Archive for March, 2011

My Personal Statement Of Faith

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I don’t remember ever attending a church that didn’t have some printed Statement of Faith that they handed out to visitors — along with, somewhat distressingly, a plethora of Mission Statements, Core Values affirmations, Visions envisioned, and Goals To Be Achieved Via The Integration Of Core Values And Corporate Visions.

Whew. It makes “Prayer, Praise, and Proclamation” seem almost, well, quaint. But I’m a quaint kind of gal, and I do like to see a Statement of Faith, even if the other Dilbert-speak makes my head spin.

Most of my readers don’t know me personally, and many are convinced that a woman who identifies as a feminist and an egalitarian cannot, then, be an evangelical, Bible-honoring Christian. That is truly tragic; I’m an egalitarian and a feminist because of the egalitarian and women-empowering message of the Christian Gospel. Nonetheless, some will still doubt, and so I offer to them the following Statement Of Faith, whose only Core Value and Ultimately Realized Goal is that you, dear reader, understand that I am a convinced, committed, theologically conservative Christian, a sinner saved by the grace of God.

1. I believe in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, co-equal and co-eternal, existing, apart from Christ’s Incarnation, in full mutuality and equality, with no subordination in eternity of Christ and the Spirit to the Father, whose title, along with that of the Son, is a metaphor, an accommodation to our limited language and understanding. I believe that God is not gendered and that we are saved by Jesus’ humanity and not his maleness.

2. I affirm the doctrines of Christ’s divinity, his full and effective substitutionary atonement on the cross, his death and resurrection, his virgin birth, and his personal return in time to this world. I believe that Christ desires the salvation of all humankind, and I am an annihilationist, which means I reject the doctrine of eternal conscious torment for those who reject him at the end.

3. I believe the Bible to be God’s word, and I take it and read it devoutly and soberly, understanding it literally where literalism is clearly indicated, recognizing hyperbole, allegory, and metaphor when present, and seeking to understand that the first and easiest reading of any part of the Word may not reveal the intention of the Author. The Spirit promises to guide my understanding, and I believe he will.

4. I take Galatians 3:28 literally. I wonder why so many “Biblical literalists” don’t.

5. My understanding of the Christian Gospel and its expression in the life of my Savior, Jesus Christ, results in my believing in things that the secular world identifies as “feminist” and “egalitarian.” I gladly embrace those labels to describe myself, and do so because I honor the message of the Gospel as revealed in Scripture.

6. I lament the effect that right-wing, conservative Christianity has had on both Christian culture and secular culture, and I decry the absurd, simpering, and foolish “tolerance” of the Christian Left that often results in a message lacking in both potency and prophecy. I seek in my own ministry and witness to shed cultural trappings that compromise or, worse, contaminate the message of Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how unconcerned I am about being “on the Left” or “on the Right;” I’m utterly devoted to walking in the Way. That Way is defined far above and independent from any political spectrum. Still, very little of it is reflected in what we see from the Christian Right in the U.S.

7. I am completely certain that the mystery of who God saves is information generally unavailable to me, and that a humble acknowledgment that both his ways and his love are infinitely beyond our unshakable understanding is not a weakness nor a failure. “I just don’t know, but I trust the love and justice of God” may be the most powerful confession I have to offer to skeptics. Humility is the most important component of evangelism. Eternity is in the hearts of all humankind, and as I go about preaching the Gospel, the Spirit goes all around us, drawing people to the Light.

8. I’m not entirely Arminian, but I am not at all Reformed.

9. One of the great tragedies to have befallen the Church is its persistent disregard for the poor, the lost, the lonely, the outcast, and the marginalized. In his justice, God sides with the oppressed; all too often, his people have cast their lot and joined forces with the oppressors. This is a grievous sin.

10. I can argue fairly effectively for a pre-pre, a pre-post, a post-only, and an a-millennial eschatology, which means that I don’t know exactly how it will all end, and neither does anyone who tells you they do. What I do know is that the Prince of Peace will eliminate all evil in the end, and justice will finally roll down like a mighty flood. I long for Christians to begin to tear down the dams that prevent the flourishing of righteousness and justice for the poor.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive, all-encompassing Statement. But it does illustrate what I believe, which I believe is consistent with the revealed message of the Word. As always, I welcome your comments and your challenges.

Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Valentine’s Day brought news of the sudden death of one of my heroes, someone you likely haven’t heard of, but someone who has strengthened God’s people and helped to make the Kingdom of our Lord a reality in the lives of thousands. The founder of Christians for Biblical Equality and one of the great conservative Christian academics of the last half century, Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger was a passionate, brilliant voice for the truth of the Gospel’s liberation of women and men from the sinful gender roles and acrimony wrought by the Fall.

Her career was devoted to studying and teaching the Bible, and her brilliant exposition of apparent restrictions on women teachers in 1 Timothy, “I Suffer Not A Woman,” co-written by her late husband, Richard Kroeger, was enormously significant in my understanding of Biblical equality. She was a member of the faculty at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and was devoted to the protection and encouragement of women in the Christian home, calling for men and women to forsake patriarchy, hierarchy, and enmity and exhibit the peace of the Holy Spirit in their relationships. Her concern about violence and abuse in Christian homes led her to begin PASCH, Peace and Safety in the Christian Home, and she wrote eloquently in condemning the masculinist, patriarchial roots that so often give rise to the battering of Christian women.

As CBE’s Arise e-zine puts it, “Together with eight others, Cathie drafted CBE’s founding manifesto — “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality” — a document that has shaped the gender policies and practices of hundreds of churches and several prominent evangelical organizations and denominations. With her daughter Betty Elliott, Cathie launched an academic journal, Priscilla Papers, which, under the leadership of Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, became the scholarly publication of Christians for Biblical Equality. The journal has since received nine publishing awards with editors Carol R. Thiessen and William David Spencer.” I subscribe to Priscilla Papers, and I marvel at the depth of scholarship therein — scholarship and wisdom you’re unlikely to encounter, given the male-hegemony emphasis in so much of conservative, evangelical Christianity.

Clark-Kroeger’s work is without a doubt the best teaching you’ve never read. That’s something you ought to remedy.

She had five children and 10 grandchildren, many foster children, and hundreds of students throughout the world. Her reward in Heaven is great, I know, and I can’t help but smile when I think of her reunion with her beloved husband, who died only a few months ago. Her “well done, good and faithful servant,” has been received, and her work will stand, encouraging and edifying the Church, until our Lord returns. Until then, I remain grateful beyond measure for her work.

I’m not just a better woman, feminist, wife, or mother because of her ministry. She helped show me how to be a better Christ-disciple, and her work will have the same effect on you. May God be praised for her life here among us.

An Exercise In Character Building

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Not that you’ve all been just dying to know why I haven’t written for ten days or so, and not that I really owe you an explanation — except that I love my readers and don’t want to stay away too long or leave them out of the loop — but I’ve been in a pretty persistent flareup of some health problems that occur during times of stress, because of changes in the weather, or for no reason other than the Lord allows it.

Or perhaps the Happy Hollisters Mystery Book Club selections I’ve read proved to be so gripping and so thrilling that they brought on physical symptoms that have lain me low. I mean, if the spunky Hollisters’ astonishing search for the Treasure Stone at Lizard Cove doesn’t cause stress, I can’t imagine what in the world would.

But I always rebound from these things, which I refer to, and refer to at times, lo and behold, with somewhat-less-than-sterling character, as Exercises In Character Building. I have no real interest in building the kind of stoic character and fortitude that would, I imagine, cause people to remark about how placid and serene I am in the face of all things vexing. In fact, I have no interest in “building” any character at all — because every time I try, I fail. Badly. The “grit-your-teeth-and-be-a-better-person” approach to self-improvement hasn’t worked so well for me. It probably hasn’t worked so well for you, either.

But I do want, and especially want through these flareups, to become a better person. It’s frankly impossible to remain neutral in the grip of severe, chronic pain; you’re either going to emerge bitter and full of contempt, or at peace and full of hope, although I suppose an all-encompassing numbness is another possibility. But whatever improvement occurs in my character is the work of the Spirit, who endeavors to conform me more and more, and more, especially, during the tough times, to the image and person of Christ Jesus.

This isn’t something I can achieve even when I’m feeling terrific; I most certainly can’t “make it happen” when I’m down. And that’s the point. While I don’t believe that God has struck me with chronic health problems just to work wondrous things in my life — the proximate cause, as my doctor would say, was the big SUV T-boning me on the driver’s side at highway speeds nearly six years ago — I do believe the promise of Scripture that the Lord is magnified in my weakness. God doesn’t delight in my problems, but God will, and does, show me the way through it and make me better in it, if I choose to seek the Divine and not the distress. When I follow that Way, I end up at peace, confident that it’s not all for nothing and not the defining factor or feature in my life.

Nothing about a flareup dulls my voice nor dampens my passion. And so I’ll continue to discuss the faith and the culture around it, call out bullies and bigots, and proclaim a Gospel message that looks like that of Christ, and leads people to him rather than repelling them away from him.

And so we move to my next post . . .