Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Statements of Faith

Like most congregations, First Christian Church of Sun City has a "Statement of Faith" which it makes available in brochures and on its web site. I've never really been satisfied with it or any other statement I've read. Those who pioneered the Restoration Movement were correct when they said that such statements said too much if they included more than what the Bible taught. They were also correct when they said that such statements said too little when they included less than what the Bible said.

Take the assortment of statements recently published in the "Christian Standard." They are all good statements. In fact, they are similar to the one I have on our web site. I'm sure there are many other things that could be said, but each of those statements is vague about the purpose of baptism. Let me give you some examples:

Mooresville, IN
"Those accepting Christ must repent of sin, confess their faith, and be baptized into him" (Romans 10:9; Acts 2:38).

Wichita, KS
"We believe that the repentant believers in Christ should be baptized in water, by immersion (the biblical form of baptism), in obedience to Christ."

Everett, WA
"Immersion in water of a professed believer is the Bible baptism (Acts 8:36-38). Such baptism is symbolic of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-4).

A couple of others don't even include baptism as part of their important beliefs. Others have stated their position in terms quite similar. One congregation even identified itself as an "evangelical church committed to the authority of the Bible." That statement would certainly cause a few Restoration saints to turn over, no spin, in their graves. Many of us have thought of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ as neither Protestant, Catholic, or Evangelical in the commonly used sense of the terms.

Is there anything in the statements above that you can't accept or agree on? Of course not! Immersion is the biblical form of baptism and those who come to Christ must repent and confess Christ prior to their immersion. No problem there!!

But whatever happened to the understanding that baptism is for the remission of sin? Isn't that what Peter said on Pentecost? I won't say no congregation clearly states that baptism is into Christ for the remission of sins. Darned few do, however! It just isn't "politically correct!" To come right out and say it might "offend some Baptist."

It sure did in Canton, OH, a few years ago! When I designed the first web site for Canton's First Christian Church, I prepared its statement of faith. Later, when some of the "young bucks" joined the CyberMinistry, we put clear instruction on "how to become a Christian" on the site. If you want to see what was stated, just surf to www.firstchristian-suncity.info/plan_of_salvation.htm. A controversy arose in a women's Bible study about the place of baptism. The teacher, who attended a Christian Church Bible College, taught that baptism was not part of the salvation process. When I was approached about what to do (I was the Minister of Adult Education), I suggested that the Women's Ministry leader ask her to meet with me or an elder. The teacher refused. In my book, the lack of respect for the church leadership was grounds for dismissal. This teacher was dismissed! Several church members heard about it and reacted negatively. Some started a phone campaign. Others looked at the church web site, then compared our statements with those of other churches. Of course, no other church was as clear as we were! One member knew she was saved in the backseat of an automobile during a night at the movies because she "felt saved." That kind of says it all! As a result, several families left the church. At that point, it was decided the statement on the web site was too specific and it was taken down. I acquiesced (I'm a high S-C for those who know the DISC model of personality traits) but I didn't like it and was deeply offended!

Now let me speak plainly! Let's get over this silliness that we don't know at what point a person is saved. Scripture leaves no doubt that it is at the time of baptism that one's sins are washed away (Acts 22:16), one puts on Christ (Galatians 3:27), and sins are remitted (Acts 2:38). You and I know it isn't the immersion in water that saves -- it is one's faith in Christ that saves, but it is a "done deal" at the time of baptism. All this junk about baptism "being the setting in the wedding ring" or not knowing when a person is married -- at the engagement, the ceremony, the pronouncement, or the consummation -- is a red herring and ought to be scrapped.

What about the person who truly trusts Christ and yet is misled on the issue of baptism or, through some circumstance beyond his control, can't be immersed? I DON'T KNOW! Do you understand those words? God doesn't say! Like Alexander Campbell in the correspondence, I'm left only with my opinion on the question. I'm not God and I don't have any right to speak to that question.

We have watered down biblical teaching so satisfy "itching ears." We must be "like everyone else" or we won't grow. What a load of the stuff we used to spread on our fields in Iowa to ensure a better harvest! Israel wanted to be like everyone else, and they got Saul. What do you think we'll get?

Now, lest someone misunderstand me, YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAND FOR THE TRUTH IN A WAY THAT ALIENATES OR OFFENDS! Love, patience, long suffering, and service go a long way toward making the truth attractive. Some of our problems were created by unloving, harsh, judgmental, mean-spirited men and women who confused their likes and dislikes, their culture and background, and their opinions with the truth. Shame on them! But shame on us if we bow before the idols of half-truths or politically correct speech or marketing ploys just to satisfy everyone around us.