Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, October 13, 2019
The Christian faith is not an open system willing and open to incorporating any new ideas that appear in society, however attractive those ideas might be. The Christian faith is a deposit that was handed down by the apostles to be believed and practiced for all time without any changes. That deposit is explained through ten basic doctrines of the Christian faith. The set constitutes what is called Systematic Theology. Each of the ten doctrines can be divided roughly into four parts. The ten doctrines are the following:
- The doctrine of the Bible (Bibliology)
- The doctrine of God the Father (The Attributes of God)
- The doctrine of God the Son (Christology)
- The doctrine of God the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
- The doctrine of Angels (Angelology)
- The doctrine of Man (Anthropology)
- The doctrine of Sin (Hamartiology)
- The doctrine of Salvation (Soteriology)
- The doctrine of the Church (Ecclesiology)
- The doctrine of End Time Things (Eschatology)
It is unfortunate that these doctrines are rarely taught to the person in the pew in the Anglican tradition. An individual cannot be a rounded follower of Jesus and worshiper of God without knowing these basic teachings of the Christian faith. We will endeavor to present them to readers in the weekly letter as condensed as possible but covering the major points. I encourage us to take advantage of this resource to get to understand our faith.
I am aware of many Christians who don’t like Theology at all. They want to love their Jesus, period, and not to “waste” their precious time on Theology. “Give me Jesus; he alone is my savior,” one might hear sentiments such as those. They are unfortunate. Jesus has been defined by different religions and philosophies. A clear understanding of him can come only through engaging with Theology. I concur with the voices that say that every Christian should be a mini-theologian able to explain intelligently what the Christian faith is and what it is not. The Christian is advised to study Theology to get a good grasp of the biblical Jesus to enable oneself to distinguish that Jesus from counterfeit Jesuses doing the rounds in the world from age to age. An accurate Christian faith can be arrived at only through the study of Theology.
We will start this series with the study of the Bible itself. This is appropriate because the Bible is the source and only source of all Christian teaching about the other 9 doctrines. This rule of Sola Scriptura, only Scripture, was established at the time of the Protestant Reformation to prevent individuals, even the highest authorities in the church, from inventing doctrine at will however anti-Bible. A good example is the historical Tetzel who taught that a person could buy indulgencies with money and pay for his past, present, and future sins to the point that the same would no longer need repentance of sin. The Pope of the day let that teaching go unchecked and this later sparked the Protestant Reformation.
The Bible is the story of how God created the universe and everything it. He then created us human beings to take care of the universe, but we rebelled against him and threw out his blueprint for a peaceful life on earth and instituted our own. After our rebellion, God initiated his pre-planned strategy to pay for our rebellion and make it possible for us to be his friends again. This is what the entire Bible is all about. The message of the Bible can be told with four words: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.
The Bible was written by over 40 human authors from different walks of life, priests, farmers, shepherds, doctors, philosophers, educated to the highest level of their day, uneducated, name them. But the real author behind all the human authors was God himself who moved the human authors to write what they wrote. The 40 plus human authors agree about God and life, although they wrote at different historical times and circumstances. This is no surprise since it is the same God who inspired each and every human author revealing himself.
Through those authors, God tells us what he wants us to know about himself, ourselves, and the universe. So, the Bible is the Word of God. What it affirms, God affirms. What it disavows, God disavows. When it speaks, God speaks. This is called the inerrancy of Scripture, meaning Scripture has no errors. The Bible cannot affirm that which is wrong whatever subject it speaks on. This is what the Anglican Church has believed all through history and is what the ACNA believes together with other orthodox protestant churches.
Anglicans join the rest of Protestant Christianity to teach that we cannot introduce into Christian belief teachings that are not derived from the Bible, and we cannot disregard what the Bible teaches on a subject in order to accommodate popular opinion of any age or time, or to avoid teaching something the Bible affirms because the times we are living in don’t agree with it or are shy about it. The Bible is the plumbline to guide belief and conduct for all time. It is the unchangeable measure of truth about God and human beings. So, we always use Scripture to evaluate a teaching or a behavior. In answering any question about faith and conduct we start by asking what the Bible says.
God was active in the writing of the Bible. Indeed, God did not dictate what was written, but he made sure that what was written was without error. This is referred to as inspiration. God inspired the human authors and caused them to write down accurately what he wanted us to know. The Greek word translated as ‘God-inspired’ is better rendered “God-breathed.” The Scriptures were God-breathed such that there’s no difference between the authority of God and that of Scripture.
To understand the Bible, we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit only that can illumine a human mind and enable it to understand and accept the truth of the Bible. And there must be receptivity on the part of the human being for the truths of the Bible to be revealed. The truths of the Bible can be mined only through diligent study and illumination of the Holy Spirit. To grasp the truths of the Bible we start from faith to get understanding even as we apply human reason. Human reason must be willing to believe the truths revealed and not to argue and argue against them endlessly and unreasonably. We do not move from reasoning understanding to faith because human reason is flawed, marred by the Fall, and cannot of itself understand the things of God and lead to faith.