This post is a bit different from the sort of thing that I normally write about, but I think it’s important that it gets written at some point. Everybody in the world has a perspective; everybody has a slightly different way of looking at everything. For Christians, this worldview is inevitably affected by your church or your denominational background (for those not familiar with denominations, they’re different branches of Christianity, such as Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Methodist etc.) Of course, I’m including myself in that sweeping statement. The vast majority, or perhaps all, of my blog posts will have been shaped by my specific Christian background, from the subject matter, through to interpretations and even language. I want to be honest about this and admit up front that I write from a biased perspective. As, I believe, does everyone. You’re reading this from a biased perspective. That’s not bad, that’s just the diversity of humanity. My intention in writing this is to make you aware of what my bias is so that, hopefully, you’ll see why I write the way I do.
I have been to one local church all my life. It’s a fairly small church, with a total congregation of about 150 I suppose, though I may be slightly off with that, but the point is, it’s hardly a mega-church. I like this; it means that you get to know the majority of people and build up proper relationships (which I think is very important in a church). During my time at the church, we have had 2 pastors along with an interim leadership team between the two. My parents were a part of this leadership team, so it’s fair to say that I’ve been brought up in such a way as to try and be involved in the church which also, I assume, means you’re more likely to be open to accepting the specific teachings of your church.
I think one of the most important things about my church is that we are non-denominational. At the moment, we are linked with a South African non-denominational movement called 4:12, but we are not part of an official denominational body like the Church of England. On a fundamental level, the first important point to make is that I am a Protestant, not a Catholic, and do not recognise the authority of the Pope. That might seem very basic, but I just wanted to make it clear. This has other implications as well, for example I do not pray to Saints, have never been to a Mass and have not been Confirmed. Also, I have never read the Apocrypha (though I would like to at some point, just out of interest). Now, another part of being non-denominational means that we are not part of any hierarchical church system. We are not part of the Church of England either, so we don’t have the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury over us. That said, I agree with more in the C of E than I do in Catholicism, but that’s part of being a Protestant. Just to finish up this paragraph of what my church is not, I should just note that we don’t have a common prayer book or a specific hymn book or anything like that.
Now for the other side of this, the things from the church that have influenced my worldview. I think the importance of the Bible is one of the central things, as well as the emphasis on a proper relationship with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. I have had a lot of really good, Biblical teaching during my time at the church, especially in small group settings were questions were encouraged and we could pursue any problems we had in serious, sincere discussions. I think this is a fantastic environment for a young Christian to grow up in and I am so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity.
In terms of specific doctrines, I can’t remember anything being forced on me. Obviously, the divinity, death and resurrection of Jesus is seen as essential by my church, but in terms of the finer details of Scripture, I have never been forced to accept a specific interpretation. For some, this might not be ideal, I know that, but for me, I have thrived in being able to research things for myself. I maintain that one of the most important things for a Christian is to have the confidence to check things out for themselves, to make sure that what they are being taught is in line with the Bible and God’s will. Without the confidence to do that, I don’t think my faith would ever have been strong in any way; I’ve benefited so much from researching and making sure that I know what I believe.
I feel that it’s important to reiterate some of my specific beliefs so that readers no where I’m coming from in my posts. I believe in the authority of the Bible, but I do not take every sentence literally because it’s clearly not written like that. It’s a diverse collection of texts containing different styles and genres and should be treated appropriately. That said, I believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as detailed in the canonical gospels. I believe in the Holy Trinity and the presence of the Holy Spirit on Earth. I believe that people are saved by God’s grace, through faith. I believe that the Old Testament is relevant to our lives but should be interpreted through the New Testament. I believe in an afterlife but I have not researched the shape of that yet. I believe in a resurrection after afterlife. I believe that Christ will one day return to renew Creation, therefore I believe that the eternal life of the righteous is physical and spiritual, not just spiritual in heaven. I believe in the equal value of all humans but I do not believe that all humans were created with the same abilities. I believe that God is still active now.
That’s not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will have given readers a sense of my worldview, along with the previous paragraphs. I really hope this is useful for visitors to my blog, and I also recommend taking the time to think about your own worldview: how it’s been shaped and what it consists of. It’s important to know what you believe.