Saturday, July 03, 2010

AFFIRMATIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

AFFIRMATIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH



Every part of Christ's Church, when brought into existence, is called to a ministry of life and teaching which will effectively convey the gospel to its own generation and culture.



The International Presbyterian Church recognizes that it has been raised up by the Lord for a specific purpose and to a specific work, its distinctive ministry shaped by the inerrant Word of God and adapted to the needs of the present time.



We believe that our Presbyterian form of church government is founded upon the Word of God and the pattern of the early church, and is both practicable and helpful1.



Believing the Church to transcend national boundaries we rejoice in the international character of our church, both because some congregations are of mixed nationality, and because God has raised up congregations of particular nationality.



We acknowledge that there are many true churches of Christ. We are glad to be of service to them and are thankful for whatever help we may receive from them. We are glad both to receive them and to be received by them in fitting expressions of fellowship and unity in the one Body of Christ.



However, this church stands in the stream of historic Christianity, and in the Reformed tradition1, which since the sixteenth century has upheld the truth of God's Word and the authority of Christ over all of life.



In affirming our valuable heritage we wish to emphasize the importance of the following in the life and witness of our church for the present time: Truth, Spirituality, Social Responsibility, Ethical Imperatives, and the Understanding of Contemporary Culture.



1. TRUTH



We affirm, against the consensus of our society, that there is such a thing as truth. Unchanging, reliable and understandable information pertaining to all of life is conveyed from God to man by the Scriptures.



Statements made by the Bible are objectively true, even though they may not be exhaustive. By this we mean that they accurately describe the nature of things both as they are in themselves, and as they exist within the course of history which God has begun and which he sustains.



Statements about the cosmos and the natural world are factual even though they are not made in the language of today's sciences.



1See Appendix for History of Presbyterianism

Statements about the nature of man, his divine image, his sinfulness, his need of salvation and the reality of his judgement are not simply 'religious' statements (eg

merely subjective) but statements of fact. Thus, for example, the Bible teaches that we live in a world which clearly declares that it has been created by God, but also a world which is abnormal in every respect because of the fall.



Within the relativistic culture2 which surrounds us, we consider it imperative to emphasize this view of truth, for it is the foundation of all knowledge and life.



Therefore we acknowledge that we must obey the commandment of Christ to go out into all the world to preach the gospel, to teach, to baptise, to make disciples, and to plant new congregations which will faithfully guard and proclaim God's truth.



As we acknowledge and speak this truth, we must strive to live by it. Accordingly, we seek the purity of the visible church and insist there must be discipline in matters of false doctrine and disobedience to God's moral commandments.



2. SPIRITUALITY



Even a brief survey of Church history shows that the Church has been repeatedly confused about the nature of spirituality. Instead of being seen as essentially positive, involving the restoration of man's humanity under God's authority, it has been regarded, either explicitly or by implication, as something negative. Christianity then becomes a withdrawal from life and a denial of those categories of ordinary human experience (such as creativity, compassion, beauty, and even in some cases responsibility) which actually constitute man as the image of God, even when he is fallen.



Such an attitude, characterised by Colossians 2:20 as 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!' has an appearance of wisdom (ie spirituality) but in fact lacks any value in the real struggle, that again sin. Against this mentality of negation we affirm that spirituality is essentially positive. Redemption includes not only atonement for sin but also the eventual and complete restoration of all good things through Christ's work.



This has profound and practical implications for both the believer and the church. First, the believer is encouraged to take issue not with his humanity but with his sin. Neither the appreciation of beauty nor the enjoyment of physical pleasures are wrong in and of themselves. Rather, it is the misuse of these God-given capacities that constitutes sin. Second, the believer is to consider the whole of life the proper realm of his spirituality, rejecting any separation of the secular and spiritual dimensions of life. Life in the home, life in the work place, the realms of politics, art, literature, education &endash; all are significant and all are important to the believer and the church. As Abraham Kuyper said, 'There is not in all the universe one square inch of territory over which Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not say 'That is mine'. Third, because churches should never be merely 'preaching points' or 'activity generators', the believer must be committed to living within the fellowship and community of the Body of Christ and there to demonstrate transformed relationships.



2Eg see penultimate paragraph, page 4

3. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY



Our culture insists that personal fulfilment and social progress come by throwing off restrictive moral tradition. In contrast, we affirm that God has made human beings to reflect his righteous and loving character, and that the law of God given in Scripture shows how they are meant to live. Fulfilment and freedom for individual and society result from obedience to God's commandments. These commandments are good not only for believers but for all people. The Christian need never hesitate to commend them to human society.



We affirm the basic unity of the Old and New Testaments. The abiding demands of Old Testament law are to be embodied in the lives of Christians as they were in the life of Christ.



We affirm that the Christian is called not to retreat from society but to be salt and light in it. As light he is to live in a way which causes people to be drawn to the truth. Such practice of righteousness and love is to be seen not only in the life of the individual but in that of the church, as it strives to be a living community, characterised by genuine care and concern. As salt the Christian is to love his neighbour as himself, helping those in need outside the church, and not shunning responsible involvement in civic affairs.



Regarding the State, we affirm that Scriptures consider the offices of human government to be instituted by God. Because he has established them to further his purposes, they are obliged to undertake the just use of force against evil-doers. However, if conflict arises between conscience and the commands of any human authority the Christian must obey God first. Yet as the civil office represents a calling pleasing to God we affirm that the Christian may indeed seek such office in order to serve him.



4. ETHICAL IMPERATIVES



We must recognise the 'ethical imperatives' of our own day &endash; those issues which demand an ethical response &endash; and not simply contemplate the battles of past generations.



Throughout the ages men have failed to treat other men with the dignity, justice, respect, and compassion due to all human beings. They have often done this by denying the essential humanity of those whom they would abuse. This has been done to enemies in wartime, to black slaves, and to aboriginal peoples. In our day it is the unseen, unborn humans in the womb whose humanity is often denied so that they may be killed.



We must help bring an end to the 'slaughter of the innocents' carried on at present through legalised abortion. As we affirm the humanity of unborn children we are obliged to work for their protection. It is appropriate to do so both by moral persuasion, as the biblical view of unborn children is expounded and applied, and by political action, as we resolve to change the unjust laws which permit their destruction.



At the same time, we must help in practical and loving ways those who have used or are tempted to use abortion as a solution to their predicament.



In this context, we cannot neglect to emphasize that while sexual experience is good in itself because created by God, it is legitimate only within marriage, that is within a life-long, exclusive commitment between one man and one woman. It is particularly incumbent on us to teach this to our young people.



We commit ourselves to defend the dignity and well-being of man as created in the image of God when and where necessary. For example, there should be a strong and active concern to prevent or relieve famine, to find creative solutions to unemployment, to oppose racial discrimination, and to uphold religious liberty.



5. UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPORARY CULTURE



Whether in the second century or in the twentieth, Christians have always been tempted to avoid the confrontation of ideas ad practices which inevitably accompany a faithful proclamation of God's truth. Frequently this has been masked by an apparently sincere desire to be 'relevant' &endash; to understand the ideas of a culture in order to endorse its fashions and traditions wherever possible.



We must stress that any discussion of popular culture must first acknowledge the primacy of Scripture and then be conducted with reference to it. The Church must always start with the written revelation of God because the Bible is the final authority and infallible guide for all ages until Christ returns. Without it a proper understanding of contemporary culture cannot be found. Only as God's light is lifted up among us can we see clearly amidst the surrounding darkness.



We therefore subject our view of the present culture to a prior consideration of the Word of God. Nevertheless, this does not imply that attempts to understand contemporary culture are either unnecessary or misguided. Since its formation the Church has been commissioned as much to a prophetic ministry as to an evangelistic one. Therefore it needs to identify the ways in which people are perishing and being misled in order to address itself to their rescue, and to see the ways in which injustice and unrighteousness are promoted or condoned in order to oppose them.



This is doubly important in our own moment of history as we witness the flowering of pagan culture on every side. Christians are only too conscious of the profound change which has marked the past thirty or forty years, without understanding that it is an inevitable consequence of a widespread and malignant disease, namely the acceptance of a materialistic and relativistic world-view. People are now taught and encouraged to value material things above all else and to deny absolute standards of right and wrong. It is this which has brought such a rapid deterioration of values in recent decades: the breakdown of marriage, promiscuity, abortion, infanticide, material greed, violent crime and the acceptance of homosexual practices.



Therefore, we attempt to understand contemporary culture in order to arrest its degeneration and decay, and, by God's grace, to reform society by the preaching of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20) and by the open statement of the truth (II Corinthians 4:2). In this sense we are indeed called to be relevant, so as to speak 'clearly as we should' (Colossians 4:4). To remain old-fashioned and so to continue habits of life and thought merely because they have come down to us from a previous generation is to deny our responsibility to live and speak prophetically.



(Adopted November 1985)

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