group of Christians (i.e. Western). This is about the presupositions that often times go unchecked, even amongst the most strategic, thoughtful and well intentioned people and groups. I for one am a big fan of many such agencies, like MTW, MNA, Acts 29, Redeemer Church Planting Network, the Sovereign Grace and 9Marks folks, etc., etc.. So, don’t hear what I’m not saying! Thanks for letting me clarify.]

“Men ought to have proven ministry gifts before attending seminary.”

This looks like an interesting questions (and ensuing discussion).  Check out the source here.  (Thanks to R. Scott Clark for the link).  Here are some eye-widening thoughts I found interesting and worth refelcting on:

“We all know, and some of us have experienced first hand, the problem of too many pastors for churches in the PCA.  Yet, there has been little to no talk about how to address the problem.  

 We must conclude one of 3 things:

a.)     God doesn’t know what he’s doing, because he’s called far more men than we need.b.)     The PCA is about to have a major revival, and explode in number of churches.c.)     We are judging far more men to be called than are actually called. I vote for c.”

 Also…

“The weight of presbytery’s approval should not be in favor of, “We’ll ordain you, unless you give us reason not to,”  but rather, “We need compelling reason.  Prove to us that you are called.”  That proof, of course, would come out of possessing Christian maturity, Biblical/theological acumen, pastoral heart, and, above all, the ABILITY TO PREACH.  Sorry to shout, but how many guys have we passed along who have little to no skill in this area in clear violation of the Biblical mandate.”  

I think I’ve already formulated my own thoughts on the matter, but want to wait and let any of you out there chime in:Are there way too many “called” men in the process of becoming pastors?  If so, what should we do about it? 

Scott Clark does it again

R. Scott ClarkI’m really enjoying the thoughts and posts of  R. Scott Clark lately.  I confess that I don’t know much about him (personally or academically), but some of his posts over at Heidelblog have been very helpful to me trying to navigate the theological talk regarding Federal Vision, but more so, helping to understand the differences and similarities between the Old and New Covenant.

His most recent post deals with the sing and the seal of covenant membership, and what really distinguishes the theology and praxis of Presbyterians, Baptists, and Federal Vision folk.

Read it here.

Quotes and Links re: Journey, Acts 29, Alcohol and MBC

Here are a couple of quotes and links regarding this issue. I previously posted my inner response, actions and thoughts to this in my Thoughts on Thursday post, and wanted to try and keep the facts and murmuring separate from what I was trying to communicate there. Below you’ll find the quotes and links.

Quotes:

 

Scott Lamb:

Members of the Executive Board presented and passed a motion during the miscellaneous business session that sets down a “no-partnership with Acts 29″ rule for MBC church plants. I have not received the exact wording of the motion yet, but it is a confirmed piece of news from an EC board member.Don’t misunderstand, this does not mean that churches cannot be in partnership with Acts 29, just that if they are so aligned then they will not be able to receive MBC church planting funds. Never mind the fact that Acts 29 church plants in Missouri are thriving.I do wonder if the EB will be consistent and pass a reciprocal measure that keeps Cooperative Program dollars from coming into MBC coffers via such “polluted churches”. [Very interesting point; is the severance of funds mutual, or one sided?]

Darrin Patrick’s response on a blog regarding the initial News Story run by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (and an accurate assessment of what is true regarding the church):

It is really unfortunate that the reporter chose the title Beer and the Bible. He promised to make the article about our church, not the controversy. The content of the story is decent and toward that promise, but the title is distracting and will be disruptive to what we are trying to do in our state convention. The Journey’s policy on alcohol is that we do not personally encourage nor do we corporately promote alcohol as a church. The article could be read to sound like we have grown as a church because of our “beer ministry.” Totally ridiculous. We have a current event discussion once a month in a bar. Far from a “beer ministry”

Please pray for unity in our state convention so that we can stay focused on planting churches that reach people in culture.”

Timmy Brister (whose post is worth reading; link below)

“It is not enough to shake our heads and move on as though we think this situation is isolated to Missouri and Acts 29 churches. As we have seen, one state’s precedence becomes another state’s principle, and if they will do this to Acts 29 churches, what makes us think they will not do it to Founders or IX Marks churches? It is times like this that I wish some of our SBC leaders would step into the ring, even if they happen to disagree with the alcohol issue.”

Links:

Scott Thomas’ (Director of Acts 29) post on Dec. Newsletter (December 2007) – here

Steve McCoy’s post (January 2007) – here

Christianity Today article (July 2007) here

Mark Devine’s post/article (April 2007)here

Acts 29 Statement on Alcohol – here

Timmy Brister’s post – here

Thoughts on Thursday – Personal Fight and Insecurity

I read something that disturbed me earlier this week.

The headline (what disturbed me): The Executive Board of the MBC has voted to block funding for Acts 29 church plants, according to Scott Lamb.

The comment (which I am agreeing with) – “Brilliant. Anyone who would block funding for a church plant that looked like Darrin Patrick’s gospel-centered and biblically-faithful Journey Church in St. Louis isn’t biblically-faithful. It’s really that simple. [From Reformissionary blog. I’ll have some quotes and links following in another post for anyone interested in the story in more depth.]

 

As I read Steve’s post, I admit that I was mad…frustrated…but not sad. It seems that this kind of thing is fairly normal – groups and denominations squabbling over minor details, and failing to uphold the common denominators and mission we have as the church, representing God and influencing the world.

 

Been there. Done that. What else have you got?

 

So when I read that the Missouri Baptist Convention is withdrawing all funding to Acts 29 church because of their “open handed” position towards alcohol (as opposed to having a clear cut policy for prohibition), my first reaction is one of animosity, not ambivalence. I’m really not shocked or surprised.

 

Are you? Read Matt. 23:23-24 then give me your answer.

 

No my first response is not of amazement at such a reality. Perish the thought that anything different might be possible! My first reaction is one of anger, and I am tempted to just stay there and let it fester.

 

But as I entertain that thought, I have to ask myself why am I really angry? When I ask this, I see my self peeling back a layer of my thoughts to see that really I am so angry because I’m scarred. I’m scarred because deep down what I’m really wondering is:

 

Is there any safe place?

 

Is there any place in the future for someone who wants to plant a church, with a goal towards living out their life of faith in the midst of the world around them (i.e. missional), within the already established denominations and groups of the evangelical world? Maybe I’m too worried about the “already established denominations and groups,” but that is my spiritual heritage. I don’t know how not to be concerned about this.

 

You have to pick your battles.

 

Scott Lamb writes: “This polarizes the issue of Acts 29 to the point that it is hard to be able to give any critique or praise of the movement at all. To be sure, there are some of both that any movement rightfully deserves. However, a misguided motion like this just makes the battle lines get laid down in all the wrong places.” (from 12.11.07 post; click here).

 

I read a story like this and I am faced with the seemingly uphill battle of convincing those who should be most for missionally minded churches, that they are actually a good thing, and not a threat to the establishment, just because they look, feel and maybe do things differently then what’s been done before. I’m staring down the eye of the reality before me, where sometime over my Christmas break from seminary, I’ll have to two conversations with people in my denomination regarding my choice of where I’m attending church while in seminary, because it isn’t our denomination’s church. Yet, its the place where my family and I have connected with God and with His people the most, and its a place where God’s kingdom is advancing and people are coming into a right relationship with God, and churches are being planted.

 

Yeah, its called the Journey. The same church that “sparked” the controversy between Acts 29 and the MBC.

 

I wonder if when Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles,” (John 16:33a), he was referring to the seemingly endless infighting that’s going on? As a guy who wants to enter into ministry, I’m faced weekly with the reality that there are so many fights to be had, but only so much energy.

 

A time to throw down, not lie down!

 

So when I’m faced with my fear of there being no place in the future for guys like me, I need to remind myself the rest of the story. That yes in this world we will have troubles, “but take heart, for I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33b). So if I’m going to throw down, its going to be on the side of Jesus, whose ultimate fight is to build His church, against the gates of hell, and even against the straining infighting of those who should know what is of greater importance in the eyes our redeeming and reigning King. But this fight is one of faith, not of hands and strength.

 

Its a fight to believe in the promises of God.

 

Its a fight to believe that He is our provision in our times of need.

 

Its a fight to trust in His goodness, mercy and grace, when we’re anxious and scared.

 

Its a fight of faith to believe what King Jesus says:

 

“And I tell you, your are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:33)

This is why Christianity needs to think rightly about Scripture

Just came across this interesting post over here about a church in Texas converting to Judaism.  I found two things very convicting.  First, the author of the post stated that he “always found the Jewish apologetics more robust.” I honestly think there is something to this.  At least on some level guys, typical evangelicalism of today really does have some weak “reasons” for why Christianity is not only true, but relevant.  I don’t really know about Jewish apologetics on their own, but I wonder how much more “scholarly” their approach and conclusions are from good, evangelical scholars (the kind you won’t find in a Christian Book Store in the Target shopping center, for example).  That being said, I feel fairly safe about what I wrote concerning the state of evangelical christianity apologetics.  This is a sad reality, I’m affraid.  The second thing that was really convicting was that the author recounted that the minister and his congregation are finding “new insights and heritage to explore.”  This just begs the question what “bible” this church was reading before the conversion to Judaism.  Even if they did what a lot of churches do these days, and equate the Scripture as New Testament only – Quick Aside, I recently heard at a church meeting someone ask the preacher when he was planning on preaching from one of the Gospels, because it had been a while since they had “heard the words and teachings of Jesus.”  Don’t get me started on this one! – they wouldn’t have to read too far to realize that the NT sees the OT as its heritage.  Galatians 3:27-29 says:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And aif you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise 

 This is why we need to be careful with how we treat and understand God’s Word.  It is His One story about redeeming a people for Himself in order to restore His world that has been ruined by sin. 

Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series – Emerging Church

Darrin PatrickHere is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.

Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)

Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)

CT Article on Gospel Coalition

The Gospel CoalitionColin Hansen has an article for CT about The Gospel Coalition.  Its a good excerpt, and worth reading to understand what I think is an exciting and important trend for the shaping of future ministry, particularly in the U.S.   Here are a couple of good quotes (from Keller, yes!), but do go read the rest of the article (click here).

“I want to see more churches and leaders joining hands across denominational and network lines to think out how to do effective mission based on the historic, classical understanding of the gospel as it has come down to us from the Reformation and through the Awakenings.”

“If we seek service rather than power, we may have significant cultural impact,” the statement says. “But if we seek power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”-Tim Keller