Considering foundational principles for church ministry; 1 Corinthians chapters 1-3 and the “Who, how and why of what I believe”

In rhetorical response to the efforts of humankind to find meaning in life, the apostle Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 1:20, “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world”? Looking back over the time the United States has been a country, a number of views have come and gone. Philosophical rationalism attempted to define truth through categories of thought (because we think in certain patterns, God must be real and can be found). Materialism (think mechanistic science not money/things) attempted to define truth on the basis of our sense experience. Stepping beyond the test tube, materialism tried to extend its approach to questions of metaphysics (because physical laws dictate human activity, God is not necessary). Immanuel Kant burst both of those bubbles. Becoming disenchanted with absolutist epistemologies, a cultural trend called post-modernism developed which attempted to say that if there is absolute truth, it is not knowable and thus truth becomes relative to what works for a given individual or culture. Exploring and finding an (or one’s own) inner light can lead to personal enlightenment and meaning. Post-modernism suffered from its inability to offer true direction and, as the “peter pan” generation can attest, ate away at one’s drive to strive toward personal goals based on a clear world view. Where does that leave our society today? Simply skeptical, searching, questioning, open and/or doubting, or worse distracted by busyness and things as a way to escape that gnawing question, “What is the meaning of my life”?

All along the God of the Bible has offered a way of knowing that is tested, tried and true. This way of knowing does provide an absolute measure for purpose and interaction for those seeking then embracing it and thus forms the basis for why a community of faith that has encountered and embraced this truth tries to reach out to the society in which it lives. Without it we are lost, with it we can find new and abundant life.

What are these foundational principles?
1. A way of knowing (ie an “epistemology”) that is revelational. As Paul reminds us in these chapters in 1 Corinthians, we are limited and broken. Try as we might, we can not reach up to or reason our way to a knowledge of spiritual reality. Accepting this fact is not ir-rational (ie it is not logically contradictive) but “a-rational” (Dogmatics in Outline, Barth p. 23 Harper and Row 1959) in that God’s truths make sense and change lives (ie are internally consistent when found, embraced and lived out, but are not in and of themselves knowable when we are left to our own musings). How are these truths then revealed to us? They are revealed through God’s Word:

a. disclosed of God to me (individually/personally) when I arrive at the point where His Spirit draws me to an encounter with the person and work of Jesus and as I respond to that encounter in faith, then repentance, prayer, service and devotion. I personally encountered Jesus Christ in this way as a teenager, through the ministry of my church’s youth ministry…for which I am forever grateful. I continue to personally encounter Jesus daily, in my weakness renewed by the Spirit, as pictured in Titus 3:5-6.
b. disclosed from God to us (corporately/propositionally) as we embrace and live the truth found in the words of Scripture.

2. A way of interpreting Scripture (ie a “hermeneutic”) that is “historical-literal”. As we read the words of Scripture we take them at face value, in context and genre specific. Being literal means interpreting the passage as it was meant to be interpreted.

3. A way of applying scripture (ie an “exegetical method”) that is “grammatical-syntactual”. As we determine what the words, grammar and syntax of a given Scripture passage meant, we then can apply them to our situation now.

Our prayer is that we can begin to understand God’s revealed truths to us as we approach his Word in this manner, humbling our wisdom to His and asking for His guidance, empowering and correction through the Holy Spirit at every step of the way toward abundant life in Him.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, a non-denomenational group of Evangelical Scholars gathered in Chicago to formally state some of these principles as linked below:

See link to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy;

See link to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics;

Other resources: BB Warfield; The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture, FF Bruce; The Canon of Scripture, JI Packer; Fundamentalism and the Word of God, Robert Coleman; The Master Plan of Evangelism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Cost of Discipleship

Additionally, I have personally found the Calvary Chapel movement consistent in these beliefs. While I do not speak for that movement, I can attest to my own experience of faith life within that movement. I have attached The Calvary Chapel Association’s statement of faith also.

Statement of Faith

Tags: foundation, foundations, vision, church ministry


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