For those of you who have been regular readers, today we will be doing something a little different. As I have now been doing this blog and podcast for a couple of years, I feel that I have made it pretty clear that the core principles of Kingdom, integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion resonate throughout the entire Bible. Any Bible believer can produce fruit in keeping with God’s will by staying focused on these principles which I believe are contained within the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.
But lately I have felt a need to expand the scope of this podcast, and to broaden the application of those principles in light of wider doctrinal topics and issues. For the past couple of years I have been focused on showing how those core principles apply in practical ways in the life of the believer, but I have done so by skirting around many doctrinal issues, and purposely so, in an effort to maintain as wide a reach as possible that almost anyone from any Christian denomination could relate to.
Now, however, I have come to realize that in order to continue to build on these core principles, I’ll have to begin delving into areas of historical doctrine and show not only how those core principles apply, but also reveal a more detailed rendering of my own personal, biblical worldview.
It seems that everywhere we look for information on religious institutions today, whether churches or schools or even online ministries, they will typically have a Statement of Faith or What We Believe section to provide the reader with a broad understanding of their worldview. This is nothing new, as denominations have had creedal statements all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity with what has been called the Apostles’ Creed. The Billy Graham website, answering the question, “What is the Apostles’ Creed?” states the following:
“The Apostles’ Creed, though not written by the apostles, is the oldest creed of the Christian church and is the basis for others that followed. Its most used form is:
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.
“In its oldest form, the Apostles’ Creed goes back to at least 140 A.D. Many of the early church leaders summed up their beliefs as they had an opportunity to stand for their faith—see, for example, 1 Timothy 6:12. These statements developed into a more standard form to express one’s confession of faith at the time of baptism. It is not Scripture, but it is a simple list of the great doctrines of the faith.”
As ancient Christianity was trying to understand itself, its writings, and its beliefs, there were historical councils that were organized to make official statements about these types of practices and beliefs. While too numerous to explore here, any interested student can search “early christian councils” and find a host of information on details of these various gatherings and how they impacted the growth of Christianity over the centuries.
For our purposes here, the relevance of these types of councils was to provide official stances on biblical topics ranging from the nature of God to what religious holidays should be celebrated and when. However, while the intent may have been to unify believers into a cohesive orthodoxy, the end result was that these councils actually tended to cause fragmentation, as people began to choose sides over various important biblical topics. Rather than showing where believers all agreed, they began to reveal how believers had many different opinions about many important biblical topics.
For example, not all Bible believers agree even on the ramifications of the topics mentioned in the Apostles’ creed: did Jesus really descend into a fiery hell? Is his coming to judge the living and dead something future or past? Is the Holy Ghost the third person of a trinitarian godhead? Who makes up the holy catholic or universal church? What is the communion of the saints and who are they? What is the resurrection of the body, is it something personal or united with other believers? And so on…
Below are some examples of concepts taken from church Statements of Faith that have created schisms over the centuries when in reality they should be just sub-categories of those things that could unite believers.
- The nature of God the Father
- The nature of Jesus Christ
- The Holy Spirit
- The Trinity
- Inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible
- Role of the “Church”
- Revelation (or eschatology)
- Sin (or good and evil)
- Heaven and Hell
- Human nature
- The believer’s mission (as it pertains to these topics)
Two thousand years later, we now have a wide diversity of versions of Christianity that exist among the various denominations. Almost all of these versions exist due to some theological philosophy, or geographical or cultural ideologies that are distinct from one another. According to various online sources, the number of Christian denominations worldwide can be viewed as reflecting the cultural and theological diversity of Christianity, as well as the historical and contemporary factors that have led to its fragmentation. Some critics of Christianity view this as a sign of division and contradiction, while others see it as a manifestation of the richness and complexity of the Christian faith. Add to this the fact that polls of Christians have shown repeatedly that the majority of adherents to the various denominations do not agree with the “official” denominational stance on many issues, even though they may continue to remain engaged with their local congregation, and we end up with an even wider variation of beliefs among those who claim to be Christians.
In light of this overwhelming diversity of historical opinion, I feel I am in good company as I explore what it is that I personally believe about the Bible, and these are the thoughts that I will continue to share here. For the record, I am not affiliated with any denomination or specific branch of Christianity. I consider myself merely a student of the Bible, but I also cannot elude the ideas of others through my studies of history and commentary about the Bible. While I have studied some Hebrew and Greek, I am no linguist and I am limited to evaluating the various English translations and versions of the original documents. Like every other historical denomination to date, I have personally been on a long and winding journey of creating some sort of systematic theology of the Bible, seeing how all of the various pieces fit together, and making the best sense out of them that I can with my knowledge of the culture and times within which they were originally written.
To this end, as of this recording in 2023 I am embarking on a new project for the next year and beyond, and I invite you to come along with me as I explore 52 different aspects of my worldview and the doctrines that form its basis. Each week, I intend to focus on a brief overview of my understanding of some of the key topics that are usually brought up in statements of faith or denominational creeds, like “the Character of God,” or “Man and Sin,” along with some additional insights into topics that may not typically be covered within other denominational literature and thinking, like studies on the biblical feasts.
I understand that, based on the history of the creeds over the centuries, my perspective of many of these topics is not likely to be in agreement with the doctrinal positions you may have grown up with, or that your congregation or denomination may hold, and that may be uncomfortable. But I believe that honestly exploring these topics and why I have arrived at the conclusions I have has the potential to encourage open dialogue between some of these philosophical differences. For honest seekers of the wisdom of the Bible, it is my hope this can help to build bridges across denominational divides.
It is not my goal to say my worldview is the only way to understand the Bible, as my own views on many of these topics continue to be refined with further study. However, I do believe my current understanding on many of these topics combine to make a compelling and unified story that has value for the daily life of those who believe in the God of the Bible, as well as hope for the future of its continued influence in our societies. If I can effectively share ideas, planting seeds that others can take to new levels, then this has the potential to grow God’s Kingdom in ways that even I do not have the ability to foresee.
As a unique experiment tied to this project, I would like to interact on a more personal level regarding these topics with anyone who is interested in doing so. I am always available by email at email@example.com. However, for those who may want a more immersive communication style, there is an app that allows people to create video discussion groups called Marco Polo. It is a free app that you can download to your phone that allows you to have video conversations back and forth, kind of like video messages that can be watched and responded to by anyone else who is in the group. It is not publicly shared online, but anyone in the group can see and respond to anyone else’s video conversation. Additionally, joining the group does not require one to talk on video; members can simply watch the conversations going on in the group. The goal is to have this as a kind of on-going virtual Bible study in between the weekly podcast episodes.
Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with the Marco Polo program but only suggest it here as another method of communication. It is a free service to use, but like everything these days, it also has a paid subscription level that allows you to access other features. But the paid features are not necessary to simply be in the group and interact with others. Again, I want to make it clear that I am not affiliated with Marco Polo and am not supported by any of its paid features; I only mention this in full disclosure.
If anyone on this journey would like to join the Core of the Bible virtual Bible study, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a link to join the Core of the Bible group. Once you’re in, you’re free to watch and listen to everyone’s video chats and add your own comments, as well.
But I caution anyone wanting to join the group with the caveat that I am experimenting with this as a way of opening dialogue and sharing encouraging ideas and genuine interest in furthering our collective understanding of the Bible, not as a way of providing anyone an opportunity for denomination- or doctrine-bashing. The group will be administered by me accordingly, so I hope we can remain respectful, abiding by the biblical principles of maintaining peace with all men as much as is possible by us. We have to remember that differences of opinion are just that, opinions, and for those of us who claim to be believers, we are all at different areas in our walk with God and we should extend much grace to one another in love.
Finally, throughout this upcoming project of worldview exploration, I also do not want to lose sight of the Core of the Bible topics, as that is the overall focus of my endeavors with this podcast. I hope to show how the wider theological topics are imperative to the core principles which should guide the daily lifestyle of the Bible believer. So, since today’s episode is essentially an introduction to the launch of this new project, let me just restate those core values so that we can keep an understanding of where all of these larger theological discussions should end up.
Remember, I believe the core principles of practice for any believer of the God of the Bible should be based on the spirit of the Ten Commandments and the principles of the Sermon on the Mount written on the heart. These are what I believe to be the foundational statements of the Kingdom of God, imbued with the heart of God for every person who would reflect his image in this world. So I have summarized it into three simple statements:
- Separate yourself to seek first the Kingdom with vigilance.
- Love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength, trusting him for everything.
- And love others as yourself with integrity, forgiveness, and compassion.
It is my belief that these simple principles sincerely put into practice from the heart have the ability to produce godly fruit in the life of any believer, and are the ultimate goal of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Next week, we are going to begin the worldview discussions with “The Bible: A Divine Revelation.”
I look forward to having you along on this journey of exploration in the coming weeks and months, both as listeners to the podcast and potentially joining the Core of the Bible virtual study group in the Marco Polo app.