"For us let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place where God wants us, and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results."
-- Abbé Monchanin

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fundamentalism or Peripheralism? -- Part 3

The Fundamental Creed of the Christian - God raised Jesus from the dead

Historically, Baptists have held firmly to a non-creedal position. (This position is being challenged and redefined today.) We reject the enforcement of required statements of belief formulated by men. In fact, though, we do affirm the one biblical creed which Paul identifies as definitive for the Christian. Once again we turn to Romans 10:9-10 for a concise formulation of our “creed.”

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Our word “creed” comes from the Latin word for “I believe,” credo. In a sense, whenever we say “I believe something,” we are pronouncing our creed. This belief is a commitment from the depths of our hearts, our innermost being, the giving of our very lives. It is not simply intellectual assent.

The essential belief, or creed, for the Christian is the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. Once again this formulation is more filled with meaning than we often are aware. The most obvious intent of this statement is to affirm the resurrection of Jesus. He was dead and is now alive. This then leads to an affirmation of the hope of resurrection for the Christian.

However, if we stop with this we have not fully believed with our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. There is a life-transforming “more” to this statement of belief.

To the God-fearing Jew of Jesus’ day, his death on the cross was a judgment by God upon his whole ministry and life. It was a negation of his teachings and conduct. It was a demonstration of the superiority of Roman power and the theology of the Sadducees and Pharisees (the “peripheralists” of the day?). The resurrection of Jesus by God was an overturning of that interpretation of Jesus’ death. It was an affirmation not only of a future life, but it was an affirmation by God of the totality of Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching.

When we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we are committing ourselves totally to obedience to his commands. We are committing ourselves unreservedly to following him wherever he may lead, living a lifestyle indistinguishable from his. It is in the living of these days that we move to the peripherals, “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12)

(to be continued)

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