Statement of Faith

I’m in the process of applying for a new job (long story, maybe I’ll explain later.)  Anyways, one job I’m applying for wants a statement of faith.  Now, it’s been, oh, about five or six years since I’ve had to write one, so, I’m asking for your help.  Please provide feedback (positive and/or negative; I can take it) for the statement I’ve written.  Thanks in advance.

I have been active in church just about my whole life.  I was raised in the American Baptist Church.  My father was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and my mother in the Church of God.  I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church and again as a teenager in the Baptist Church.  While attending the Baptist Church, I was active in the youth group as well as the life of the congregation.  I was introduced to the Lutheran tradition while I was in college and fell in love with the liturgy.  While I was in college, I attended church on an infrequent basis.

I started attending church on a regular basis shortly after a troubling time in my life.  I was having problems at work and had decided to find a church to call my own.  I picked out a Lutheran Church to attend on my next Sunday off.  On that Sunday, I awoke early and got ready.   After I finished getting ready, I sat down and promptly fell asleep.  Around the time I needed to leave, I heard a voice say, “Get up and go.”  The voice was loud enough to startle me awake and was out of place because I lived alone.  I jumped up and went to church like I planned and found a church home that day.  A few months later, I joined the Lutheran Church and began my journey to seminary.

I believe God, the Father almighty.  He is the creator of everything (Genesis 1:1)and mankind is created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)  God’s creation was very good (Genesis 1:31) but through Adam and Eve, sin entered the world.  (Genesis 3)  Throughout all of salvation history, God has been at work in the world.  God saved Noah and his family from the waters of the flood.  God led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt.  God sent his prophets to call Israel to account when they sinned against Him.  God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for the sin of the world.

I believe in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus.  (Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:35)  Christ is, therefore, truly human and truly divine.  Being God made flesh, Christ was able to bear the sins of mankind on the cross.  Through his death and resurrection, Christ made the ultimate sacrifice and atoned for the sins of mankind.  In this act, Christ defeated death so that we might have the promise of eternal life.  Jesus Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  (John 1:29)

I believe in the Holy Spirit.  At Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32)  The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples on the day of Pentecost.  (Acts 2)  It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are given faith and are gifted to do the work of ministry.

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Did Paul have the stigmata?

Did Paul the Apostle have the ‘stigmata’? Paul wrote in his suffering:

From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. Galatians 6:17 (NLT)

I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. Colossians 1:24 (NLT)

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 2 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)

In Acts:

God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled. Acts 19:11-12 (NLT)

One theory is that the handkerchiefs in Acts were soaked in blood from Paul’s wounds, wounds resembling Jesus’ Crucifixion wounds. Thomas Aquinas wrote that:

For stigmata are, strictly speaking, certain marks branded on one with a hot iron; as when a slave is marked on the face by his master, so that no one else will claim him, but quietly let him remain with the master whose marks he bears. And this is the way the Apostle says he bears the marks of the Lord, branded, as it were, as a slave of Christ; and this, because he bore the marks of Christ’s passion, suffering many tribulations in his body for Him, according to the saying of 1 Peter (2:21): “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps”; “Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4: 10). Galations by St. Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas is of the opinion that the wounds of Paul referred to were caused by the beatings he suffered in defending Jesus. The NIV Study Bible notes for Galatians 6:17 “Paul’s suffering (stoning, beating, illness) marked him as a servant of Jesus”.

There is no doubt that Paul suffered greatly and would have been covered in scars. I think that Thomas Aquinas is right in that Paul did not have the ‘stigmata’, meaning he did not have wounds resembling the wounds of Jesus. If the phenomena of the ‘stigmata’ exists, it would require God to intentionally inflict pain and suffering on someone who loves Him. My own belief is that God would have not intentionally inflicted pain on Paul, as Paul had faith in Jesus.

Jesus Deficit Disorder

I recently finished reading Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.  In the introduction, they make the following claim:

[W]e feel a massive disconnect in the church today, and we believe that the major disease of today’s church is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder.  The person of Jesus has become increasingly politically incorrect and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “morality,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”  the world likes Jesus; they just don’t like the church.  But increasingly, the church likes the church, yet it doesn’t like Jesus.  (xvi)

Regardless of what you might think about their theology, what do you think about their assessment of the church; that the church suffers from Jesus Deficit Disorder?  Does this claim have some merit?

Can you explain away Christianity?

Two posts which are somewhat related – two questions for you to think about.

Let’s set it up:

Let’s say that Christianity is an imagined community from the ground up. No Resurrection of a political Jesus. No miracles. No signs and wonders. No fulfillment of prophecies. Let’s say that the earliest written accounts of this myth called  the Son of God, Jesus, was made by a disenchanted Pharisee who took up the rallying cry of a dead Jew. Let’s just say that the biblical accounts of the Resurrection of Christ and the beginning of the Church from Pentecost onward is little more than children’s fairy tales, told to urge rebellion against Nero.

But, we have to answer the history provide for in the Talmud and in other secular sources. Further, while we may discount the miracles of Acts, let’s say we take for a moment the life of Paul – that disenchanted, no good, Pharisee. He preached a risen Christ 30 years after it was said to have happened. He was there, after all, then Stephen had his life exercised from him for speaking in that name of Jesus Christ. He must have known that Jesus was alive and well or dead and buried.

Yet, something happened to that Pharisee where he not only took up the banner of that dead rebel, but began to move it away from the Jewish roots to a combined system of Jew and Gentile, Male and Female, Bond and Free. And others joined him.

Of course, he met only a few of the close followers of the dead man. Surely, he would have not mistaken their deep seated ‘he is still with us’ mythology for an actual account of the Resurrection – not enough to rehearse it to a physician.

How can we explain away Christianity if there was a sudden explosion of this new myth which not only saw people willing die – those people that had heard the message of the rebellion from others – but also the closest followers of the decaying man? And what about this Paul fellow? He died too. He killed to prevent the message from being spread. Then he died to spread it.

We can explain away a few hundred people believing a man is a god or a lord, but can we explain thousands to tens of thousands of people who heard the message, who turned from killing to dying for it?

Here are those two articles –

So we are left with options. Either take the NT as it is, more or less; accept an historical analysis that raises more questions than it answers; . . . . or or or . . . .

And

Assuming its true, He’s God. He offers you a life that is radically different; he offers you the opportunity to live forever; he offers you the ability to live to the fullest imaginable extent, IF you buy into his presentation, assuming he really is who he says he is.

We hear an awfully lot about what the message of Christ cannot be true, why He was a really a political rebel, and ever increasing attacks upon our faith – yet, even if you take away the Scriptures, how can you explain away Christianity?

Devotional 6/30 – In the Wrong Place

Thus says the LORD:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer 17:5-8 NKJV)

Gill says,

The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “myrice”: and so the Latin interpreter of the Targum; but the word that paraphrase makes use of according to R. Hai, mentioned by Kimchi, signifies something that is thorny without, and eatable within; but this is not likely to be intended here. The Septuagint version renders it, “wild myrice”; it seems to be the same that is called “erice”, or “ling”, and “heath”; which delights to grow in wild and waste places; hence such with us are called “heaths”, whether this grows upon them or not. It is a low shrub, fruitless and useless; and, because neither bears fruit nor seed, is reckoned by Pliny among unhappy plants, and such as are condemned or forbid religious uses; and very fit to represent such persons as truest in men and in themselves, and not in the Lord:

Basil, whom the Catholics and Orthodox calls the Great, said, “Think again of the double life of the tamarisk; it is an aquatic plant, and yet it covers the desert.” What the ancient helps to point to is the clear comparison of those that trust in the flesh and those that trust in God. We have a tamarisk, something that should not be in the desert, but readily makes it home there. It has no roots and no supportl; it is literally born to die. The righteous man, however, the righteous man he is seen as a stout tree, something that is planted by the source of health, and is born to live.

So many times, we find ourselves in a desert land not because we got lost, but because we were led astray by those that we put our trust in. People, saints, those that crave water and need water (Spirit) to live, find themselves in the desert, a place that they do not belong. Some choose to stay there, perhaps out of apathy, while others stay in the desert out of pride.

I grew up at a Church in Louisiana in which we were led to put our trust only in the man behind the pulpit. When this man fell, so did my faith. Instead of having my trust in God, my faith was in flesh and thus I found myself in a desert place, left in the hot burning sun, near burning, and craving water. This is not to say that we do not need pastors and ministers, but they cannot save us. We trust them in as far as they follow God, yet our faith is not in the man or the position, but in God who called them. But then, for that man, he positioned himself as the sole arbiter of Truth. He chose to instill in us a separation that wedged us from the body of Christ so that his ego might be sustained.

So, he brought us into the desert and would have left us there, but for the grace of God who called us and gave this man’s congregation a second chance.

I had friends (yes, I actually had friends) that were not in Church, professing or non-professing, and I quickly followed them into those things that I should not have done. In college… well, I was a somewhat typical college student. I sought friendship and companionship above the things of God. I found myself always falling and failing. I never got my head on right and ruined some wonderful opportunities. I did things that declared openly my allegiance to flesh and each time, I lost the battle.

But when I began to trust in God, and place my faith in Him alone, I began really traveling with God. I was actually able to plant some roots and to begin to flourish, not just with my family and professional life but first and foremost with God.

If you are in a desert place, the first thing you have to do is to call out to God. Don’t worry about examining how you got there, but just get out. Did your friends lead you there? (Or did you follow them there?) Did you blindly trust the man, forgetting that God had to be followed first, and only faith in God inspires the man? Who cares, as long as you get out.

And when you do, if God allows you, then stay where you are planted, grow there, thrive there, serve God there.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
(Psa 92:12-13 KJVA)