We feel it important to share with you some of the doctrines we intentionally strive to stress on a regular basis in order that the saints of Trinity grow in Christ and in the knowledge of God through His Word (from our Philosophy of Ministry Statement).
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word “evangelical.” In the past this word served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those defined by Biblical theology and defended by the great councils of the church. In addition to this, “evangelicals” also shared a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. We believe that today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning.
Having said that, we structure what we believe, using the “solas” of the Reformation as a guide.
1. We Believe in Sola Scriptura: The Scripture alone
In practice, the church is guided far too often by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions, and what it offers than does the Word of God. As Biblical authority and theology has been abandoned, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority, and direction.
Consequently, we affirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We also deny that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can be a vehicle of revelation (2 Tim. 3:16).
2. We Believe in Solus Christus: Christ alone
We live in a day where absolute values have given way to permissive individualism, where wholeness has been substituted for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. People in the church are too often living for the seen instead of the unseen (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Consequently, we affirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father. We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and the unsaved are not challenged to place their faith in Christ alone to save them (John 14:1-6; 1 Tim. 2:5).
3. We Believe in Sola Gratia: Grace alone
Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical worldâ€”from the self-esteem gospel to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works.
Consequently, we believe that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace; that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by His grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques, or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerate human nature, it is a gift sovereignly bestowed by God’s grace (Eph. 2:1-10).
4. We Believe in Sola Fide: Faith alone
Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Many “evangelicals” have allowed discontent for this message to dictate the nature of the ministry and what it is we are preaching. For instance, many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the Biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are often divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the Biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ’s cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations and businesses.
Consequently, we believe that the gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ alone. In justification, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice. We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns â€œsola fideâ€ can be recognized as a legitimate church (Rom. 1:16,17; 5:1,2).
5. We Believe in Soli Deo Gloria: To the Glory of God alone
Wherever in the church Biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: Our interests have displaced God’s and we are doing His work in our way. The loss of the centrality of God in the life of today’s church is far too common.
God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God’s kingdom and glory alone.
Consequently, we believe that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify Him always. We must live our lives before the face of God, under the authority of God, and for His glory alone. We also deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, or if self-improvement, self-esteem, or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:31).