Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rule of Faith

Looking back at the fathers of church theology, we are often taken aback at the oddness of their debates and discussions. Their arguments are often rooted in Latin and Greek semantics that just don't jive with our American ears.

However, one concept that we would do well to rediscover is that of the Rule of Faith. (I am in debt to Dr. Hicks at Lipscomb for introducing me to this concept). As the New Testament was continuing to take shape in the early days following Pentecost - the 27 books we have didn't show up til sometime in the fourth century, early writers, thinkers, and defenders had to pass along the message of the Bible through oral transmission (they would have had to done that anyway since most of the early Christians weren't able to read).

Early in this setting the idea of the Rule of Faith emerged. This is the core Gospel statement. Perhaps there is an early indication of its formation in the early verses of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul passes along with first importance. The Rule of Faith is recognized because it showed up so frequently in so many different places and by so many different writers. There was a core statement that was unchanging between the writers. Ireneus, Tertullian, and Origen are three of the writers where such a statement was common.

So many Christians believe that God just spoke the NT into being and then it appeared leather bond and thumb-indexed. The process was very involved and rather lengthy. It took two hundred years for the books to be discussed, rejected, and included. Revelation just barely snuck in. Enter the importance of the Rule of Faith. That is what holds it all together. That is what we live for. The Rule of Faith is the center of faith. It upholds the deity of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It affirms salvation through faith in Christ. You can add any number of things that are important, but these are the core.

People are nervous about affirming a hermeneutic that has a center, as if it is an innovation by people wanting to change things. These people are ignorant of church history. The Rule of Faith has been the governing centerpiece from the beginning. That is what governs our belief, not the extraneous sectarian confessions. Churches of Christ are part of the Restoration Movement which sought to move away from sectarian denomincationalism and creedal faith and be "Christians only and not the only Christians." The irony is almost comical.

"Those ignorant of history are destined to repeat it," perhaps even more so in church history.

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