Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Backslider?

A long time ago (16 years to be precise) I was on the 'exec' committee of the University of St Andrews Christian Union (CU). In order to be allowed to be a member of that committee I was required to sign a 'declaration of faith' document. This 'declaration of faith' was (and still is) the one used by the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) - an evangelical organisation to which the majority of university CUs in the UK are affiliated.

At the time I had no major issues with any of the beliefs expressed in the document and was happy to sign it (I did have minor issues, see below). If I was presented with such a document today I don't think I'd be able to sign it with a clear conscience. There are some things in there that I do not believe are fundamental to the faith and, furthermore, I simply do not believe them to be true.

Does this make me a 'backslider'?

Here I will list the UCCF declaration of faith and comment on each of the articles in turn:

The doctrinal basis of the Fellowship shall be the fundamental truths of Christianity, as revealed in Holy Scripture, including:
  1. The unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead.
    Yes, I think I can still agree on this one. It doesn't use the phrase 'trinity' which I am beginning to question, but I think 'Unity' is a perfectly acceptable word here.
  2. The sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgment.
    More or less, yes. This doesn't actually use any words beginning with 'omni' which might cause me problems. It also doesn't insist on any particular meaning of 'creation' which might also bring me to the point of dissent.
  3. The divine inspiration and infallibility of Holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
    No! This was my only minor niggle before - the word 'infallible' - but now I really can't agree with all of this. The divine inspiration of Scripture - yes, OK, I believe that much of the bible is in some way 'inspired'. But I can't go as far as 'infallible'. The Scripture Union basis of faith is very similar to the UCCF one, except it speaks of the bible as being "God-breathed" and "fully trustworthy in all that they affirm, and are our highest authority for faith and life" - this is a much better starting point than claiming the 'infallibility' of a book which asserts that it is possible to get two of every kind of animal on the planet into a reasonably small ship.
  4. The universal sinfulness and guilt of human nature since the fall, rendering man subject to God's wrath and condemnation.
    I do have a problem with the concept of 'God's wrath' against mankind. I accept that there is a problem of sin and that it needed dealt with, but the whole idea that a blood sacrifice was required to appease an angry God goes against my world view.
  5. The full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God; His virgin birth and His real and sinless humanity; His death on the cross, His bodily resurrection and His present reign in heaven and earth.
    Most of this, yes. Jesus is God, yes. He was a man, yes. He was crucified and rose again, yes. Virgin birth? Is this in any way an essential doctrine? It may have happened, but I remain in doubt over this one. I don't really see the need.
  6. Redemption from guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of our representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
    Most of this, yes. However, I don't think we truly understand what Jesus did by dying on the cross. I certainly don't think his death was simply his dying instead of us - let's face it, we're all going to die anyway - but something else was achieved there which we still can't see or understand. Maybe in eternity...
  7. Justification as God's act of undeserved mercy, in which the sinner is pardoned all his sins, and accepted as righteous in Gods sight, only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, this justification being received by faith alone.
    Yes. There is nothing we can do to reconcile us to God. That is why Jesus died (although, as I say, I don't think we understand what exactly his death achieved).
  8. The need for the Holy Spirit to make the work of Christ effective to the individual sinner, granting him repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.
    Yes.
  9. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all those thus regenerated, producing in them an increasing likeness to Christ in character and behaviour, and empowering them for their witness in the world.
    Yes.
  10. The one holy universal Church, which is the Body of Christ, and to which all true believers belong.
    Yes.
  11. The future personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge all men, executing God's just condemnation on the impenitent and receiving the redeemed to eternal glory.
    Mostly, yes. Although there is much about 'heaven' and 'hell' which I think we have completely misunderstood.
See, I'm not as heretical as you might think... ;o)

4 comments:

MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky

Marcus G said...

Interesting.

I think some of your problems are because you don't understand the language, in the way that I wouldn't understand superconductors or the things you set fire to... "Infallible". Hmm. We should chat!

My problem with this as a basis of faith is - IT'S ALL VERY WELL IF YOU ARE A MAN! But did Jesus do anything for women? This document doesn't seem to think so. And I know some will see me as being linguistically pedantic here, but only if they really do live in 1953. The rest of us have moved on, and the Church of God ought to follow the example of Christ who after all saw fit to make a woman the first witness of the resurrection. Not sure the authors of this basis of faith would have made the same choice.

Which might be problematic.

Ricky Carvel said...

Marcus,

My understanding of the word 'infallible' is 'incapable of being wrong' - it is claimed that the infalibility of the bible doesn't merely extend to commands and moral teachings, but also to historical accuracy and other such things. This is where I have to disagree - there are places in the bible story where common sense shows that the details given cannot be accurate (e.g. getting all those animals on the ark) and other places where historical and archeological research has revealed errors (e.g. Luke 2v1-2: "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)" - apprently Quirinius was never governor during the reign of Augustus). While I can accept that the bible is an authority in some areas ('training in righteousness' as Paul says to Timothy), it is not an authority in history or science, as some claim.

And I see your point about the very masculine slant on the basis of faith. Can't say I'd ever thought about that before.

R.

Marcus G said...

The question is - what is being called infallible? If you think Genesis 1-11 is a scientific text book, it isn't terribly good; but if you understand it is poetry, and see within the poetry a voice finding God relating to people, speaking, calling, dealing with sin and calling people back to himself from day one, preparing a way from the beginning - then what's so flawed there?

It's not scientific?

So every poet is fallible?

Give me a perfect scientific definition of love and I'll allow the point.