Saturday, November 11, 2006

Statements of Faith: Part One

Hillsong's Statement of Faith:

We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives.

We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things. He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He is totally loving and completely holy.

We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ as both God and man is the only One who can reconcile us to God. He lived a sinless and exemplary life, died on the cross in our place, and rose again to prove His victory and empower us for life.

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.

We believe that in order to live the holy and fruitful lives that God intends for us, we need to be baptised in water and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to use spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues.

We believe that God has individually equipped us so that we can successfully achieve His purpose for our lives which is to worship God, fulfil our role in the Church and serve the community in which we live.

We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and prosperous lives in order to help others more effectively.

We believe that our eternal destination of either Heaven or hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as He promised.

First off, I don't find anything necessarily heretical in this statement of faith. I do, however, see quite a few gaps and places where people could, with good conscience, join themselves to this body while holding to heretical or unorthodox beliefs. The problems:

1. It promulgates, intentionally or not, the dangerous Word-Faith/Prosperity "gospel" with its use of terms associated with that movement: "successful," "prosperous," "achieve," "empower," etc.

2. It over-emphasizes the actions, needs, goals, and choices of humanity, over against the sovereignty and purposes of God.

3. There is no effort to define terms. For instance, what does "God's word" mean? Or "loving" or "holy" or "new birth"? A statement of faith shouldn't have to be encyclopedic, but it should try to ensure that the majority of readers will understand the terms in the way that the authors understood them. This is why I don't think a single creed is sufficient as a body's statement of faith.

4. While brief and pithy, it lacks precision. Does God exist eternally in trinity? It doesn't say. Does our response move God, or does God move our response? Do we salvifically need to be baptized, or only as an expression and symbol of salvation? Must a believer speak in tongues or have a post-conversion experience of the Holy Spirit in order to be truly saved? It dances around these issues, but in the end, doesn't say.

5. It fails to support its assertions with Scripture. 'nuff said.

6. It omits numerous major theological points. Where is the discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture? Sure, it's "applicable," but is it enough? What about the character of God? Or the effects of the Fall on creation? Or the virgin birth, for pete's sake? Or the ascension? Or the authority of Christ? Or the role of the Holy Spirit? Or the nature of salvation?

7. In connection with #4, it leaves room for serious theological error. One could assent to the entire statement of faith and still hold to open theism, for instance, or reject the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of man (or of Christ, for that matter, since it doesn't say "bodily" or even "from the dead").

I'll continue to look at good and not-so-good statements of faith over the next few days, and try to post something more next week. Tuesday is Liberation day for me, since I have three papers due that day and then nothing else until finals. Hooray!


Jonny said...

The funny thing is, Hillsong is probably such a large church because their statement is open with holes. If they tightened up their statement they may loose 30% of members.

Do we really need to have water put on us to be saved? I would like to think the water was a symbol to be used when needed. The water used in baptism has no special power in itself. I havn't been baptized with water, am I going to hell?

John Dekker said...

I also reject the idea that we repent and believe in order to receive the new birth.

Yes, statements of faith really need to be designed to exclude. But there is a difference between creeds and confessions, and I think both are important. Since this one is a creed, I don't agree with you about Scripture references being necessary - this statement of faith is not designed to teach.

Where is the discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture? Sure, it's "applicable," but is it enough?

This is a very good question. Churches need to think very carefully about which words they use. A classica example is "inerrant" vs. "infallible". Of course, here they use neither - and have (only!) "authoritative."

Laura said...

Jonny -- NO! And even most folks who believe in baptismal regeneration (i.e. you MUST be baptized to be really saved) would agree, if pressed. The question to ask someone who says you must be baptized to be saved is: "If I became a believer in Christ and wanted to be baptized but I was killed in a car wreck on the way to being baptized, would I go to heaven or hell?" If they say, "Heaven," they have no grounds for their view. If they say, "Hell," they're flippin' messed up and are trusting in works to save them. You are absolutely right to say that the water has no power in itself. Luther would be proud.

John, that's a good addition that I overlooked. It certainly smacks of justification by works!

Laura said...

Oh... I forgot to mention that all the italics are mine. Sorry!

John Dekker said...

Jonny, if you refuse to be baptised, you're certainly in danger of hell.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so comfortable with the 5th paragrah.

I'm always worried about seeing any "must" in such statements (perhaps I'm over reacting, though).

As far as I am concerned, salvation is wrought - nothing we must do.

1Pet 2:9-10 bespeaks of His intitiative independent of our actions but to live has His people accordingly.

Shellyanne said...

Hey Laura, just commenting like you said! I'm new to blogger, I'm Phil's sister from Australia... I new mike from church about 4 years ago...
Thanks for your post on HIllsong, i appreciated reading it. I went to Hillsong conference this year... and seeing all those thousands of people... Well, it's nice to know that someone across the other side of the world agrees!!
cheers :)

Laura said...

Shellyanne, right on! Cheers!

I almost feel like a church ought to have to plant a new church when they hit 1000 or something. I certainly have never been to a mega-church that pastored its members effectively -- maybe there are some mega-churches with enough elders to have authority over and effectively pastor that many people, but I've never seen it happen.

What says Oz on the subject?

John Dekker said...

Oz says the same, but plant when you hit 100, rather than 1000.