Check out most any Christian denomination, and you’ll find a “statement of faith” that defines their beliefs, whether they call them doctrines or creeds or catechisms. Snoop around most any Christian website, and you’ll usually find a shorter version of the same thing.
The purpose of these statements is to differentiate Christian Group A from Christian Group B; i.e., the Baptists will emphasize adult baptism, the Calvinists will trot out the Canons of Dort, and the charismatics will explain the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
While these statements serve their purpose, they also have an unintended consequence that I think is universal. Adherents of each group turn to their particular denomination, their particular “statement of faith” to define what they believe. They rely on what others have said instead of turning to God and the Bible for answers. They become followers of a doctrine, creed, or catechism instead of followers of Jesus Christ.
It seems to me that if God had wanted to emphasize certain aspects of Christianity to the exclusion of others, He could easily have had someone write another book of the Bible called “The Summary of Christianity.” This would have made everyone’s life far simpler. When a doctrinal issue arose, they could simply consult “The Summary” and pronounce their verdict.
But God didn’t include “The Summary” and I have to believe that’s for a reason. Could it be that He truly does teach each of us individually, providing the right Word for the right moment, knowing we can’t take everything in at once? Could it be that He’s more concerned with the process of our learning, wanting us to learn to hear His voice, than He is in our getting an “A” in doctrine? Could the whole design of the Bible be to lead us where He wants us to go, instead of letting us find the quick and easy answer we think we need? Could it be that He wants us to spend time in prayer and in the Bible instead of turning to others?
Those are my questions this week, and here are some of the answers I got – from the Bible, not from any particular “statement of faith.”
Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. (1 Chronicles 16:11)
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1)
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18)
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27)
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” (Matthew 13:34-35)
And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.” (Mark 4:11-12)
With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples. (Mark 4:33-34)
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (John 16:12-13)
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
… just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:15-18)
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. (Titus 1:10-11)