Jan 102018

One of the interesting responses I’ve received this week from our earlier articles is a question.

Do you believe in anything for sure?

Evidently, my acknowledgement of the vast differences among “believers” and the acceptance of “mystery” in many aspects of the faith has thrown some of you for a loop.

I’m glad it has.

Maybe now we can have some honest discussions.

Let me answer the question first.

I affirm without reservation the early creeds of the church (The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed).

These are the “non-negotiables” of the faith.

All “orthodox” Christians have believed all these things at all times in Christian history.

All orthodox Christians believe them today.

As the centuries have passed and we have divided into thousands of different sects, those doctrines are still the foundation of the faith.

As we have divided our sects have also built different doctrinal structures on top of that foundation.

We have endlessly enumerated our differences as doctrine and cultures have developed.

My group has a structure which I also affirm, “The Thirty Nine Articles of the Faith”.

Typically for Anglicans, we interpret those differently among ourselves…

My affirmation of my sects beliefs are not hills that I will die on as being the last word of the one, true, church.

They are my best understanding of the Christian faith at this point in my life.

The question we need to ask is “what does it mean to be a Christian in the first place”?

For me, it means that one knows and is known by Jesus Christ and has been received by Him into the family of faith.

Someone who has been “saved”, if you must.

This is where the problems start…

I know people in dozens of different sects that hold to different (and often contradictory) doctrines who know Jesus.

They are Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Charismatics, Eastern Orthodox, and some have no affiliation at all.

They’re all “Christians”.

They all (whether they know it or not) hold to those non negotiable doctrines of the early creeds and confessions.

Thus, my conclusion is that while doctrine is important, knowing Jesus is everything.

We are all wrong about some things, but if you’re “right” about Jesus , you’re family.

It’s all about Jesus.

Now you know what I believe…


  46 Responses to “Do You Believe Anything For Sure?”

  1. Yes. Romans 10:9-10.

  2. The alternative is to decide that your group and your group alone has it right…and that’s a level of arrogance that even I can’t aspire to…

  3. True. The arrogance can show when we decide to major on the minors, to Die on My Way Hill.

  4. Thank you, Michael.

    “Thus, my conclusion is that while doctrine is important, knowing Jesus is everything.”

    This reminds me of a quote Duane posted here months ago from Albert Schweitzer:

    “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside,

    He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

  5. The one thing our systematic theologies and doctrinal structures accomplish is to provide us with a god we can manage.

    We decide what he does, how he does it, and to whom he does it either to or for.
    We, of course, are on his good side.

    Then the real God shows up and blows our structures straight to…heaven.
    The real God is utterly unmanageable.

  6. “Thus, my conclusion is that while doctrine is important, knowing Jesus is everything.”

    Michael, I agree with the article wholeheartedly, but with one small caveat. I can only speak for myself, but I often wonder how well I “know” Jesus. There will come a time that I will know, even as I am known. Until then, my hope is to encounter Jesus at every opportunity and when those encounters takes place, to say “yes”. When I look around me at believers from so many traditions, the common strand in my mind is that they have encountered Christ and by grace have said “yes”…

  7. Duane,

    Agreed…and very well said!

  8. the creeds express what we must get straight in our minds as we walk our pilgrim walks

    i don’t know that this thot will be expressed as i intend it, but lately i’ve come to think that our divisions, our sects, are like marriage – there are the firm and unshakeable underlying principles, but the marriage itself, how it is lived out is dependent on the two people committed to it… can we say that all marriages, good and bad, are the same?

    “The real God is utterly unmanageable.” raises the question of why do we need to manage Him? … most of us aren’t doing very well managing ourselves – whether we are aware of it or not…

    This is one of the best posts that has been given us here on the PhxP. I hope it produces a thread of comments worthy of the content and attitude of the author, thank you Michael

  9. Thank you, Em. 🙂

  10. If doctrine were given it’s high place instead of frowned on we wouldn’t have people who claim to know Jesus who really don’t – like Paula White, Benny Hinn, Mormons, JWs, Td Jake’s etc.

  11. God put himself in a box when he put himself on the cross.

  12. I give a high place to doctrine…just as you do and the Scriptures do.

    However, I also know that you and I disagree on some doctrines, even though we form them from the same book.

    I have no empirical basis to judge between the veracity of orthodox believers who disagree on non creedal doctrines.

    In other words, the only basis I have for believing my interpretation over yours or you believing yours over mine is just that…an interpretative choice.

    Neither one of us is more “biblical” than the other…

  13. After three months of hearing sermons from Revelation from a dispensation perspective, there is no way I believe that for sure.

  14. Bob,

    I pretty much reject (and at times even scorn) the dispensational scheme.

    God help me if I reject them as fellow children of the King…

  15. But how does one know he truly believes? Is an intellectual adherence to the creeds enough or is there something deeper? How do we know that we know Jesus and are known by Him? I guess it always comes back to faith.

  16. Cash,

    It does come down to faith.
    I like Steve Browns formulations…if we weren’t His we wouldn’t care if we were…

  17. Cash! So good to see you!

  18. Hi Dusty! Good to see you on here as well. I don’t comment much but I am always hanging around.

  19. If doctrine were given it’s high place instead of frowned on we wouldn’t have people who claim to know Jesus who really don’t- Paula White, Benny Hinn, Mormons, JWs, Td Jake’s etc.

    The LDS and The Watchtower Society both to place a very high value on doctrine: their own “new” revelations which are other gospels and other Jesuses.

  20. “They are Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Charismatics, Eastern Orthodox, and some have no affiliation at all.

    They’re all “Christians”.”

    But what about…Do you mean to tell me…I mean, what a bunch of ecumenical…

    Oh wait, I believe that too. Carry on.

  21. Then there’s the family members who I don’t like. For example, one guy who was a main focus of this blog when I first came here about 15 years ago. Not to mention any names, but there’s a famous brand of peanut butter…and I don’t mean Jif or Peter Pan.

    I even have to acknowledge that turds like him are part of the family.

  22. CK… When I was a child I had a spunky, cute wirehair terrier … My grandmother thought he should be named Skippy and I said no, that’s peanut butter (didn’t like peanut butter). … We compromised and named him Skipper… 😁
    Michael ( and my daughter) wouldn’t have liked him – he went right thru the locked screen door to chase a cat. – chased quite a few of the neighbor’s cats up trees

    I think I just rabbit trailed …. again. 😕

  23. Victor, they hold to wrong doctrine because they were not nipped in the bud.
    Benny Gunn and Copeland have a 9 person Trinity and TD Jakes is a non Trinitarian moralist and I can guaranty that each confesses the Creeds but they read them more ‘openly and expansively’ than I do.
    They are wrong and are leading their followers to help. However, I am sure they are probably a bunch of nice guys.

  24. MLD,

    All of those you note have had their heresies exposed in detail.
    Their followers choose to ignore that.

  25. They all confess the creeds and add their own stuff on top.

  26. Someone that believes there are 9 members of the Trinity does not confess the creeds…

  27. This is such an important topic; I embrace the creeds and can fellowship with all hold to the historical, foundational beliefs addressed by the creeds. I can look past doctrinal differences as long as those differences do not provide a basis for what I would consider ungodly behavior. The belief in the eternal subordination of the son, because of its resultant behavioral degradation of women, is one that would prevent me from membering in a church that holds to that doctrine. I can, and do, relate to some individuals that hold to this doctrine; I think it is a doctrine that is dangerous, as opposed to benign differences in the understanding of other controversial doctrines regarding end times, free will, and so on.

  28. I read a quote recently that I found quite interesting.

    “If I had to choose between a man who knew God and one who had a vast knowledge of scripture and doctrine, I would always choose the man who knew God.”

    Or something like that.

  29. Hopefully we know both…but it’s not always the case…

  30. #8

    “The real God is utterly unmanageable.” raises the question of why do we need to manage Him? … most of us aren’t doing very well managing ourselves – whether we are aware of it or not…

    Never though of managing God. The question to me currently does not support spending any time on it.

    Managing ourselves is key to everything. One has to be responsible to oneself, with the life gifted to us, before one can be responsible for anything else, God, family, community, others…

    My currently lifestyle spends significant time on myself then my communities. If it gets out of balance end up harming myself and the communities I participate in.

  31. I listened to a podcast this morning from some guys called Bad Christians who were interviewing PP favorite Paul Young of The Shack fame (a positive interview) and Paul Young said that God submits to us.

    So perhaps it is not so hard to manage God.

  32. re #30 – Managing God was prompted by Michael’s last sentence in his comment @ #5 … I didn’t mean to imply that one doesn’t need to balance their lives.I

    Unless one is a monk, it isn’t possible to give the amount of time necessary to grow in Christ with the demands of life today, yet the more we gain the mind of Christ (Biblical terminology) the stronger and clearer we will be in the managing.
    Perhaps that is why we who follow Christ need competent shepherds, pastors and teachers and why those who are called to do that task need our material support… Aaand to take that thought one step further, we pew sitters (like me) need to be very careful to whom we give that support… IMNSHO again 😊

  33. MLD, God submits to us? We go too far today in trying to use cute terminology to express a truth… This one is destructive as per your comment !!!

  34. Em, I didn’t say God submits to us – Paul Young said it.
    But he also describes God as an old black lady. Perhaps she submits to him. 🙂

  35. It seems to me that the time has come for all to do as some here have already done and reject hip Christianity in the strongest terms ….
    We need sober minds, and sound understanding to stand now…
    I don’t think it is just old age that has brought me to conclude that evil is permeating the secular world in the most overwhelmingly invasive way … We need our armor and the world needs us armed and standing as there are still souls searching for Truth. Truth that only resides in the One true God and His revealed plan… There is a reason Jesus is a rock (among other things)

  36. “who were interviewing PP favorite Paul Young of The Shack fame”

    Hahah – really?

  37. “PP favorite Paul Young”

    Let’s have some clarity on this, just for sport.
    I affirmed that many people were positively affected spiritually by “The Shack”.
    I also noted (many years ago) that something akin to revival happened in some very conservative churches where Young spoke.

    I haven’t read (or really even thought of) Paul Young in years and have no idea what he teaches these days .

  38. Michael – I don’t know about years. There seemed to be quite a bit of gushing talk last summer when the movie came out.

    Isn’t it possible that the revivals are false if what they are reviving around is false (false teaching books and movies)?. Just because someone said they had a liver quiver watching a ‘spiritual’ movie, doesn’t mean much to me.

  39. MLD,

    Anything outside the Book of Concord is false teaching to you.
    That’s fine, but some of us take a broader perspective on the work of God…

  40. When people inquire about our faith statement I refer to the creeds so that people will know that we are first and foremost historically rooted in the faith of the Christian church.

    They still manage to cull us out if they are a mind.

  41. Excellent article Michael!

  42. Michael, I understand that some of you take a broader more expansive stand.
    That is how we end up with the Father being a black woman and God submitting to man.

    I do not need to invoke the Book of Concord to proclaim both positions wrong.

  43. First off, fictional metaphors are not meant to be theological fact. Second, I would not affirm that God submits to man.

  44. MLD knows the shack is not ment for proper documentation or education about God, or the God submits to man…i think he is playing…

  45. Dusty, the comment about God submitting to us came from a podcast interview conducted within the past week.

  46. I am sure there is a creator who is “outside” of the creation. That this creator is 3 beings that exist as one. The creator loves the creation will stop at nothing to complete it’s “evolution”. Though I call him father he is not human and not a father in that sense. Creator is literate and has provided mankind with a record of his work up to this day. He also provides guidance to those who are cognizant of his presence and in this age his spirit is in and with those who are in relationship with him. Those in relationship with him are “the called out ones” also referred to as the family of God. We are called out of the world system into an otherworldly culture and are mandated to influence all of the worldly citizens to join this counter – culture. I am reasonably sure that this endeavor will not fail and that the entire creation will at some point be restored into this intended relationship.

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