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Beliefs Week 1: What Influences You?

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Church leads to beliefs...

We have been now for couple of weeks been talking about the church. The church is a complex and amazing organism that is living and breathing just like us. This is especially true if we believe that the church is the Body of Christ. With a better understanding of the church and how the church is a formation of relationships that is bound together under Christ we start to get a better understanding of what it is that we believe in. Our beliefs as individual churches and denomination is incredibly complex and how each of these churches or denominations came into being is also a deep study into both history and scripture. This is not the endeavor i want to get into this morning. Instead i want to begin with this idea that all of our beliefs formed around God are what we know as Theology.
If i was to give you the most basic Definition of the word theology it would simply be
Theology=The study of God.
This is the start for us this idea of forming our beliefs and shaping who we are as humans and as a church we begin with the Study of God.
Disclaimer
The Study of God is an incredibly complex topic and we have to begin with a basic premise to really understand any and ALL discussion about God.
Thomas Oden says it best.
“The study of God can only be an inquiry that fallible, finite sinners undertake.”
The reality is that whenever we start discussions around beliefs and talk about God we must begin with a frame work that we are doing our best with imperfect tools. We have flawed reason, language, and interpretations as humans. We can not make the mistake in thinking that we have at any point know the mind of God. WE do our best to interpret and live according to God’s love and grace. This is where we enter into theology with Grace and understanding. That God can work and move inspite of our fallible nature. This is important whenever we start building our beliefs.

The Wesleyan Church and Approach

This is a Wesleyan church and because of that we are founded with John Wesley as one of the primary theologians and guides for our denomination. This helps shape and form much of our theology. I have talked about this in the past but i want to briefly revisit a topic because it is absolutely essential in understanding how we attempt to approach our beliefs and doctrine.
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Church uses what we call the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to best understand our approaches to God and our beliefs. This idea is to approach everything through four methods.
Scriptures
Tradition
Reason
Experience
Think baseball for a moment with me.
Scriptures are like home base. This is where everything should begin.
First base in running is Tradition. WE look to the past collective experiences and information of the church and the beleivers who have come before us.
Second base is our ability to reason as humans. God gifted us with the ability to be logical.
Third base is personal experience. Our own individual experiences and culture impact the way that we interpret and undrstand things and this is essential to our growth in God.
Beliefs and formation of beliefs should contain multiple influences from this quadrilateral. It is should be made clear though that the idea is to begin and end at home base. The Scriptures the divinely inspired Word of God informs every belief that we have about God. To help us better understand that we need to also look at the different layers of beliefs.

Religious Beliefs are like...

Onions. I mean everyone likes onions right. Or to take a line from Shrek. Ogres are like onions I mean Religous belifes are like onions they have layers. Or if we want to be more like Donkey we can think of it like Cake or Parfaits. The point is that there are different levels of religous beliefs within the church.
A. Biblical Teachings
Biblical Teachings are the core belifs that we all for the most part share. These are strongly supported by scriptures and in general all Christians can agree upon. This can include things like God the Father, Jesus God’s son, The Holy Spirit, Human nature, Sin, salvation, final accountability, heaven and hell, Second coming of Jesus, authority and inspiration of the Bible, Creation.
While there may be some variations the core nature of these things are there.
B. Interpretations
Interpretations is the second layer that we can examine and will often extend from one of the Bibilical teachings. Example is creation. How exactly was the universe created. Was it in a moment by God’s divine action or is it evolutionary. The core Biblical teaching we can all agree upon is that God created. The interpretation is in how it was done. We can see variations in areas like predestination, eternal security, gifts of the Holy Spirit and Sexuality to list a few.
C. Collective Conscience
The best way to describe the collective conscience would be the list of life style issues that can be found within different churches. Best example i can share with you is an old saying that you would hear commonly within Holiness traditions. WE don’t drink we don’t chew and we don’t run with those who do.
This is the area best thought of as the list of thou shall not and thou shall
Not all churches have the same opinion on things like Alcohol, Tobacco, modesty of dress, abortion, capital punishment, Homosexuality, marriage and divorce.
Disclaimer #2
Beliefs are often things that people get very passionate about. Particularly the ones from C. It is important to know that from ones in both B and C that we can disagree with others on these issues. However, i would be slow to commit to judgement on anyones salvaiton dependent on these issues. I refer you back to the quote i shared with you earlier.
“The study of God can only be an inquiry that fallible, finite sinners undertake.”
We are not perfect and we must remember that Beliefs must allow for grace. However, it is also important to know that part of belonging to a church or a denomination is that we have to respect particular beliefs and sometimes commit to following those beliefs even when we don’t 100% of the time agree with them.

The Scriptures

If we hold to the approach of beginning and concluding with scriptures as the main source of our understanding of our beliefs then we need to talk about them more extensively now.
We believe that the books of the Old and New Testaments constitute the Holy Scriptures. They are the inspired and infallibly written Word of God, fully inerrant in their original manuscripts and superior to all human authority, and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine. We believe that they contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man or woman that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. Both in the Old and New Testaments life is offered ultimately through Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and humanity. The New Testament teaches Christians how to fulfill the moral principles of the Old Testament, calling for loving obedience to God made possible by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.
There is a lot in this article of faith for the church to break down and understand and to examine but one of the key things that i want to focus on this morning is the idea that we believe that the scriptures are the infallible written Word of God. They are have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctirne and contain everything necessary for salvation.
2 Timothy 3:15–17 NIV
15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This scripture helps us see the importance of maintaing a strong view of the scriptures. It helps us be reminded that the Bible has been also translated from other languages and cultural experiences that can change and influence the interpretation of the scriptures. Yet through the Holy Spirit we can move beyond a superfical understanding of the scriptures and gain a deeper insight.
I mean have you ever thoguht about are the scriptures 100% right?
If they are let me ask you a simple question. How many angels were at the tomb on the day of ressureciton
Matthew 28:2 NIV
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
Mark 16:5 NIV
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
Luke 24:4 NIV
4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
John 20:6–7 NIV
6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.
Matthew there is one
Mark there is a one
Luke there are two
John there is none.
So which is it? This for some is a stumbling block because they see it as a contradiction. Or is it Divinely inspired literary interpretation of events to help focus on a different point for a different audience that each gospel was written for? These are complex questions that sometimes take away from the core Biblical belief that is found in these passages. Did you see it? Are you hung up on the Angels?
The point is that Jesus was Resurrected!
The scriptures are full of small discrepancies or influences of literary devices or approaches and influences of language and interpretations that can create problems yet, the essential elements are 100% there. The Scriptures don’t become untrue because we don’t know the exact number of angels at the tomb. Instead we must remember that the Holy Spirit was leading these men to write what was necessary for us to gain salvaiton and insight into God. For me it isn’t important exactly how many angels were at the tomb or if Jesus feed only 5000 men but the truth is that he fed more than that becuase women and children weren’t often accounted for. The truth is that it doesn’t change the miracle of the moment. God’s truth still remains.

Beliefs and Scriptures

The truth is that we are fallible humans and our brokenness gets in the way sometimes of the work of God. This is why we must work so dilegently to allow God to be the center of all of our beliefs and study. We believe that the scriptures are an essential part of that structure. We begin and end with them. We may have different views on how to interpret and understand them based on our church but the truth remains that we have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us and to direct us when we interpret and study the scriptures. WE must also enter into them with grace. That our imperfection can lead to ways of thinking that can be destructive. We must remember to trust in the Word and look to the Word when we form our beliefs but also allow Grace to move and work through them both in our lives and the lives in others.
Let’s Pray.
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