EVANGELISTS COME IN ALL STYLES
Speaking of belief, as I will be below, what's your experience, if any, with the more sensational Christian evangelists? How about Todd Bentley? This story recounts part of his story. Would you be willing to listen to him? Attend one of his revivals? And should the story have made so much of the fact that he has tatoos?
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CAPTURING BELIEF IN STATEMENTS OF FAITH
Throughout much of the history of religions, people have created statements containing the beliefs they most cherish, the theological stances on which, in many cases, they are willing to bet their lives and which they hope will inspire others to join them.
For instance, in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), we have, as part of our constitution, the Book of Confessions, containing statements of faith starting with the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed and working through the Reformation to the most recent statement adopted in the early 1980s.
For quite a helpful and comprehensive list of confessions from various Christian traditions, click here.
Different circumstances call out different statements. For instance, one of those contained in our Book of Confessions is called the Theological Declaration of Barmen, and was written by leaders (mostly Karl Barth) of the so-called Confessing Church in Germany in the 1930s as a way to stand against at least some of what the Hitler regime was doing to co-opt the church.
The other day I ran across a new document called the Albany Confession 2008, which has emerged from various Presbyterian pastors in the Albany, N.Y., region. The focus of the group that has drafted the confession (confession here does not so much mean to own up to one's sins but, rather, to state the core of one's beliefs) is peacemaking, social justice, environmental protection, political activism and human rights.
What I invite you to think about today is whether any particular statement of faith, whether a historical writing, such as the Nicene Creed, or something your own congregation or you yourself have drafted, is somehow vital to your understanding of your faith today. What purpose do such confessions serve?
I find myself returning to them time and again for both clarity and perspective -- and especially to remember that sometimes the people who wrote some of the confessions contained in the Presbyterian Book of Confessions got things wrong, at least from my perspective and, sometimes, the perspective of later church leaders.
When I served on a committee that oversaw area Presbyterian seminary students, we required them to draft a new statement of faith each year as a way of seeing where their theological thinking was going. I found it a useful tool, and I think the students did, too. Maybe you'd find that exercise useful as well.
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P.S.: If I'm slow publishing your comments the next few days, hang in there. I'll get to them. Thanks. Bill.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (When is it appropriate to leave a congregation? That's what my column tomorrow will discuss.)