This month, we begin a new set of teachings in our morning meetings. We shall be examining the important truths, which we say we believe in, but which we often don’t how to describe. In short, we’re teaching about the main doctrines of the Christian faith. To help us, we shall base our teaching on the Apostles’ Creed.
What’s that? You may well ask. Don’t we just base our beliefs on the Bible? And yet, sometimes we need a summary of key points to guide us. Of course, Christianity is more than a set of arid intellectual statements. That can lead too easily to empty head knowledge, whereas faith in Jesus is meant to bring personal transformation.
However we can also fall into the opposite error, and turn Christianity into an equally empty emotionalism, in which we switch off our brains when we come in through the door. God wants us to love and serve with the whole of our being, and that includes our minds: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10.27).
The Apostle Paul was aware that he had been given a set of teachings, which expressed the essence of his new faith: “I praise you for remembering me in everything, and for holding to the traditions, just as I passed them on to you.” (1 Corinthians 11.2). That is, he in turn sought to transmit these traditions to those he taught: “For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance.” (1 Co. 15.3).
This meant there was a marker for what constituted authentic teaching. Faith is not an empty experience, but has a content, centred chiefly on the person and work of Jesus. And, in face of many attempts by skeptics, sometimes even inside the churches, to undermine it, we need to defend its truth.
Paul was emphatic about this. “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1.13-14). “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings (or ‘traditions’) we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2.15).
This truth is essentially personal, found not in abstract arguments, but through relationship with Jesus: he said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14.6). The aim of all Christian teaching is to lead us to him. From that foundation, we can move forwards to engage with our culture and community in love and service.
This month we are also excited to host a community meeting for neighbourhood residents, community groups and local businesses, in which we will meet with official representatives of the Council. Together, we shall seek the common good for our area.
God bless you all.