I Googled “Christian beliefs.” I received lots of results. It seems like “Christian belief” is so diverse, so diffuse it can mean whatever people want it to mean. There are western and eastern Christians; orthodox and evangelical; conservative and progressive. There are those who baptize children and those who don’t; those who know when they were saved and those who are not so sure; those who take communion often and those who do it rarely. And of course, each is pretty sure they are right, making others wrong. All of these differences define “belief” as agreement or acceptance of a doctrine or teaching, which is true… to a point.
Belief in something, when it comes to matters of faith, is about more than accepting a doctrine. When I say to someone, like my son, “I believe in you,” I am expressing something deeper than simple agreement. I’m expressing trust, faith, an aspect of relationship.
Too often, it seems to me, arguments about “belief in God” – whether they arise from “new” atheism or the “spiritual but not religious” or from two sides of a religious argument – are about belief as accepting a doctrine and not belief as trust in something that defines us. Paul Tillich, the brilliant 20th Century theologian, followed Jesus, Luther and others in saying that everyone has a god – it is what you trust the most. He called it “Ultimate Concern.” That which you trust so much that you rearrange the rest of life around it is your god. So even an atheist, in this way of thinking believes in a god.
The trouble for Christians is that we have become too fixed on belief as acceptance of doctrines and we have lost our ability to articulate in everyday terms what it is that we trust; what do we trust (believe) so deeply that it shapes how we live? We will never be able to thrive and spread the good news if we don’t even know what the good news is about — or more importantly, who it is about.
We need to get to a point where any fifth grader in a Christian congregation can articulate what – WHO – they trust as easily as they can articulate moves on a soccer field or the players on their favorite team. To that end, our congregation has been working on articulating a short list of Core Beliefs that are easy to understand and remember. They don’t replace the creeds or confessions. They merely allow us to say easily to anyone who wants to know, what we believe at the center of our life together. They allow us to articulate out trust in God.
The Core Beliefs adopted are:
- God is love that bids together everyone and everything.
- God’s love is guaranteed for all through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- God’s love is not earned, but is a free gift to broken people.
- God’s love is poured out when God’s people gather around Word, water, wine and bread.
- God’s love is shared abundantly when God’s people are the hands, feet and open arms of Jesus.
- God’s love transforms us to be the people God created us to be.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to flesh these out a little, one by one. I hope you will take time to enter into conversation about these beliefs. Take time to pray about them. They will guide our decisions and shape how we witness to the good news of Jesus in this world. They try to articulate that which will be our “Ultimate Concern.”