Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
Last week I was glad to visit Cascades Presbytery, which has just begun a study of the Book of Confessions. This Presbytery will host the 2016 General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of another General Assembly in Portland, when the Confession of 1967 and the Book of Confessions were adopted.
They invited me to lead a pre-presbytery workshop on the Nicene Creed, to give a summary of that workshop during the actual presbytery meeting, and to preach. During the workshop, I gave some background to the Creed, which is the most widely used statement of faith throughout all branches of Christianity, and which was written in response to heretical claims that Jesus was not actually God, but rather a part of creation.
One of the participants in the workshop referenced work by Rob Bell and others, who have written that younger Christians are not as concerned about “right-believing” (orthodoxy) as they are with “right-acting” (orthopraxy). At the risk of oversimplification, this means that what Christians believe is less important than how Christians act out their faith.
Neither the Nicene nor the Apostles’ Creed discusses Christians’ or the church’s actions. However, the other nine statements of faith contained in our Book of Confessions include the ethical demands of the Gospel, in greater or lesser detail. This makes sense, because as the Book of Confessions itself states, churches write statements of faith in order to “seek to make clear to themselves who they are, what they believe, and what they resolve to do.” (p. xiii)
I like the balance of this comment. Without statements about who the Triune God is, we cannot know what we believe. Without knowing what we believe, we cannot put our faith in Christ. Without putting our faith in Christ, we cannot be saved, nor can we help others to understand God’s promise of abundant life for them.
However, without statements about what we resolve to do, we risk James’ deadening and deadly faith without works. Without living out our faith, our witness in word becomes hollow and unbelievable. That said, without stating what we believe, our witness in deed can become puzzling and misunderstood.