Sunday, February 26, 2017

What Is Essential of Our Faith?

This article is to continue the reflection of my Christian faith.

Now the next question is about confessions and other doctrines. Since I have thrown away Calvinism in recent years, I don’t want to answer “Yes” to any wrong questions. Here it is: “Do you sincerely accepted and embrace the essential tenets of the Reformed faith?”

My answer really depends on what is the description of “essential tenets of the Reformed faith”. I certainly hope it is not Calvinism, for after a few years of theological trainings, I got some tools digging into Calvinism and Arminianism and other history, I really prefer not to use those philosophical terms to define my faith. They are just inadequate, to say the least, or even misguide.

Thank God. Calvinism isn’t PCUSA’s essential faith. However I suspect that, the two long clauses that describe “the Reformed faith”, were originally part of question, for ordained to accept and embrace. It says that the reformed faith “is expressed in our church’s confessions”, and those confessions “faithfully and reliably interpreted Bible”.

No, not all of historically documented confessions are essential today, and not all that doctrines, particularly 5 points of Calvinism, can claim faithfully and reliably interpreted Bible, especially when the Reformed faith mainly refers to Calvinism. We are reminded time and again, that the Reformed faith keeps reforming even today. They are just not a fixed set of ideology as recorded in historical document. The bulletin lists 5 essential tenets of our faith as following, all of which I can heartily answer “Yes”:

The first essential tenet: God’s majesty, holiness, and providence. – I think Calvinists tried their best to describe God’s sovereignty using these terms. There is so much misunderstanding loaded into the word “sovereignty”, that God is eventually pictured as a stern and unpredictable God. I am glad that PCUSA removed the word “sovereignty” (Not that I deny God’s sovereignty).

The second essential tenet: God choose people is for serving/following God, not just for their salvation. “Salvation” is another loaded word... In other words, God’s purpose is not just to get us into heaven, but to get us into a life of discipleship with Christ, or to get into God’s mission. This is very Biblical indeed!

The third essential tenet: live a life of God’s covenant according to the Word of God, and this life are expressed as disciplines and structures that Christians should follow. – In other words, we are not just a bunch of individuals that each live independently, we have a history as God’s covenant people, and we are organized according God’s principles as we know of.

The fourth essential tenet: good stewardship of God’s wealth and gifts, against extravagant waste. I always thought wasting is but one of the sins, why this is listed as essential? But as I looked at it again, the essential thing is on stewardship. May be the emphasis is on the offerings, to church and to charities.

The fifth essential tenet: Recognize men have the tendency to be idolatry or dictatorship. Again, idolatry and dictatorship are but two of the sins. It somewhat surprised me to specifically list them here. What not list other sins? My guess is that idolatry represents the sins that against God, and dictatorship represents the sins that against fellow human. Here I notice that personal secret sins, as usually perceived “sinful nature” in western society, are not mentioned here. I would say this is very biblical.

In conclusion, PCUSA consider essential tenets of Reformed faith concerns primarily on Christian practice of this life, not a fate after death. I cannot agree more to this!

As for all different authorities in our church life, PCUSA put Jesus Christ as the highest authority, whose life gave us revelation about what God is like. The Bible is the next level of authority, which is lower than God, but higher than church confessions. The PCUSA Book of Order is the regulation of the church, which needs revisions from time to time; its authority is lower than church confessions.

It is wise to set priority this way. For we worship God, orders and rules are important, but we do not worship these rules.

1 comment:

  1. Today is Ash Wednesday. Let's remember this important event, that Jesus died for our sins, that He opened a way for us to approach God and talk and fellowship with God, that our life has a motivation for good.