I believe that for mortal hominids such as ourselves, the universe is an impossibly complex thing to come to terms with, and that to do so in any meaningful sense requires that we extrapolate from the limited evidence at hand and put our faith in that which mere rational analysis cannot ever satisfactorily prove. Which is to say that everyone has faith in something, and our actions show what that faith is in.
I believe that time and space and matter and forces that act thereon came into existence at a particular point–and that this points to the existence of a Being who transcends time and space. I believe that the existence of life on our astonishingly green and fertile planet, in a universe which is astonishingly hostile to the earliest inklings of anything which might grow and reproduce, leads to the conviction that this transcendent Being is a deliberate designer. I believe that the instincts of human conscience, and the recognition of the ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in diverse cultures and countries, cannot be convincingly grounded without postulating that the transcendent Being (of whose existence we have already been convinced) is also a consistently and perfectly moral Being. Indeed, because morality is nothing but the code which governs interpersonal relationships, He (with the requisite mutterings about such a being not being gendered in any recognisable way) must be a personal Being, and in fact an interpersonal Being.
I believe that this Being is not some silent static supposition, but a living and active participant in the great drama of Time. I believe that He hides himself in the numerous nooks and crannies of creation, like Easter eggs hidden in a childhood garden, to reward those who can be bothered with the effort of seeking him. I believe that He reveals himself to those who seek him–and sometimes to those who do not!–and that he’s done so to people from all tribes and tongues throughout history. I believe that the Hebrews–Abraham and his Mesopotamian clay tablets, Moses and his Egyptian papyrus scrolls, Paul and his parchment epistles–have been particularly frank and honest about the way in which He revealed himself to them; I do not believe that such true and authentic honesty could be possible without the inspiration of the very Spirit of this self-revealing transcendent Being.
I believe that communication by the power of the written word is all very well, but that it can never compare with face-to-face encounter. I believe that Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth has made such encounter with God possible.
I believe that this Jesus was a real, historical, human being. I believe that there is ample manuscript evidence not only for the belief that such a man lived, but also that he died unjustly and painfully on a Roman cross, that he was buried in a high-security tomb, and that he was then seen by multiple witnesses three days later, having been raised to a new yet true sort of life. I believe that those witnesses are to be trusted, and that the proof of this is the corroboration of their distinct testimonies, and their willingness to suffer even unto death for the sake of these testimonies.
I believe that Jesus’ death was not some political accident, but the most profound and significant event in human history. I believe that for the sake of humanity, such a death was vitally necessary; I believe that though it was motivated by obedience to the will of God, such a death was entirely voluntary. I believe that the fact of the cross proves paradoxically both the seriousness and the irrelevance of our sin.
I believe that this story of Jesus dying for our sins and rising again, this demonstration of the power of the love of God over the curse of death–this is good news! This is singular, unique and unprecedented. If it is true, then the problem of evil is solvable, then the tragedy of any person’s life is redeemable.
I believe that just hearing this message can transform hearts and minds and reconcile people to God. I believe that we therefore have a missionary mandate to communicate this astonishing announcement to whoever we can, however we can. But particularly by living lives which resonate with the power of this death-defying lavishly-loving abundant life.
I believe we cannot do this of our own free will. But I believe in the Holy Spirit, who shortly after the resurrection of Jesus began to fall in power upon those who believed in the death-defying life of Jesus. I believe that that same Spirit is still at work today, fanning into flame the flickerings of faith in our feeble and faltering hearts, convicting us of our self-satisfied hypocrisies and self-indulgent wickednesses, teaching us how to pray prayers that go beyond our mere human vocabularies, propelling us out in awkwardly overambitious mission to a bruised and broken world.
I believe that this is what we were made for, we human beings. Not to survive with the fittest, but to lay our lives down in sacrificial love, daring to do what has never been done before–not for the sake of vainglorious pride, but for the greater good of our communities, and for those outside the dotted lines which mark the boundaries of those whom we consider ‘our neighbour’. I believe that since a transcendent God has made us for this empowering experience of relationship with him and through him with others, it is no surprise that when we reject him and live as if self-sufficient, we instead find ourselves–at best!–tired, bored, and angry.
I believe that we need community. I believe that the communities that we most need are communities of faith in this invisible, transcendent, powerful, morally flawless, personally loving God; communities that would take the life of Jesus as their model, the death of Jesus as their message, the resurrection of Jesus as their motivator; communities that would dwell in the presence and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit; communities that would read and hear and think through and grapple with and live and breathe the story of the Scriptures.
I believe that to have a church like this is essentially impossible–but I believe more strongly that nothing is impossible with God. And I believe that God can and will and is raising up churches like this, and bringing them together, preparing them for the day when the same Jesus–who was born of the virginal Mary, who was sentenced by Pontius Pilate to immediate execution, who died and rose again–when this same Jesus will return in glory to the same Mount of Olives just east of the walls of Jerusalem where he was last seen.