Unhealthy, dangerous forms of “Christianity” seem epidemic today. Are there healthy forms? Here, I believe, is a good example, from the church I attend.
A summary of priority concerns of a Christ-following, healthy faith.
1. We strongly emphasize the Lordship of Christ and encourage individuals to come to know Him directly and give their faith and lives to Him.
So we do talk about Jesus, and Jesus’ teachings. We try to take them seriously. We believe the Living Christ is somehow, but truly, available to welcome and forgive us, and for communication with us and guidance for us.
2. We respect the Bible so highly that we look to it for authoritative guidance in all matters spiritual and moral.
It is not a magic book. It is not a rule book, recipe book, or software or hardware documentation. It is a record of interactions between the Creator and a wide variety of humans over many centuries. It has been well preserved and we are privileged to look over the shoulders of those ancients to gain insight into and guidance in our own spiritual lives and development.
3. We emphasize the freedom of the individual conscience before God.
You can not decide what I will believe or how I will pray or practice spiritual living, nor should you try. I cannot decide those things for you, nor should I try.
4. We commit ourselves to love and care for our neighbors and those in need, whether they are Christian or not.
This, after all, is the oft-repeated standard of the New Testament, quoted by Jesus from the Old Testament – “love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus’ story of “the good Samaritan” makes very clear that we are not to exclude people whose lifestyles, race or religion are unlike ours.
5. We practice independence of the local church.
This applies freedom of conscience to the level of institutions and associations. There is a high value placed on freedom.
6. We defend the separation of church and state.
This derives naturally from # 3 (freedom of conscience) and # 5 (independence of the local church). We believe no person or institution should be given or should assume political or legal authority over others simply because of the would-be leader’s religious affiliation (formal or informal). Nor should such office or power be given to any religious organization or its representatives. Or as the US Constitution puts it, “no religious test” for political office. No religious autocracy.
7. We seek cooperation with other American Baptist churches and agencies and with all others who work for the welfare of our community and world.
This flows from # 4 (love your neighbor). Like many other things in social living, loving our neighbors often works a lot better if we do it in cooperation (always voluntary) with other persons or groups.
Do You Agree?
This list of 7 concerns is from a local American Baptist church. American Baptists (“American Baptist Churches USA – 10 Facts”) typically do not have a statement of faith that members are required to subscribe to, and for good reason (see # 2 and # 3 above). But there are important shared standards of value and behavior. These seven principles are a pretty good summary.
Do you think, as I do, that these are good indicators of a healthy Christ-following faith?