Thursday, June 01, 2006

What Evangelicals Believe: Part IV

Statement of Faith article 4: "God, by his word and for his glory, freely created the world of nothing. He made man and woman in his own image, as the crown of creation, that they might have fellowship with him. Tempted by Satan, they rebelled against God. Being estranged from their Maker, yet responsible to him, they became subject to divine wrath, inwardly depraved and, apart from grace, incapable of returning to God."

There is much to unpack here, and I don't care to bore my readers with so much, so I'll just briefly hit the main points.

1. God created the world, and God created humanity - This is not to get into the "creationist debate" of whether or not God created the world in six 24-hour days, or whether or not the scientific theory of evolution adequately acknowledges God's work while observing what can be seen in the world around us. It is merely an assertion that, however God did it, creation did not happen by chance, but by a conscious act of and intelligent God. Most of the implications of this are best left for discussion elsewhere.

2. God created us for fellowship - The author of What We Evangelicals Believe is quick to point out that this claim is not made of anything else in all of creation (p. 59). The fellowship we were created for is not only between us and God, but between each other.

3. We rebelled against God, and have thus incurred God's anger - This is where we start having to look at the more unsavory aspects of Christian faith. No one likes to think of themselves as sinful. Few people like to think of themselves as rebellious. Yet it is important that we acknowledge this point. Without realizing the "problem" of human sin, there really isn't any need to look for redemption (which will come in future articles of the Statement of Faith). As Jesus himself said "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Mark 2:17, cf. Matthew 9:12 and Luke 5:31)

4. We can't fix the problem on our own, but there is a way... - Some in the Reformed tradition speak of "total depravity," by which it is meant not that we are completely evil, or incapable of anything good, but rather that every part of us has been affected by evil. We simply don't have it in us to return to God. We want to do things our own way, even when that way is harmful to us. But even this most negative of statements contains within it the glimmer of hope: "apart from grace". By mentioning "grace," Article 4 pre-supposes that grace can come. What this means will have to wait to be explored until we can get to Article 5....

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