Saturday, April 26, 2008

why i'm not simply "christian"

in the day of on-line communities and our cultures obsession with self-evaluation and list making, it is curious that one can so easily identify themselves by selecting ready made profile from a list of pre-labeled adjectives.

on facebook, myspace, or a host of other message boards, blogs, and other communities, it is not uncommon to see several people involved who have labeled themselves "christian", but who never seem to agree on anything regarding religious beliefs.

this has come into play in my life as well. when people ask me to come speak or preach, or write something for them, they usually ask for some kind of spiritual biography and statement of what i believe. this includes those within my own "denomination", the southern baptist convention.

unfortunately, those who have labeled themselves christian can disagree over the infallibility and sufficiency of scripture, not to mention varying views of what is and isn't sin.

there are churches who talk about "resurrection" who do not believe christ physically rose from the dead. but if you were to ask "do you believe in christ's resurrection?" "of course i do!" would be the enthusiastic response. this is because when they say christ was resurrected, they mean his spirit and teachings lived on through his disciples.. giving them "life".

of course words to have meaning. there is intended meaning, historical meaning and usage and others ways to know what is meant by words used. if this were not the case, communication through language would effectivley break down.
however, the fact remains that though words do have meaning, misuse and misapplied meanings result in confusion and misunderstanding which in turn demands the need for clarification.

because of this and the different circumstances this places me in, i have prepared a document that i send out when people inquire about my beliefs as a pastor.
(i added emphasis and links to references for purposes of this post...and because the situations in which i send this document are usually formal... the document uses capitalization.. i hope you are not disappointed, however, feel free to leave "sell-out" comments).

my hope is that this will encourage anyone who reads to think carefully about being clear when someone asks us what we believe. we may not always have time to go through an entire historical and theological presentation, but we can be careful to be explicit about our beliefs, and to not assume people understand what we mean if we just say "christian."

***this document is not meant to convey that only southern baptists can be christians, only to more accurately and directly represent my views on basic matters of the faith.

As a boy, I became a Christian when I repented of my
sins and placed my faith in Jesus Christ alone as my only
hope of salvation. Were it an ideal world, simply having the
title “Christian” would be sufficient enough to know what I
as a “Christian” believe and what I as a “Christian pastor”

Unfortunately, for thousands of years there have been
disagreements between those calling themselves “Christian”
on what should be even the most basic of Christian beliefs.
Because of this, it has become necessary to make further
distinctions in order to know with more certainty what a specific
“Christian” believes. One of these distinctions is made with the
title of Baptist.

I am a fourth generation Southern Baptist minister. My father
is a Southern Baptist minister, as was his father and my father’s
grandfather. As a Southern Baptist, I hold to and teach in
accordance with historic Southern Baptist beliefs such as
those represented in The Baptist Faith and Message

Due to the length of The Baptist Faith and Message , it's wide
range of topics, and potential confusion over previous revisions,
I have found it helpful to reproduce the enclosed document,
the Abstract of Principles, as an additional yet more concise
historic Southern Baptist confession and representation of my
doctrinal and theological views.

The Abstract of Principles is a document that was prepared by
James Boyce, the first president of the first seminary of the
Southern Baptist Convention - The Southern Baptist Theological
. This document was the first official confession
of faith ever endorsed by Southern Baptists.
Its message
and integrity has remained biblically solid throughout its 150 years.

It is my prayer that this document will assist you in knowing the
most basic of my beliefs and teachings as a Christian, a Southern
Baptist, and a pastor.

To God alone Be the Glory,
Stephen Lee Cavness

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