Personal Statement of Beliefs

Copyright © 1997, Henry E. Neufeld

Note: This statement was made at the request of my church at the time. I have not revised it since 1997. I’d probably word some things differently now, though in general I’m still happy with this.

This statement is a very basic statement with regard to my beliefs about Biblical inspiration. Each statement is linked to a slightly longer comment on the same topic. A more detailed discussion of my views can be found in my essay “Inspiration and Sources of Authority for the Christian.”

I believe

  • [1] that the scriptures are an inspired record of the experience of some of the children of God with their creator and is thus both human and divine (Psalm 78, Gen. 2:7, 2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Timothy 3:14-17)
  • [2] that the living, creative Word of God can be discerned in the interaction between these children of God and their creator (Hebrews 4:12, 1 John 3:1-3)
  • [3] that the creator is also to be perceived partially in and through the physical world (Romans 1:20-23)
  • [4] that the experiencing of God reflected in the canonical scriptures is the standard by which a Christian should measure his or her own personal experience but that it should not be used to limit its extent or depth (1 John 4:1-7, 2 Corinthians 4:2)
  • [5] that the greatest revelation of God occurs in the living incarnate Word, or Message, Jesus of Nazareth (Hebrews 1:1-3, John 1:1-18)
  • [6] that the fundamental and critical task of the church is to witness to the living Word in the world, and to live the life of Christ before the world (Mt 5:13-16, John 13:35, James 1:27, Micah 6:8)
  • [7] that the present reality of the church as Christ’s body should be the confirmation of the Christian message, the true power of the gospel (Ezekiel 33:23, Romans 1:16, 17, 2 Corinthians 4:2)
  • [8] that there is a major disparity between the reality of the church and this ideal, and that this disparity presents us with our greatest challenge as Christians

Commentary follows by section number

1. The scriptures are inspired, or God-breathed, meaning that the source of the revelation or experience ultimately is God. The recipients of the message are human, and we receive the recipients’ view of the message, that is, how they experienced God. I believe that too much weight is placed on the first part of 2 Timothy 3:16, and too little on the last part and on verse 17. The declaration that the scriptures are profitable (16) and that they are for equipping people for good work of every kind. The profitability for doctrine gets excessive weight along with the somewhat ambiguous “God-breathed.” God breathes life into man. This is the creative breath, and illustrates its combination with the human. (cf the hymn, “Breathe on me breath of God”) For example, in Genesis 2:7, when God breathes into the man he has formed, the man does not become inerrant nor purely divine. The divine-human combination is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 4:7 and 1 Corinthians 13:12. In the latter verse, Paul is willing to admit his limitations even in a letter in which he is trying to establish his own authority. Return to Top

2. The purpose of inspired writing is not the satisfaction of our curiosity, but the final, practical goal of preparation for a life of service. “The word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing so deeply that it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it discriminates among the purposes and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The living Word deals with the inner person. Return to Top

3. Since God is the source of the physical realm, it must, in some way reflect His nature. “The heavens tell out the glory of God, heaven’s vault makes known his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1). We should take the revelation in the natural realm more seriously. Return to Top

4. The revelation is experience and ultimately is intended to produce experience. Return to Top

5. I call myself a Christian not because of any set of doctrines about God, but because I consider Jesus of Nazareth, in his human person, the greatest revelation of the character of God. This revelation is completed in his death which demonstrates on the one hand the extent to which good is willing to go, and on the other the extent to which evil will go in response. Return to Top

6. This is the prophetic calling of the church. This is often misunderstood as a call to be gadflies, to annoy our neighbors into heaven, but the greatest calling we have is to live and demonstrate the life of Jesus Christ. I note that the prophets were not called to the people of other communities for the most part, but were rather called to their own faith community. Their faith community was to be the demonstration. This does not eliminate speaking of our experience to others, it merely places it at a much lower priority. Living the word is the Christian duty. It seems to me that most of our talking is taken up in explaining why we have failed to live up to our calling. Return to Top

7/8. When we look for objective evidence we are usually speaking about the past. Whether or not miracles have taken place in the past is not really relevant unless we are discussing something similar which can happen right now. And if something similar can happen right now, where is it? I believe that the one thing which is most promised, which is a change of heart is where we, as Christians, have made the greatest failure. I admit this to those who are not Christians and I give it as a challenge to those who are. Return to Top