The Essential Tenets of the Christian Faith
Annotated Version:  Why choose these?

You may notice that these essentials are essentially the same as those proposed back in the 1920’s debates between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists.  This is deliberate.  The debate is now said to be between the Conservatives and the Progressives. But as C. S. Lewis once noted, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”  Refusing to define essentials and enforce them is where the Presbyterian Church went wrong in the 1920’s – what better way to address that than to go back and fix the mistake?

“Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” Revelation 19:1

 “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of 
Jesus Christ from the dead.”
I Peter 1:3
Joyfully and humbly, as undeserving recipients of the gracious work of God through Jesus Christ, we
confess these essentials of our shared faith.


We Affirm ...

… the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  The one true God exists in three Persons: Father, Son and
Holy Spirit.
  We believe that each Person of the Trinity is engaged in all that God has done, does now,
and will yet do. The LORD our God is the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
The word “trinity” is not in the Bible, but the concept of the trinity is all over the New Testament.
We did not make this up about God, it is what He has revealed to us about Himself.  It is not illogical,
because it is logical to believe that some things can and must be true for the Creator that would not
be true about His creation.  Why this then?  Because that is what He has revealed to us through
Jesus – the Word made flesh.

... the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God, the authoritative, and infallible rule of our faith and practice. Since before the earliest Councils, Christians took their attitude about the Scriptures from Jesus, who clearly considered the Old Testament to be the written word of God, which he said “could not be broken.”  The early Church trusted that the Holy Spirit likewise inspired the writing of letters and Gospels for the New Covenant as He did for the Old Covenant.  It is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives the Bible its authority.  Its human authors were the means, and God Himself the cause of these writings, their collection, and their canonicity.

... the historic actuality of the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and his divine/human nature.  The two natures of Christ, along with the doctrine of the trinity is one of the key doctrines decided on by the early Councils of the Church.  If Jesus were not fully human, but only appeared to be human, then he did not really suffer and did not really pay the price for our sins.  If Jesus were not uniquely the son of God and God Himself, that changes the understanding of the atonement and John 3:16 would have to read, “For God so loved the world that He gave someone else’s son…”  The historic actuality of the virgin birth is affirmed because historically, that is what was claimed about his birth by those who witnessed the events (history matters) and grounds both his divine and human nature in that historical fact.

... the historic actuality of the miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ as conveyed to us in the pages of Holy Scripture.  Again, this affirmation is critical to maintaining the claims of the Church being objectively real, and not some subjective opinion or mythology.  The question should never be can God do the miraculous – if He is God then He can – but does He?  The historic claims of the Church are that He did, and He still does.  Christianity is objectively real or it is of no importance.

... the efficacy of the substitutionary atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins being both necessary and sufficient.  As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.”  Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary to fulfill the justice of God, because His grace does not negate His justice, it fulfills it by paying the price for sin.  His death is also sufficient because nothing else is required for your salvation than to accept the unmerited favor (grace) freely offered by the one who paid the price for our sins.  Otherwise, we must account (pay for) our own sins, and none of us could provide or survive the payment.

... the historic actuality of the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again.  As Paul said in I Corinthians 15, “if there is no resurrection from the dead, let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”  The Gospel is the good news that we do not live on merely in the memories of loved ones, or the deeds we accomplished here, but we are raised perfected in faith, given new bodies in which we will inhabit the Kingdom that is to Come.  Jesus is the first fruits of that resurrection.  He did not rise in the imagination or hopes of the apostles, but he presented himself by many proofs to as many as 500 who knew him.  He is risen, indeed – and in fact!  And he promised he would return to personally put an end to Salvation History and open the books on the Kingdom that is to Come.  He promised it, we believe it, and we look forward to the day – maranatha!

These (and many more) basics of the faith have been handed on down over the centuries through the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds.  So why are these six singled out?  First, because they are part of the orthodox faith that has been recognized and passed down over the centuries.  Second, because they speak to the “post-modern” mindset that is in our culture and too much of the Church.  The fact is that “post-modernism” has already proven to be a dead end and philosophers have moved on to other considerations (check into “critical realism” for example) but the media and the culture lag significantly behind such developments, so “post-modernism” is still the vogue (or zeitgeist) that needs to be addressed.  There is a real God, who has a fixed nature of his own choosing (apart from our knowledge, agreement, or vote) and he has chosen to reveal certain things about himself to us, or we would never know.  Christianity is based on revelation – God’s choosing to reveal some things about who he is and what he has intended toward us in creation, redemption, and the promise of eternal life through his son, Jesus!  That fact that we don’t all agree on what that revelation is or what it means, in no way affects the reality of who God is and what He is about.

So, we offer these affirmations to speak God’s unchanging truth to a constantly shifting culture in hopes of speaking clearly the unchanging good news of Jesus Christ, to the Glory of God the Father!

Please send your questions and comments to:
responses@nationalcovenantpresbyterian.org