SVC Statement of Faith: Introduction
We can tend to look at something like a statement of faith as a dry document; like a list of facts taken from a high school textbook. It can be easy to go down the bullet points and simply check the box of having read it and then saying, “Sounds good.” We look at the list as a kind of guardrail. If we simply stay within the bounds of these truths, we are on the right track. We are on the straight and narrow. But is checking the box on these beliefs really what God is after? Or is He after something more?
It can be tempting to view Christian belief as simply giving mental assent to a statement of faith. But belief in Jesus is so much more than a list of things that we check off. Any statement of beliefs should not only engage our head, it should consume our hearts and our actions. This statement should impact us on the deepest level of who we are. It should inform how we think and feel about the nature of God. The statement should, at its core, truthfully answer the most foundational questions that we have. Is God good? Is He loving? Is He active in my world?
Erik and I recently finished a Welcome Class at SVC after the morning services, where over 20 individuals attended, seeking to learn more about the church. The final part of the class was devoted to reading through the church’s statement of faith, a list of ten areas of doctrine affirmed by SVC. In the class, we simply read through each statement and then paused to take any questions that might come up. Afterwards, I mentioned to Erik that the time was good, but it felt rushed. He said something about how we had just covered thousands of years of Christian theology in only a few minutes. I nodded and then left the room, casting myself into the busyness of picking up my two oldest in the next room over. I oscillated between making small talk with other adults about their week, talking with someone about the sermon, and trying to wrangle two very energetic kids. My girls and I got on the road and before long I settled into a relaxing afternoon, eating lunch and watching Eagles football. But my heart stirred with what felt like a bit of a missed opportunity to dig into the importance of right belief, the kind of belief that touches every part of our lives in relation to God.
The next day, I listened to a podcast during my morning commute. It referred to research showing that a majority of evangelical Christians in America believe that Jesus was created by God. Jesus, a part of creation? This is a very old heresy called Arianism that was condemned in the early church council of Nicea in A.D. 325. An early church leader named Arius had been teaching that Jesus was created, that He had a beginning. But if Jesus was created, it means that He is less than God. And if He is less than God, He would be unable to forgive our sins. And if He is unable to forgive our sins, the entire basis of the Christian faith is eroded. Athanasius was a contemporary of Arius and he spoke against Arianism and helped the early church to see the importance of believing the truth about Jesus. For Athanasius, right belief wasn’t dry words on a piece of paper. For him, it was a matter of knowing Jesus and taking hold of the salvation that only comes through faith in him.
As it was centuries ago, it is still important today to believe the right things about God. These beliefs are not just black ink on paper, they represent the ways in which we understand the nature of God. They are beliefs that not only require mental assent; they also inform our deepest felt questions about God and ourselves. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be covering the ten articles of SVC’s statement of faith. I’ll do my best to show how the words of SVC’s statement meet us in our real lives and put us on a path to deeper intimacy with God.