Thinking Out Loud

January 29, 2009

Can You Recite Your Church’s Statement of Faith?

statement-of-faithJonathan Brink, blogging at Missio Dei, has had an interesting discussion running the last few days about statements of faith:

There is an interesting discussion going on over here at this post regarding statements of faith.  And in the process of dialog something stuck out to me.

First, I get statements of belief.  Their the little list of things we say we believe.  They include very important components to our faith.  I personally have no problem with people having them because they can very much be a working out of the belief process.  I do get seriously concerned with fixed constructs of what we say we believe, which is not the same as what is truth.  Truth exists as a construct all its own.  It just is.  How much we capture of that truth is highly relative based on a huge number of factors in our life (mentors, location, access to Scripture, community, etc).  And in many ways our statements of belief create unnecessary barriers to relationship and even our own spiritual development.

And here is my point. What if our statements of believe are neat little tricks we play on ourselves?

Jesus spent almost no time focusing on the list of beliefs but instead on the action of belief.  In other words, he looked for the fruit of believe in each person’s life.  Did they step up?  Did the follow?  Did they put something on the line.  It mattered very little what they said, but instead what they did.

What if Jesus understood that our little belief statements can become just as much a hindrance as a help?  What if he understood that we’re likely to bullshit ourselves.  It’s what we do isn’t it?  We’re broken, prone to lying and deceiving, even to ourselves.  And what if Jesus understood that our lists can actually keep us locked in a perpetual state of arrested development.  Because once we say we believe something, it becomes much harder to shift gears even when we don’t believe it. (Unless that’s the point of the lists.)

I appreciate the way Blake put it in the previous post.  He said,

“I’m not interesting in something else that I have to confess or sign off on.”

Which in some ways drives home my original concern.  Statements of faith often become insurmountable barriers to entry.  They close us off from relationship.  And if the point of the mission is love and restoration, we can’t do that very well from afar, or when the barriers we have created keep people from engaging what is supposed to be called Good News.

And it is so easy to say we believe.  But Jesus even said, don’t look for the words.  Look for the actions, the fruit of our lives as the true indicator.  But we don’t like that do we.  We like lists that look pretty on paper.  We like lists that people can read and assume good things about us.  And the best part is we don’t actually have to believe the list.  We just have to say we do and it is generally accepted that we do.

I would suggest it is actually harder to not have a statement of belief.  It’s harder to live instead in the tension of becoming, of growing, and of asking do we really believe.  It doesn’t mean we ignore belief.  It means we hold lightly the things we have convinced ourselves of, leaving the true work in our lives to the Holy Spirit.

I would offer that it would be more powerful for a community to live into what it believed, wrestlign through that discovery process over time and then recognizing that we do believe.  And then holding that lightly as true, as a growing process, as something that is now.  Because things might just change.

Sorry, I tried to edit some of it out, but it was all crying to be printed here.   If you want to engage more, check out the original post linked in the quote, and then check out the comments for both posts.  (I’m #13 at the first article.)

Oh yeah… about the graphic.  To see this one full size; flames and all; link here.  (Even Christian motorcycle clubs have statements of faith…)

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