Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement a section at a time (at times with footnotes to point out key features and specific wording that I found to be especially crucial for the precise articulation of the view and for the protection of the church from false doctrine) in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.
Section 2 — God
We believe that there is one, and only one, living and true God, the necessary and self-sufficient creator, owner, and supreme ruler of heaven and earth. He is the source, sustainer, and end of all things. He is the defining, transcendent, and absolute standard of truth, goodness, and beauty . God exists eternally in three distinguishable but inseparable persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption. The three are identical and unchanging in nature and attributes, equal in power and glory, and one in essence and being. God is perfect, holy, and immutable in justice, love, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and sovereignty, and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love. We believe that God is sovereign over all of life and history, and knows the future certainly, exhaustively, and actually . God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind through general revelation (creation), special revelation (Scripture), and personal revelation (the person of Jesus Christ).
(Exodus 3:14; 20:2–3; Deuteronomy 6:1; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:27; Job 28:24; 37:16; Psalm 19:1; 90:2; 139:1–16; 147:5; Proverbs 15:3; 19:21; Isaiah 6:3; 14:27; 40:28; 43:13; 46:9–10; 57:15; Jeremiah 23:24; Daniel 4:35; Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 3:16–17; 19:26; 28:19; John 1:1, 18; 8:58; 10:30; 14:6; 17:6; Acts 1:16; 14:16–17; 17:24–31; Romans 1:18–20; 8:38–39; 9:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:4–5; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1–2; 4:13; 7:24; James 1:17; 1 Peter 1:2, 16; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 4:8; Revelation 1:8; 4:8, 11; 19:6)
God the Father: We believe that the Father is sovereign over all life and history, and reigns with providential care over all Creation. He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events. He orders and accomplishes, for His own glory, all things that come to pass. He hears and answers prayer. He initiated salvation by sending His Son. He adopts into His family all who come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, thus saving them from the penalty, the power, and, eventually, the presence of sin.
(I Chronicles 29:11–13; Matthew 7:11; John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23; 8:15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 4:5; Hebrews 12:5–9; I John 4:9–10)
God the Son: We believe that Jesus Christ is the uncreated, eternal Son of God. He came into this world, as foretold by the Scriptures, to manifest God to mankind, to offer the promised Kingdom , and to be the Redeemer of the sinful world. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. Jesus took upon Himself genuine humanity, without ceasing to be truly and fully God. In Christ’s incarnation, perfect humanity and undiminished deity were united in one person forever, without confusion of the divine and human natures.
Christ remained perfect and sinless throughout His entire life. His humanity qualified Him to be our substitute; His sinlessness qualified Him to be the perfect sacrifice sufficient to take away our sins by His substitutionary death on the cross. Jesus Christ alone is the full and complete propitiation for sin — the full satisfaction of the Father’s justice regarding sin. Because He conquered sin, death — sin’s penalty — could not hold Him; He was bodily resurrected from the dead, and physically ascended to Heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father as Intercessor, Advocate, and High Priest for the redeemed. His bodily resurrection and ascension give proof to the fact that His sacrificial death was fully acceptable to the Father for sin.
(Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 53:1–12; Micah 5:2; Luke 1:30–35; 24:34–39; John 1:1–2; 8:58; 10:30; 20:11–31; Acts 2:22–24; Romans 1:4; 3:25–26; 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 2:17–18; 4:14–15; 7:24–25; 10:1–14; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 2:1–2)
God the Holy Spirit: We believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, equal with the Father and the Son, and of the same nature and essence. He was active in Creation. He restrains the Evil One until God’s purpose is fulfilled. He convicts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He authors divine revelation, and He bears witness to the truth of the gospel in preaching and testimony, and is the agent in the new birth. He seals, guides, teaches, sanctifies, and gives aid to the believer.
(Genesis 1:1–3; 2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 139:7; Ezekiel 2:2; Matthew 22:43; 28:19; Luke 11:13; John 14:16–17, 26; 16:8–11; Acts 1:16; 1 Corinthians 2:10–11; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 9:14; 2 Peter 1:21)
We believe that the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the church through which Christians serve one another and the world. Some gifts, such as prophecy, healing, tongues, and interpretation, were temporary (being necessary before the completed New Testament was available, and serving to validate and confirm the ministry of the Apostles as the founders of the church) and are no longer given today. While God still works mightily and miraculously to accomplish His purposes, these gifts are no longer given to individuals as permanent gifts for the edification of the body .
(Matthew 10:18–20; Acts 2:22; 8:6; 1 Corinthians 13:8; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 2:1–4; Revelation 22:18–19)
1) This statement is an important distinctive of a full-orbed conservative Christian philosophy. As Dr. Scott Aniol puts it, “All truth is grounded in the reality that God is True. All virtue is grounded in the reality that God is Good. All beauty is grounded in the reality that God is Beautiful… Christians as image-bearers of God must commit themselves to thinking God’s thoughts after Him, to behaving in ways that conform to God’s moral perfection, and to loving those things that God calls lovely.” For a fuller explanation of the conservative view of transcendentals, see A Conservative Christian Declaration, from Religious Affections Ministries.
2) Unfortunately, various versions of Open Theism, the view that God cannot know the future with certainty, are becoming more and more popular among evangelicals. Thus, I think it’s important to directly address this false teaching. (See also the links in this article)
3) Which, by the way, I believe was a legitimate offer of the expected Kingdom as foretold in the Old Testament.
4) Some will take issue with being so specific on the spiritual gifts, since we are excluding such a large portion of modern evangelicals with such language. I’m not going to argue for my position here, but I want to comment on one popular position. Many people will argue that we should not take a firm position, at least on specific gifts, within the actual doctrinal statement, but that we can simply make a policy that we don’t want anyone practicing these gifts in the public assembly. In my opinion, this is the least desirable situation. Think about what the gifts are, and how often the New Testament emphasizes the use of one’s gifts. Imagine someone believes they have the gift of ‘helps,’ or ‘mercy,’ or some similar gift, and the elders of the church tell that person that they are not allowed to utilize that gift for the edification of the body. They are not allowed to use the gift the Holy Spirit has given them for the purpose of ministering to their local church? If you think that would be a foolhardy position to hold, understand that it is no different to say that we will not take a clear position on the sign gifts, because we want to be “open,” or “accommodating,” or “humble,” or whatever the reason, and yet we will ask that no one, including people who believe they possess those gifts, exercise them within the church. You’re refusing to say that you believe these gifts are no longer given by the Spirit, but then you are asking someone to not use their spiritual gift to minister to the church. That seems… well, insane, to me. Therefore, I take a clear position in my doctrinal statement. This ultimately will provide for the most solid and consistent unity in the body, as well as the most theological stability.