Two people in two separate situations this week asked me what a Christian believes (I know two is hardly revival but still)!
Both were coming from different places in this regard, both had an axe to grind regarding institutional Christianity, something which, to their great shock and confusion, I agreed with (by-and-large).
But where they both responded in a positive way, was in their own ignorance of actual confessing Christianity, and all its glorious forms and versions (and some inglorious) in 2000 years of Church History. I did refrain from giving a snap-shot of this history, but hopefully this just added some thirst-inducing salt to the wells of curiosity that was now open to them.
As a Baptist (by theological conviction), it will come as no surprise that the Anabaptist tradition has had a significant influence on me. What I talked through with my two new friends was the 7 Core Convictions of the Anabaptist Network, a statement of faith that is as Biblically Christian as I’ve found anywhere, and as defiant against almost all that we inherently associate with much of contemporary Christianity.
Here are the 7 Core Convictions from the Anabaptist Newtwork website:
1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.
2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.
3. Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalised Jesus, and has left the churches ill-equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
4. The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.
5. Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender and baptism is for believers.
6. Spirituality and economics are inter-connected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.
7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
As for my two inquisitors, who knows what they will do with this? Who knows how God will use this in their lives? Who knows if their own plausibility structures regarding the malaise of Christendom and the rise of militant atheism – an ideology that functions no less than mere religion – will resist or crumble?
And this ideology is important, since I saw it in my two friends. For we are living in a time where our socially and culturally produced plausibility structures are bound so tight, we can barely see what’s going on, whilst all the while claiming to see more than any and all who have gone before us. It belongs to the nature of ideology to parade itself in the guise of science and to appeal to objective reason (Bosch).
The good news is that we departed friends and with Good News. At least these 7 Core Convictions are an attempt at religious, cultural, political, personal self-awareness, which aims at explicating what is inexplicable – the love of God seen in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the whole world. God waited for the Christendom era to be over, He’ll probably wait until the post-Christendom era is over too, but He will save and renew the cosmos, after all, “Man is born to be redeemed” (Forsyth).