There are some useful Christian sites on the web in English language, so there is no need for me to write a lot in English, since English is not my native tongue and the same teachings can be found elsewhere. I recommend some of the papers by Job Beresford to you, in order to see how the early Christian Church or ecclesias was organized and what they were teaching. I do not agree with all the teachings of him, but it is the same with all Christians. There are some variations of beliefs and practices, but they should not be used as an excuse for schisms and divisions.
- Job Beresford, What is a Church
The Chrigwell Christian Fellowship has made a good notion, that ”each individual and ecclesias has to struggle through the Scripture and reach their own freely held convictions”. This is the God given way in dealing with matters of secondary importance, such as many Biblical issues that cause divisions inside the body of Christ.
There is one thing I want to share with you, something I have written on this topic. The following is an excerpt from my latest post. I hope you will be blessed by these few words.
Statements of faith and creeds
In many groups of believers, ecclesias, Churches and denominations a statement of faith or some kind of creed is demanded of a member in order to attend the group and be a member. Such a policy does not come from the Apostles nor is it mentioned in the Bible. There are some fundamental truths in the Bible though, which the members of the body of Christ were supposed to have faith in and hold for true. There was nevertheless no list of doctrines to be supported or rejected within the Church, nor any creed universally confirmed that all the members of the Church had to adopt or otherwise they would have been excommunicated. Since no such policy was practiced by the Apostles, we should follow their example and not have them either.
It is not an error though to put some doctrines and misinterpretations of the Bible on paper in order to use them as tools in teaching and for discipline guidelines in the Church. We have yet to keep in mind that all non-biblical scriptures are only an interpretation of the Bible at the best, not the original word of God. Therefore we should not value these commentaries and teachings as high as the Bible, since they are not the everlasting and unchangeable true word of God. It is possible that the Church fathers, Bible scholars and elders of the ecclesias have been mistaken in their interpretations. It is recommended to discuss all things in a reconstructive and kind spirit. Christians should not be submitted to conclusive statements of faith and creeds even though they were believed to be Biblical truths.
Divisions and schisms
The children of God are scattered in various denominations, Churches and groups of believers (ecclesias). The reason for dispersion is the variety of views in doctrines, which affect Church practices and life accordingly. Christians disagree of Biblical issues (interpretation of the Bible), the life-style of true believers and Church activities and rituals. Since the controversy has not been settled within the ecclesias it has led to division into many groups. Each group has been organized in its own customary way. They are in contact with other groups in whatever way they feel like is right or convenient for them, or they exclude themselves or haven been excluded from Corpus Christianum. It will not be possible to be perfectly united in this manner. The various denominations are not able to come together on regular basis and live as one body of Christ.
Statements of faith and creeds and doctrines withdrawn from the Bible and yet outside of the Bible lead easily to divisions of the ecclesias. If it is obligatory to say that these statements of faith and creeds and doctrines are Biblical truths or otherwise you will be excommunicated from the group, the natural consequence is dispersion and division. Some of the doctrines and beliefs are so complicated and hard to grasp and controversy throughout Christendom, that it is immoderate to demand adoption of them or making a stand. How could we say that something is true for sure, if we do not understand and comprehend it properly first? Such difficult doctrines are theories of God and Christ: the Trinitarian creed and its variations, unitarism and Christology including the hypostatic union.
Instead of urging believers to make a stand in these complecated doctrines, we should encourage the members of the Church to confess that they are not sure of the correct interpretation, and that they do not know everything and not even enough in order to make a final stand. This would be perfectly all right if believers did this. The worst thing to do is to force them ”to choose a side”, which is the sin of sectarianism. We are here not to judge and condemn our fellow Christians, who call on the name of the Lord and put their trust and faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord, the son of God. We are not to oppose people or Churches but to work for their benefit. This does not mean that we have to remain silent as we face unrighteousness and false doctrines and superstitions. We are supposed to discuss these things calmly and act according to the instructions of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles when it comes to discipline (1John 5:14-17, Matt 18:15-18, 1Cor, 5, 2Cor 12:19-13:13). Please remember this principle:
Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand (2Cor, 1:24).
It is wrong to oblige Christians to hold for a Biblical truth some teachings they are not able to understand adequately. It would be dishonest to claim something to be true, if you do not know what you are talking about. This is nevertheless where we have come to, because Churches and ecclesias demand obedience to the statements of faith and creeds their fathers have made or otherwise you will be excommunicated in a proper time. And when some believers have threatened disobedient members with an everlasting fire of hell, it has prevented them from searching the truth on their own freed from biases and it has put an end to all fruitful discussion. Instead of progressing in the faith of Christ the members have been forced to follow blindly the traditions of their fathers. An impartial Biblical study and learning has not been an option.
The Roman Catholic Church has defended and shielded the Trinitarian doctrine and Christology including the doctrine of hypostatic union by imposing an imperial law by which Antitrinitarianism was penalized with death. This law became applicable during the reign of emperor Justinian I in 529 AD. The exclusive right and authority of the Roman Catholic Church was renewed before that in the Civil Code of the Holy Roman Empire in 380 AD and the Anabaptists have been penalized with death after imposing the Corpus Juris Civilis I, 1 and VI, 2 in 413 AD during the reigns of Honorius and Theodosius II.
These laws were assimilated into the German law in the 15th Century and the restorers of faith adopted them willingly. Marin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and Jean Calvin persecuted Anabaptists, imprisoned them and send them to exile or had them killed, even though many of them were peace loving pacifists. Their unorthodox teachings and establishing new ecclesias and Churches made them guilty for mutiny and revolt in the eyes of other Protestants and the rulers of the world (Princes).
Since the Roman Catholic Church and her daughters have so fiercely defended infant baptism, the Trinitarian belief and Christology including the doctrine of the hypostatic union, a question needs to be asked: did God give these teachings to the Church? A well informed Christian knows by the words of the Apostle John that ”no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”. (1John 3:14) Since this is the truth, we have to reconsider whether the teachings of such murderers originated from our Father or were they derived from the same source as their evil works?
What is more important than a doctrine?
It is important to have a living connection between God our Father through the mediator ”man Christ Jesus”, who is the Son of God and our Lord. It is more important to obey the will of God in everyday life than to know which doctrine of the substance and nature of God and Christ is true. The most important thing of all is to love God more than anything or anyone and love my neighbour as myself (Matt, 22:36-40).
If we keep ourselves in these we shall do well. This of course makes me treat my neighbour with all respect to him or her. If you think how you would like others to treat you, if you disagreed with them on some Biblical issues, then you may know how to face people with various beliefs and treat them with loving kindness.
Regarding to doctrines on Divinity it is enough for us to stick with these basic teachings:
- God is one and we are to love him with all of our heart and soul and mind, since he has brought everything forth that there is, and he has given us the gift of eternal life by his grace.
- Jesus from Nazareth is the Christ and our Lord, the Son of God and the Son of Man, a human being.
- Jesus died on the cross and God has raised him up ”on the third day” as it is written.
- God has exalted Christ Jesus above all creature and will submit all things unto him in the world to come; Jesus shall be the king of kings and the lord of lords.
This is all a Disciple needs to know to begin with his journey as a member of the body of Christ. These teachings are simple enough, so it will be possible for unlearnt people to understand them, and even mentally disable have a chance to grasp some of them. And children before their teens are able to see these things clearly enough even though they are not capable of theological scrutiny of Bible scholars. Not many adults are capable for it either, so it would be immoderate to demand anything more in the form of statements of faith or creeds.
From these basics on it will be possible for Christians to progress in their faith and learn more. They will learn about atonement, Christian values and eternal life to the extent these thing have been taught by the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles in the Bible, and to the extent one is able to comprehend these things. We are not to expect more of a person than he or she is capable of doing. And in the end, the Christ will be our judge or saviour; not other Christians or their statements of faith or creeds.
”these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (NKJV John 20:31)