Since we're Calvinists and we value John Calvin's interpretation of scripture, it seems appropriate to use the word “TULIP” to structure this statement of faith. Given its length, I recognize that this statement is certainly not exhaustive. And, because of its length, I have chosen not to offer biblical references for the specific points. Still, I feel that what follows offers a brief summary of what we believe.
Although we share in the fundamental goodness of creation, we believe human beings are totally sinful. Though the source of sin may be debated, its reality seems clear. We trust in ourselves, rather than God. We determine for ourselves right and wrong. We even presume to define God and the divine will. As a result, we reject the One who created us and worship the ones whom we have created and whom we control. Sin establishes a separation between ourselves and God. Generally, we are not concerned about this chasm, because we seem content to worship and serve the idols we have made in our own image. Left on our own, we are truly lost, lacking both the ability and the desire to bridge the gap. This is power of sin, a reality that can only be broken by death.
Fortunately, though, we have hope. Because God is perfect in love, God desires to have a relationship with us, even though we seem to have no interest in having a relationship with anything other than the narcissistic idols we have built. And because God is perfect in freedom, God has the power to establish that relationship despite our opposition and indifference. This is the core of unconditional election: that before the foundation of the earth, God decided to break the power of sin so that we might understand the truth, feel the peace, and experience hope. God decided to give us the opportunity to enjoy eternal life, to know righteousness, and to worship the creator right now. In election, God took the initiative.
And God established this righteous relationship through Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, the incarnate Word, the definitive revelation of God. In Christ, the eternal entered the temporal. The omnipresent entered human space. The omnipotent assumed our flesh. And through Christ, God revealed both God’s freedom and love. For example, by stilling the storms, curing diseases, and casting out demons, Jesus showed that God was free from those forces that limit us. Yet, through the compassion he felt toward those in need and the love he showed to the lost, Jesus revealed that God is loving. The most definitive evidence of this revelation is the cross and empty tomb, because in that single event (if we define the crucifixion and resurrection as a single, intricately connected event) God demonstrated freedom over that which most clearly shows our limitations. God also revealed love by having Christ, the second Adam, the perfect human, suffer both separation and death and yet later rise to new life and fellowship with God. As a result, by our participation in the death of Christ, the power of sin was broken. We also have an absolute assurance that death does not have the final say; as Christ was raised, so will we. Unfortunately, though, neither the coming of Christ nor his death and resurrection changed our nature.
As shown by his reception on earth, our ability and desire to accept what God had done remained the same until the coming of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. The Spirit, promised by Christ and sent by God, changed both our ability and desire. Working through the word, written and proclaimed, and the sacraments and moving through the church, both visible and invisible; the Holy Spirit broke into our lives, giving us a real choice. For the first time, we no longer have to worship our plaster gods, those idols that look, sound, and think like us. Instead, thanks to the Spirit, we can see the freedom and love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Thanks to the Spirit, we can respond to the grace shown to us by God.
In other words, we now have a choice. On one hand, we can accept this election that was accomplished without our knowledge or assistance, and we can respond to this grace that broke into our lives without our permission or approval. We can acknowledge that we will be saved, and we can live our lives in gratitude for this salvation. We can follow the example set by Christ, the disciples and that great cloud of witnesses that surround us all the time. And we can persevere, knowing that “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” On the other hand, we can pretend that God did not choose to love us, that Christ did not come, and that the Holy Spirit does not enlighten. We can continue to worship the gods we create and that we control. And we can face our own mortality, hoping that our gods actually have real freedom and feel genuine love. Still, regardless of that choice, the actions of God are eternal, the work of Christ already accomplished and the presence of the Spirit is still moving. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, our destiny and the destinies of those around us were, are and will continue to be in God’s hands. In short, this is what we believe.