Statements of Faith: Needed, but Subordinate

I don’t believe in church statements of faith that mean nothing – this is aside from the issue of statements of faith issued by just one church, which I understand as a schismatic act. What I mean is that statements of faith, much of the time, are nebulous rhetorical acts. Just who is the we that confesses any given statement of faith? This problem can be defined pretty clearly by confessional churches, with some exceptions, but for other churches the problem’s a major issue though well-hidden: lack of clarity on the requirement of confessional subscription makes all statements of faith the virtually meaningless documents they often are (in such cases, the statements in effect are statements of prejudice, not confessional statements).

With these issues in mind, I see substantial strengths and equally substantial weaknesses in the Mosaic network of churches.

Statements of faith unpedestalled

There’s something important to appreciate about Mosaic: unlike some churches that are trying too hard to look a certain way, they don’t posture with a statement of faith to say, ‘Look how orthodox and not-weird we are! Here’s the proof of our theological purity!’ Mosaic’s getting at something worth saying by declining to indulge in that kind of silliness:

The absolute best way to understand and learn about any community is to experience it on the relational level. Statements of faith can tell you what a community of faith’s beliefs are, but they can’t tell you who they are. If you’d like to discover who we are at Mosaic, please come to one of our Gatherings on Sundays by going to our home page at www.mosaic.org.

[…] If the actual ‘statements of faith’ are what you are still interested in, please reference the Baptist Faith and Message by going to this website: http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp

The thing to note here is that the Mosaic leadership recognizes the limits of propositions. Reality consists of more than intellectual assent to a list of doctrines, no matter how factually true those doctrines are. As some modernists forget, God is a person, not an idea to be apprehended with just the mind (by which I mean the intellect, the emotions and the will), and not bound or contained by the will of man: God is an Other, an outside mind, and cannot be known as anything else.

A position that destroys its own coherence

At the same time, however, Mosaic is hip in just the wrong ways with its postmodern posture. I wish Mosaic was up-front about doctrinal commitments and acknowledged their context without downplaying their importance. As it is, the church leaders are deceived. The way the website puts it, faith differs from being; the way the Bible puts it, the life of Christ (in his thirty-three years and in Christians by means of word and sacrament) is the very expression of faith.

The difference between what Mosaic says and what God says is crucial, though no doubt unwitting. The popular postmodern thing to do is to stress orthopraxy over orthodoxy or to say that they have equal status, but to do this is to sacrifice the Protestant principle of justification by faith: the Reformation doctrine will die any time works are detached from faith, just as my works apart from Christ are nothing, and even as my life apart from Christ is death. Practically, then, the elevation of practice in reaction against the undue elevation of doctrinal assent in the form of checkboxes is the way of death.

The structure!

Faith and life cannot be separated, nor are they parallel: they must be one. To have faith is to look to Christ, but to have Christ is to live, and so there is no faith without our life becoming Christ’s, and there is no life without the breaking in of Christ’s life, Christ’s very person, into our being.

Unless this is the faith that God inspires in us and the faith that we therefore confess with our hearts, our lips and our hands, first in liturgy and then in the redemption of our earthly work, we have nothing.

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2 responses to “Statements of Faith: Needed, but Subordinate

  1. Pingback: To An Unknown God » Inclusive Confessional Documents

  2. Pingback: Inclusive Confessional Documents | To An Unknown God

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