My Preliminary Statement of Faith

Below is the preliminary Statement of Faith I sent in with my Form 3 for my annual Consultation. Please feel free to critique as necessary. Just as a side note I found the one-page (single-space) limit to be unnecessarily brief and constricting.

VIII. IF THIS ANNUAL CONSULTATION COVERS THE TIME PERIOD OF THE SECOND YEAR OF THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION, WRITE A PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF FAITH

The ministry of the Word and sacrament is not a job nor is it strictly a vocation but it is only to be taken upon those called by the Holy Spirit to be overseers of Christ’s Church. As a person who is called to this ministry of the Word and sacrament I lay forth this statement of my faith.

I believe that a person who is called to pastoral ministry is not only called for a ministry of reconciliation but to teach, instruct, and lead a particular church in righteousness and obedience to the Word of God. Ministers are called also to guide a particular church in the lawful celebration of the Eucharist and the observance of proper discipline.

I believe that the Holy Scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 to be the inerrant and holy Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and practice for all who shall call upon it and wish to be members of Christ’s Church. The wisdom of mankind or the ruling of councils or synods shall not supersede the authority of Scripture. As it is written in the Westminster Confession of Faith I believe the Holy Spirit speaking in the Bible is the supreme judge of all religious controversies, all decisions of religious councils, all the opinions of ancient writers, all human teachings, and every private opinion.

I believe in the holy Doctrine of the Trinity as spoken in the confessions and in Scripture. I hold that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is only way that the Trinity may be named. I believe in the Sovereignty of the Father and that we are all subject to His perfect will and that He seeks our perfect obedience to His will and command alone.

I believe that all mankind, created first perfect in Adam, shares in his rebellion to God’s perfect will. We can never of our own accord choose to do that which has been laid down for us to accomplish. It is only through Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the satisfaction of his Father’s wrath by his death on the cross that any of us can have hope in eternal life. I believe that Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient for all but efficient only for whom it pleases God to save.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of Israel. I believe in the Federal headship of Christ. I believe in the hope that is promised to those who call upon Christ’s name for deliverance and rescue from this fallen world. I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one, no matter how “good or sincere” may come to the Father and therefore receive eternal life apart from Faith in Jesus Christ alone, the co-eternal second person of the Godhead, begotten not created, and born of a virgin.

I hold fast in the hope of the quick return of Jesus Christ so that we may be eternally delivered into his hands. I stand ready to witness to the Grace and the Glory of God Almighty until that day shall come. Amen.

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29 thoughts on “My Preliminary Statement of Faith

  1. Shoulda mentioned baptism along with the Lord’s Supper.

    Other than that, I predict you will be rapidly vomited out by your CPM, like Jonah from the Great Fish.

    B

  2. yeah. Unless you are looking for a fight, I would not send this statement of faith. It seems as if you WANT to do battle with your CPM, and the denomination.

    I was in that place once, albiet from a different perspective (I was in the EPC and preparing to battle them). My life is so much better because I found a denomination that is more suited to my beliefs (in this case, the PCUSA). If I were you, I would switch fast. Even if you make it through the process, you are unlikely to find a PCUSA church that wants to call a pastor with your statement of faith (especially if people continue to split!)

  3. Why should it have to be a fight Drew? Nothing he has said is contrary to any of the confessions in the Book of Confessions. Everything is in careful accord with them, actually. Ben is adhering to the doctrinal standards of the PCUSA.

    Oh, wait, I remember why it has to be a fight… it’s because most of the PCUSA no longer believes its own constitution.

    Where I’m from we call it hypocrisy to say you believe one thing and then actually believe another. To punish a guy for believing what your own constitution says it believes is what we call wicked.

    Brian

  4. Ben,

    Since it seems you have set your face towards Jerusalem, so to speak, may I invite you to consider the following:

    If you want to make their hypocrisy even more blatant, you should put appropriate confessional citations in parenthesis after each statement. That’s what I did in my brief statement of faith for ordination. It didn’t stop them from attacking it, but it showed just how far out of accord they are with the standards they took a vow to uphold.

    Try working Barmen in, just for grins. Every liberal loves Barmen. Maybe you can find something relevant after the line about teaching and leading particular churches in righteousness and obedience to the Word of God. That’s what Barth thought he was doing, after all, isn’t it?

    Praying for you, Bro.

    B

  5. A minor detail. I think supreme judge “over” all religious controversies sounds better than “of”? By changing it to over I think it makes the entire sentence clearer that the Bible is also judge over the traditions, ect. as well.

  6. I think it will be a battle because of its tone as much as of its content.

    That line about the Trinity is particularly snarky (especially since the report that it is referring to was only received, and it seems silly declaring that it is “the only way” that it may be named. Do you reject the Doxology that many Presbyterian Churches sing because, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” is different than your formula?

    If I were on the CPM, I would be curious as to what you feel your call to be, how you interpret scripture in light of your statement that it is “innerrant,” and “infallible.” [And what exactly that means].

    I’d also have you talk on atonement. Why do you choose to portray God as “wrathful?” Is the Son working against the father’s purposes? If so, is God one? How? If God’s wrath “must” be satisfied, is God sovereign?

    A few more questions to consider:

    What is the “federal headship of Christ?”

    Do you feel your call is to a particular congregation, to the denomination, or to something else. Why?

    What does it mean to practice discipline? Give an example of how you will do this.

    What does it mean that humankind was created perfect? What is your biblical basis for this? Is Adam’s perfection like the perfection of God’s will?

    If you are going to go through with this (and I still think that you really should go somewhere will you won’t have to fight all the time–not because you have to, but because that is where you will be able to live the mission of God), please do it humbly. CPMs are like everybody else, and they don’t like being told they are wrong, especially by people in their second year of seminary. They will, consciously or unconsciously, consider your character. To me, this statement comes off as haughty and/or prideful, but so much depends on the attitude with which it is read. (By the way, that tone would change if you included in the statement a bit of your own story of personal repentance and God’s grace working in your life.) Kindness and humility go a long way, not only with CPMs, but with presbyteries.

  7. Oh come on Drew, don’t act stupider than you really are!

    The words “ghost” and “spirit” simply reflect the twin linguistic heritage of our English language (“geist” from the German and “spiritus” from the Latin.) There is no more gap between “Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” than there is between car and automobile. There is, however, a quite literally infinite gap between “Holy Ghost” and “womb.”

    And as for the wrath of God, isn’t it being revealed against all wickedness and ungodliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness? (Rom 1:18) Aren’t the unconverted called “children of wrath”? (Eph 2:3) And won’t the Lamb himself one day return in wrath? (Rev 6:16)

    And what will you submit for revelation in place of the inerrant, infallible Word of God? Your own paltry wisdom? Your own opinions about what is correct and what is not? Some scholar’s opinions? Which one, for the manifestly do not agree with each other. You end up worshipping your own image reflected in the puddle of your own errant and fallible brain.

    And as for his tone, why should truth bow humbly before error? Why should honesty and integrity bow humbly before duplicity and hypocrisy?

    The only right bit of advice you gave him is the same bit I’ve been giving him and all like him… leave the PCUSA.

  8. First of all, I am not trying to argue these points. I am letting Benjamin know what kind of questions he should expect. Therefore, I won’t answer MOST of your questions, Brian.

    But a couple of notes:

    Yes, there is little difference at all between “Ghost” and “Spirit,” but Benjamin obviously believes in the importance of words, and “only” means, “only.”

    You asked, “And as for his tone, why should truth bow humbly before error? Why should honesty and integrity bow humbly before duplicity and hypocrisy?”

    First of all, I did not ask him to bow, I suggested he would be better recieved if he were humble. I could also have used the word Christlike. Jesus certainly was in the right, but even our Lord didn’t lord it over others. Instead, he “humbled himself to death, even death on a cross!”

    This tone will not make friends. Maybe the goal isn’t to make friends, but I still think it is worthwhile to speak truth in love.

    Anyway, at least we agree that Ben should be in a different denomination. My guess is that Ben knows, too, but would rather have a CPM kick him out than leave on his own (just me being an amateur psychologist–could be wrong)

  9. Drew,

    To be honest my CPM has been confrontational with me since day one. For reasons that would take me days to explain the pastors/leadership in the Presbytery of West Virginia is very liberal. When I went in for my first interview (in August of 2004) the man who assigned himself to be my liaison said, I quote him quite literally, “I’ll break him in, don’t worry”. Now mind you I have changed quite a bit since then (becoming more Orthodox) and I was then hardly what one would consider “conservative”. The only issue with which I disagreed at all with my CPM was homosexual ordination, other than that I was pretty left-leaning on most things. In fact when I told my CPM I was going to PTS they made me explain why Louisville or Union-PSCE “was not good enough for me”. Regardless of the result of my time of discernment and prayer (btw, Do not think for one second my mind is made up because it is far from being so) my CPM has been anything but helpful in my journey. I seek not to please the hearts of people whose minds are already made up about to be against me. No matter what I write in my statement of faith they will pick it apart so I might as well tell the way I really feel.

    But Drew I do take to heart your critiques and I appreciate your words. Humility of which you speak in this case will be unfortunately be seen by my CPM as weakness and ignorance. I honestly do not wish to fight with my CPM but this is the arena I have been given. So I have to do what is best in this scenario and for me that is to speak without fear of consequence and ridicule.

  10. Sorry you’re in such a bad place. Don’t know what to tell you–hopefully, I was helpful in helping you anticipate the questions you’ll get.

  11. Thanks for your help Drew. God puts us in places for a reason, I truly believe that. So if my CPM wants to be a pain in the rear end that is their problem not mine. I can only speak the truth and no more.

  12. Well, then, Drew, one more point and an apology.

    The Christlike Christ also uttered the lines, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” and drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip. He at no time placed his message before his enemies and asked them to approve it. I see no reason why his message should receive a similar treatment today.

    Now for the apology. I apologize for misreading your intent. I jumped the gun and I’m sorry.

    Brian

  13. Cool. No biggie–people misread on the blogs all the time, and I really do wonder about Ben’s positions, even though I wasn’t really seeking answers this time.

    btw, Jesus didn’t speak like that to a crowd he was joining. I hope you and Ben don’t count liberal Presbyterians as “enemies,” but if you do, the one thing we agree on (that Ben would fit better somewhere else) is all the more true.

  14. I surely do not count Christians who are liberal as enemies. But as Machen said those who hold Liberalism above Christianity are a in a whole separate Religion.

    BTW Drew. Like I said I have made no decision to go anywhere. Believe it or not. Frankly I fail to see how anything in my Statement of Faith is outside of the PC(USA) confessions and/or official statements, excepting of course innerency. Then only in practice because the confessions surely point to Innerency.

  15. Drew,

    I have an intense antipathy towards theological liberalism. It is cancer, and it is a sneaky cancer to boot. I have no real problem with a man who decides he doesn’t believe the old confessions and creeds any longer. People have a right to change their minds. What I do object to is then remaining in the place where those creeds are upheld and undermining them and the faith they prescribe at ever turn, all the while drawing a salary from that selfsame instituition. A man may sincerely abandon Republican ideals and transfer his membership to the Democratic party. But to take your pay from the Republican party all the while working to subvert its principles, well, that’s just plain wrong.

    But that’s exactly what the late 19th/early 20th century liberals did. Even today, I could sort of grudgingly respect the PCUSA if they would change their constitution and confessions to actually reflect what most seem to believe. But to keep them and then persecute someone like Ben for believing them is wholly unacceptable. Those are the Devil’s tactics and reveal who they really are looking to for inspiration. As I said on another post, even Emil Brunner summed up the heritage in one word: Unbelief.

    BTW, I commend you for having the integrity to leave the EPC upon finding yourself out of accord with its doctrinal stand.

    Brian

  16. And thank you for extending forgiveness. I caught your “snarky” comment in between preparing the Children’s Sermon and laying out the stuff for celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It irritated me and I went off half-cocked. Sorry.

    B

  17. Brian,

    Thanks for the commendation, but I wasn’t really being noble at all. In fact, I found that I fit within the “rules” of the EPC, but because I have a strong social justice streak, believe in women’s ordination, and tend to distrust right-wing politics, it was more practical for me to go to the PC(USA). I was ordainable by the EPC, but I may not have been employable, and I didn’t want to have to lie about who I was or spend my time battling my congregation. In the PC(USA) there are congregations with a vision that is similar to mine (which I would oversimplify as “evangelical-left”), and I can subscribe to the confessions without too many mental gymnastics.

    Ben, I think “inerrancy” depending on how you define it, may put you outside our confessions. I worry about your model of atonement, but I would have to spend some time with the confessions before I declare your position to be unacceptable.

    Your position falls within this one from C1967, but it at the same time ignores much of the other aspects of atonement:

    God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery which the Scriptures describe in various ways. It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd’s life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of a debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God’s love for man. They reveal the gravity, cost, and sure achievement of God’s reconciling work.

  18. Drew as far as I am concerned Penal Substitution is the Reformed view of the Atonement.

    Innerency is what the Book of Confession Confirms (outside of the recent ’67 and BSF). While they do not use the word “Innerency” it is certainly what Westminster, 2HC, SC, and HEC confirm unequivocally.

  19. Drew,
    You have said nothing that his mother and sister haven’t also told him about his statement of faith or with dealing with the CPM as they both are students at PTS in the Mdiv program and also have to deal with the same committee. As someone who has suffered greatly and our family over the years for not playing the company game he knows quite well what the probable out come is. As I see it I would rather him be true to himself because you sleep much better at night and don’t have to remember what little half truth you told last time. While Ben is over strident the CPM is partially getting back at him for a stand that his mother took at the direction of her session. After attending the GA as a delegate in Denver I got to see first hand the raw Politics of the Assembly and the leadership. Yes, he WILL have a fight with the CPM as that is what they want. His mother has been a CLP now for over 6 years been at a called position for the last 5 years at 2 rural WV churches . For reasons only known to them they want her to give up the two churches and do a year of Field Ed. She has a Masters of Education, a Masters in Biology, was Medical Technologist with ASCP rating. Taught and was the head of The Medical Department at a Junior College for 4 years while handling the 2 churches which are an hour away from our house. Which means that not only will 2 churches do without regular preaching but also they will have to take away our Medical coverage since she is more than full time. I defy anyone to explain the logic of that.
    After preaching at his home church, where I am a Trustee, one of the members who has known him since he was young came up to me a said “He’ll make a great preacher at some big church. To bad it won’t be in our denomination” The members know how dysfunctional our denomination is and especially our Presbytery. But they know and I have great faith in God is in charge and things will work out as they should and will. It just shows me just how dysfunctional they are to think that their wisdom is greater than Gods and they seem to have no fear of him at all. God could care less is there is a building with a Presbyterian name on the front as he was here long before us and will be here long after us.
    Ben’s dad

  20. “Dad,”

    You are a great blessing to your son. You and “Mom” have done a very good job with him, and I have no doubt that God is going to use him mightily.

    Peace be upon you.

    Brian

  21. Hmmm… if you are really inerrantist and really dislike gender inclusive language (“Him” instead of God–not even getting into the trinity), then I guess you just talk to them and go from there.

    One thing to add: there’s no mention of the church. This needs to me in your statement.

    Best wishes! If it is any consolation (and it will not be), I have yet to meet anyone that really liked their CPM. By rolling together discernment + preparation + gatekeeping, it often becomes a bad process. If you are willing to do what they ask you to do, can take the ordination vows and follow the BO, you should be in okay shape.

  22. I find myself in agreement with Jon (that’s got to be one of the signs of the apocalypse!)

    If there’s room, a statement on the church would be quite appropriate.

    B

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