We believe in the one holy and loving God, filled with glory, power and wisdom, who lives in eternal Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God, who created and sustains the physical and spiritual universe, desires a relationship with us.
The Confession of Faith was adopted in July 2001 and it appeared that the EMMC was mostly unified than ever in our beliefs. As we wrote the document it was surprising how much consensus we actually had. We also provided space for people with differences to feel at home in the EMMC family.
Still times, people, and experiences change so that the language of the confession will seem dated like an old Bible translation. With all that has happened since 2001, how does our Confession fare on the doctrine of God?
Characteristics of God
The Confession assumed we believe that God exists, but this belief is now seriously questioned by many in society. From Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion to atheists on YouTube our youth and even adults are challenged like never before to explain why and how God exists. Have you noticed the family members with deep struggles to believe in God? Fortunately leading Christian thinkers are helping us to answer the challenge of new atheists with truth and grace.
We believe God exists, but what is God like? For two decades persons in the emergent church have called for Christians to express their beliefs in a personal and loving God. Brian McLaren’s New Kind of Christianity attracted attention from evangelicals alienated by the exclusivism and judgmentalism of their past.
More recently a new wave of conservative Reformed believers has recovered beliefs in the sovereignty, holiness, and glory of God. Their enthusiasm for a God who is in control has created lively debate and generated a movement committed to their vision of a high and holy God.
Trinity and Godhead
Our awareness of global Islam since 9/11 has generated questions about the relationship of the “one true God” with the Muslim Allah. While God and Allah have similarities (eternal, all- knowing, all-present, all-powerful, and supreme), differences arise in their character and actions. The greatest difference is found in the Christian belief in the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity provides a rich view of God as Father of creation, as the Son Jesus Christ our savior, and Holy Spirit our presence and power. Worship of the Trinity brings balance to our lives and emphasises the importance of eternal love and relationship within our God.
Creator and Sustainer
One of the most divisive questions has to do with how God created the universe. Readers taking a literal approach to Genesis 1 often promote a recent creation of 24 hour days. Readers considering Genesis 1 in the context of Israel’s culture and worldview find meanings may or may not correspond with the finds of today’s science. No matter what perspective taken, there are difficult doctrinal and scientific problems that will not have simple answers.
One of the most common questions facing believers is the problem of evil. If God is all loving and all powerful, then why is there so much evil in creation? The mystery of personal or world crises keeps the question front and center. The way we pray in difficult situations witness es to the belief that the book of Job is as relevant today as when first written.
We believe that “God intensely pursues a personal relationship with all people.” The charismatic movement invites believers to move this truth from mere words to experience. In a generation that highly values experience, people are asking, “if God exists, then how can I experience God?” J. I. Packer’s Knowing God is complemented by Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. But the search for new experiences continues.
From praise & worship, to Passion conferences, to *IHOP’s listening prayer and prophecies, to spiritual disciplines, and worship liturgies, the desire to connect with God is still alive and well. As good as these experiences can be, time spent in the Word in a community of believers is less spectacular but has potential to produce a deep and lasting relationship with God as well.
In 2008, William P. Young wrote a book about God intended for his family. He was reflecting on doctrines taught and lived when he was young. As he grew older, the doctrines of his parents became unbelievable in the context of his life and experiences. In a time when doctrines were ignored or taken for granted, The Shack reopened the conversation in the form of a story. The doctrines of God’s character, the Trinity, the problem of evil, salvation, and hell were reconsidered. Some labeled the book as heresy, while others were more charitable. Regardless, people were engaged in lively thought and discussion about the greatness and goodness of God.
The doctrine of God is one of our fundamental beliefs. We will continue to teach the doctrine of God as we understand our experience in the light of biblical truth. But now as much as in the revivals of 1937, a living relationship with God is perhaps our greater need.
*IHOP – International House of Prayer
Terry Hiebert is chair of the EMMC Theology Committee, serves as Academic Dean and teaches theology/ general studies at Steinbach Bible College, and attends Gospel Fellowship Church, Steinbach.
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 1 of 12-part series
May / June 2014 The Recorder