In a few weeks, I begin my twentieth-eighth year teaching, my twentieth at BTSR. The realization has given me occasion to reflect on a number of matters. How has my thinking changed? Has my faith deepened?
A tradition at BTSR calls for elected faculty to make a confession of faith in opening convocation in their first semester. We are Baptists – we are not creedal. (One of my former colleagues at another institution used to say that he would not sign a creed even if he wrote it.) At BTSR, then, each faculty member composes his or her own statement of faith. As I approach the anniversary of my confession of faith in opening convocation, I have revisited that statement. Can I still affirm it as a concise but complete statement of my basic faith convictions? Yes, with only the addition of one phrase (in italics).
Much of what I said nearly 20 years ago has deeper meaning for me now, however, because in the meantime I have watched a world at war, humanity displaying its least human qualities of hatred and fear, and individuals whose actions seem transparent media of God’s love. I have taught hundreds of students, participated in scores of ordinations, reared four children to adulthood, lost my mother … In short, I have come to realize how desperately and determinedly I now believe these things. I invite you to consider my confession – not as a model or an example for you to emulate, but as my personal testimony. If God is willing, I may revisit it again in another twenty years.
I believe in one God who created the universe for good, who sustains it in wondrous order, and who calls it to fulfill its purpose in God.
I believe that God created human beings, male and female, in God’s own image, for communion with God and with one another. I believe, therefore, that God, whom we experience as personal, intends authentic personhood and relationship as the highest purpose for human beings.
I believe that the manifestations of God’s active benevolence toward creation are manifold, including:
God’s character revealed in the beauty, order, and majesty of the universe;
God’s revelation of a moral order, mysteriously the common heritage of all humanity;
God’s special relationship with Israel, later to include the Church;
God’s unique revelation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ;
God’s steadfast and continual involvement in human affairs to this day.
I believe that, since human beings fail to respond fully to God’s call to live out the purpose for which we were created, and since God is ever faithful to God’s purpose, God has always eagerly forgiven and restored those who trust God. I believe, further, that as the clearest statement of God’s love for creation, God in Christ reconciles the world to God’s self.
I believe that sacred scriptures, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, bear trustworthy witness to God’s character, God’s intention for creation, and God’s unshakable determination to effect God’s good purpose, especially as scripture bears testimony to God’s relationship with Israel, with the church, and quintessentially with all creation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
I believe that God calls those who trust God and seek to fulfill God’s will to relate to individuals and to society in ways which reflect God-likeness as taught in the Torah, exhorted in the Prophets, and modeled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ: namely, to demonstrate authentic personhood, to act toward others with steadfast benevolence, and to work for rightness in all spheres of life.
I believe that God, who created for good purpose, who patiently and unwaveringly loves even the most errant with love surpassing that of human mothers and fathers.
I believe that God – who has not left any age or any individual without evidence of that good purpose and faithfulness nor without the testimony of the Word who comes to all as light, life, and truth – will not cease working out that purpose for which God created and to which God calls all.
I believe that my hope for the world, for our lives in it, and for eternity rests on God’s faithfulness shown to all humanity throughout all ages, in particular to Israel and the church, and most especially as evidence in the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.