What do you believe? Why do you believe it? If a complete stranger were to ask you what you believe, would you have an answer?
On June 5th we are beginning a new series called, Creed: The Basics of Christian Belief. Throughout the summer our Sunday worship experiences will be themed around the simple confessions of faith Christians have affirmed for centuries. Together we will discuss the basics of what we believe as Christians and why we believe them. More than that, we will talk about the history of our beliefs and the places in the scriptures which support such claims.
In the 1700s a minister by the name of John Wesley and his brother Charles began a new ministry in America. They were both ordained in the Church of England but practiced a new “method” for faith formation which quickly had them known as the “Methodists.” Later, theologians labeled Wesley’s method the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”
For Wesley, true Christian faith comes from 4 sources. First and foremost, everything we believe must come from the scriptures. Scripture is the foundation of our faith and everything we do and believe must find its origins in the Holy Word. That said, Wesley understood that God had blessed us with other methods for discovering faith and even interpreting the scriptures we read. These other sources were tradition, experience, and reason.
As Christians, we are people of tradition. Our roots go way back, 2000 years as a matter of fact. As Baptists, we have our own unique tradition inside of the greater Christian family. As a local church, we at Bayshore have even our own unique traditions inside of the Baptist family. According to Wesley, these traditions are very important and are God-given sources of Christian faith. Think for a moment about your life and how you came to know Jesus. Chances are, there was a family member, Sunday school teacher, preacher, or some event at church which shaped your early belief. This is the power of tradition.
Wesley also knew that personal experience was very important. Sometimes we have experiences unique to our own lives which point us to God. Sometimes we have personal encounters with the Living God which influences and in some cases, changes our beliefs. Think about Moses’ encounter with God when he saw the burning bush. Everything in his life was changed. Every experience in our life is a gift from God and a chance to get to know him better.
Finally, Wesley, a student at the forefront of the enlightenment, trusted in even human reason as a way to understand God. Wesley believed that God had given us our minds for a reason and that we must use them, just as Jesus called us to do when he told us to “Love the Lord your God with all of your…mind…” (see Mark 12:30-31).
An easy way to remember all of these things is to imagine a 3-legged stool. Scripture is the seat of the stool. We can sit and rest our full weight upon its sure foundation. And supporting our trust of scripture and helping us to understand and interpret its truth are our traditions, experience, and reason. All are needed in order to form a well thought out and tested faith.
During our journey, we are going to turn to a document of the Christian Church that has stood the test of time. It is rooted in the scriptures, established in tradition, born through reason, and open to personal experience. That document is the Apostles’ Creed. As we journey though the Apostles’ Creed, we will discuss the many scripture references which reinforce the belief it proclaims. We will share how The Church and our own church have sought to build upon these beliefs, reflect on our own experiences of such belief, and use our God-given reason to discover new ways to practice our faith in ways that are relevant to life today. I invite you to look back at the words of the creed above often. Memorize them if you can. Ponder and reflect upon them. Ask questions and let God reveal the answers.
What do you believe? Are you sure? May this journey through the basics of our Christian faith help us to answer those questions.
In the Assurance of Our Faith,