5.28.2014

What Makes Christianity Christianity?

THE APOSTLES’ CREED, TRADITIONAL VERSION (As printed at 881 of the United Methodist Hymnal)
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
This may stir some things up, but...

I was just thinking about putting together another blog post about "church baggage" and how being raised in the Church of God influenced what I look for in a church. Specifically, I was interested in collating my thoughts on church membership, which is so important in some denominations and literally does not exist in the Church of God (I still hope to write that post, another day). But I came across something else, instead.

I found a really great pamphlet, entitled "What We Teach" that lays out the history and foundational beliefs of the Church of God (Anderson) Reformation Movement™and I honestly found a lot of it troubling.

For some context, I also recommend checking out this post on heresy from Rachel Held Evans' blog. I'm currently reading Justin Holcomb's book, discussed in that post, Know the Creeds and Councils.

From its outset, ChoG was started specifically to battle what its founders saw as unbiblical sectarianism. A noble idea birthed from the sectarian-battle-to-end-all-sectarian-battles The American Civil War. As such, it eschewed the idea of rigid creedal statements meant to separate "right" from "wrong" doctrine. ChoG therefore did away with the idea of membership, as "joining" would thusly require affirming some sort of set of beliefs.

The issue, though, is that my understanding of ChoG foundational beliefs is that they likewise refuse to affirm any historical creeds. Here's the relevant verbiage from "What We Teach":
We appreciate the value of the historic
Christian creeds, but we are unwilling to
make any of these creeds a test of Christian
fellowship.
This seems problematic to me, as I study the historic creeds and councils of Christianity, because doing so rather quickly leads one to believe that they're extremely vital to sussing out what is Orthodox, what is not, and why that's so important.

As I tweeted while reading through "What We Teach" the first time, if you're not willing to affirm Nicaea, I don't really even know what we're doing here.

Because ChoG still exists in America today, and hasn't been blasted as heretical by The Gospel Coalition or any of a thousand other possible parties who might choose to throw such a charge at it, and since I have some working knowledge of the denomination having spent half my life in it, I know that it practically does affirm the tenets of Orthodox Christianity as they are understood. Surely it wouldn't be operating several successful universities if this was not the case.

I do find it strange, though, that the denomination I grew up in seems not to find the need to state a definitive adherence to classical Orthodoxy. In 2003, however, the faculty of Anderson University drafted a new Statement of Belief that touches on many, if not all, of the points that these creeds do, but their blatant omission still leaves me more than a little ill at ease.

Briefly, it's also worth pointing to another statement in "What We Teach," as it pertains to my other problem with the Church of God:
We recognize the church as the universal
body of Christ. Each local congregation is
called to be a manifestation of this one
body. We recognize the importance both of
freedom in the Spirit and mutual responsi-
bility among Christ's disciples.
This point speaks to what I can only (experientially) describe as the impotence with which the Church of God has dealt with the lawlessness that has taken hold at my former church. Without a desire to affirm what is, or is not, doctrinally correct, and without a willingness to sow discord in the body (by which I mean, take a stand--any stand) I think the ChoG has succeeded in its mission to minimize infighting on a sectarian scale while utterly failing in its mission to provide a Christlike worship space for the bride of Christ.

I recognize these are serious charges, but I can point you to a whole lot of folks who'd be able to tell you that their experience bears them out.

And this is why I looked to a denomination with a more episcopal governance.

THE NICENE CREED (As printed at 880 of the United Methodist Hymnal)We believe in one God,The Father, the Almighty,Maker of heaven and earth,of all that is seen and unseen.We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,the only Son of God,eternally begotten of the Father,God from God, Light from Light,True God from True God,begotten, not made,of one being with the Father;through Him all things were made.For us and for our salvationHe came down from heaven,was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Maryand became truly human.For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;He suffered death and was buried.On the third day He rose againin accordance with the scriptures;He ascended into heavenand is seated at the right hand of the Father.He will come again in gloryto judge the living and the dead,and His kingdom will have no end.We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,who proceeds from the Father,who with the Father and the Sonis worshiped and glorified,who has spoken through the prophets.We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.We acknowledge one baptismfor the forgiveness of sins.We look for the resurrection of the dead,and the life of the world to come. Amen
- - -

CONCLUDING AFFIRMATION - STATEMENT OF BELIEF, ANDERSON UNIVERSITY
In devotion to Christ as the head of the church, we desire to be a biblical people, a people who worship the triune God, a people transformed by the grace of God, a people of the Kingdom of God, a people committed to building up the one, universal church of God, and a people who in God's love care for the whole world. 

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