The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective was developed in 1995, and is the most recent systematic statement of belief for Mennonite Church USA. In its introduction, the writers identify six ways that confessions of faith serve the church, including: providing guidelines for interpretation of Scripture; providing guidance for belief and practice; build a foundation for unity within and among churches; offer outlines for instruction new church members or faith “inquirers”; give an updated interpretation of belief and practice “in the midst of changing times”: and help with discussing Mennonite belief and practice with other Christians or people from other faith traditions.
Over the course of the next several months, we will be releasing “roundtable posts”, featuring two to three members of Mennonite Church USA congregations reflecting on an article from the Confession of Faith and how it impacts their ministry, congregational life and theology. We’ll move through the articles in numerical order.
Today’s authors are reflecting on Article 4: Scripture. Writers appear in alphabetical order. The views expressed do not necessarily represent the official positions of The Mennonite staff, the board for The Mennonite, Inc., or Mennonite Church USA.
Lesley Francisco McClendon is youth pastor at Calvary Community Church (C3) in Hampton, Virginia and also the founder and CEO of The Greatness Agency.
After much consideration on the Confession of Faith, I offer a few thoughts.
As a pastor and teacher of Scripture, one of the main questions I often ponder is, are the people of God immersing themselves in Scripture and incarnating it?
I have a profound love of Scripture. I think people should take Scripture more seriously and not just throw it away as some old school fairy tale that has no bearing on our lives today.
Even in that love of the holy writing,s my only drawback would be that sometimes Scripture can be seen as the end rather than God. We still must be sensitive to listen to the voice of God. Scripture is what leads us to God, but it isn’t the main thing: God is. We have to be careful not to idolize Scripture as an end-all and exalt that above a relationship with a living, breathing, caring God.
However, I do think it is very difficult to know God apart from Scripture. Scripture tells us about God. After all, Scripture is our guideline for living a life that pleases God here in the earth.
The biggest takeaway from Scripture for me would be the power of Scripture to change lives due to application of the word of God. I’m a personal witness that biblical application can change one’s life. In fact, our church’s theme verse, Romans 12:2, deals with transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We must be sensitive to allow the Holy Spirit to interpret in our lives how we can practically understand the Bible. I understand that it was inspired by the Spirit and written by men, but the way those men communicated could be different than how God may want you to understand it.
Have you ever played the game telephone? Someone gives you a message and you spread it to others until finally, when the last person receives the message, it is often misconstrued? I think that’s what happens when people don’t understand Scripture correctly. They’ve been through so many different lines of communication, when really you need to be connected to the giver of the message. We were never created to have a second-hand relationship with God, but rather a first-hand one for ourselves.
Peter Goerzen is Campus Pastor at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “I rejoice in your word. . . I hope in your word. . . Your word is a light to my path” (Psalm 119). The Word illuminates the glory of God. I would expect this glorious Word to be written across the heavens in stars fixed forever for all to behold the timeless truth of God!
Yet the Bible is full of the customs, cultures, worldviews, and literary devices of particular ancient peoples and languages. Many passages confuse, perplex and even offend us. How can the God revealed on the cross order the merciless slaughter of thousands? Careful readers note numerous points of disagreement within the Scriptures. This is a collection of writings spanning over a thousand years, often originating in oral tradition, collected and written by dozens of authors, revised by scores of editors, and copied and translated by thousands of scribes and scholars.
How can the Confession possibly claim such writings, so smudged up with the fingerprints of very fleshly human history, to be the “fully reliable and trustworthy Word of God written,” the “standard for Christian faith and life”? The Confession states that we simply “content ourselves” that this is so because of God’s faithfulness.
I find myself desiring more than self-referential piety. Paul wrote, “What the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit,” yet it is flesh and blood that has collected, written, edited, copied, and translated the Scriptures.
This is precisely the surprising glory of the Word. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14). When the Word of God enters the frailty of human existence and history, that is the moment that the glory of God has been disclosed. For the Confession, the written Word has its “center and fulfillment” in this Incarnate Word. Likewise, for me, the Bible’s authority comes from its testimony to and reflection of Jesus Christ, tested by many witnesses on many occasions in history.
Through the Bible, the Spirit “breathes” not in timeless theological systems, but incarnationally, within the circumstances of history, culture, and language, to evoke and empower our lively and faithful response before God. So I offer myself humbly and joyfully to the very human and therefore imperfect and imprecise – and also glorious – task of studying and keeping the Word.