Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Hebrews 12:1-2
Within the last few weeks, a video of a woman leading worship and reciting a congregational creed was posted and reposted on multiple social media platforms. I do not know the woman or anything about her, nor did I try to find out because the points I make here are not about her. I assume she is sincere and well-intended in her efforts.
That said, let us take a look at the confession of faith caught on video. The words were as follows:
I believe in the nonbinary God whose pronouns are plural. I believe in Jesus Christ their child, who wore a fabulous tunic and had two dads and saw everyone as a sibling child of God. I believe in the calling to each of us that love is love is love. So beloved, let us love.
This affirmation of faith mimics the form of the traditional Christian confessions of faith – the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, but form is not substance. In just a few statements, she changed the essence of Christian faith. The faith founded and perfected in Jesus Christ, the faith for which so many have been persecuted and martyred, the faith that saved peoples in every century from every language and nation, that faith was cast aside in a few careless words.
Each of the following could be discussed at length, but just briefly…
1) God is Trinity – the Godhead, Three in One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, revealed in Scripture, experienced in the Church and in worship, before time, outside of time and through all time, eternal and immeasurable. God has revealed Himself to us in Trinitarian Being of one Essence, and as such, He is beyond our understanding. Nothing in the entirety of creation replicates the Holy Trinity, and eventually, all our words are insufficient to the reality of God. However, the inadequacy of human language is not permission to use any or all words to describe Him. What we can do is use the words given to us in the Scripture and the Creed and allow Him to lead us into His life, which is our salvation. Jesus knew God as His Father, and all people are invited to the same intimate communion with God, encountering and entering into the immutable and everlasting life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2) To say that God is nonbinary is an overt rejection of our Creator, as well as a denial of human beings as His created image. As just stated, God is Trinity, the Father the first Principle, the co-eternal Word calling creation into being, and the life-giving Spirit bringing order out of chaos. God does not possess gender at all, but He created binary human beings – male and female – to populate the earth. We need to recognize that nonbinary is a word used only in a particular generation among a miniscule percentage of the world population. It is destined to be a fleeting influence because it expresses a wish or desire without any basis in fact or function. To encourage people in any unreality is not loving; it is cruel. We must be self-deluding if we seek to ascribe untruth and unreality to the God Who is truth and created all that is real. But then, the heart of sin is self-delusion.
3) Jesus was the Son of God and Son of Mary, an individual Man Who was both fully Divine and fully human, and the only applicable pronoun is masculine. As the Son, He was begotten of the Father before all time, existing in the mystery of the Godhead with the Father and the Spirit. Likewise, just as God was portrayed as the Husband of Israel, so Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church into which the children of God are born through the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the participation of the Trinitarian God in the binary reality of human life.
4) While I understand the desire to make people in every situation and circumstance feel welcome in the church – and applaud the welcoming impulse – the church exists to draw people to Jesus Christ for salvation, not for affirmation. Jesus did not have two dads. This statement is such a profound distortion of the life and Person of Jesus Christ that I am not sure how it is to be applied. Perhaps the statement is meant to suggest Joseph was somehow involved in Jesus’ conception? I don’t know. It is an unintelligible statement. What I do know, however, is that to equate any human father with God is an error that requires sharply limiting God without exalting the human father. Such a claim subjugates God in service to human will and desire.
5) The Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, became incarnate in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Scripture makes clear (Matthew 1:16) that Joseph was the husband of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The closest analogy we have in contemporary society is that of stepfather. However, even that designation is inappropriate and misleading because Joseph was chosen by God to serve as Mary’s husband and Jesus’ protector. His role in Jesus’ life was unique and holy.
6) To say that Jesus wore a fabulous tunic is just… pointless. Jesus was a poor carpenter who wore the clothes of His time. Then He was a poor wandering preacher without a place to lay His head.
7) God does desire for all people to be saved, and being born into the family of God is Christian salvation. Jesus commanded us to love God and one another. Yet, the love of God – the love we are to emulate – is a sacrificial, self-giving love for the good of the other. All loves are not the same, though that is perhaps the greatest lie we tell ourselves. If we can just say that all of life boils down to love, and all love is holy, just, and good, then we never have to be frank about love of self masquerading as love of others. We are a selfish people, and the capacity to love as God loves is grown through sacrifice and self-denial. We cannot truly desire the best for others if we are seeking to get what we want from others. Because selfish loves are ungodly, all human love pales by comparison to the love with which God loves.
There is so much more that could be said. We need to understand that, if we strive to change God to accommodate the ideas of the world, we lose everything. The Gospel has been revealed to us. It is not a story anyone would make up, which is why so many have been willing to change it over the centuries into something a bit more palatable, a little more to our liking. The ancient culture into which Jesus was born did not welcome the Gospel, and that world crucified Jesus. In our generation, false creeds in His name purge His message and crucify Him again.
We do not have permission to change the Gospel that was handed down to us. When I think of the great cloud of witnesses, I think of my grandmothers, yes, but I also think of Nathaniel, flayed alive in India for preaching Christ crucified and resurrected, or Peter, crucified upside down in Rome. Perpetua, a beautiful, young noblewoman still nursing her infant son, and Felicitas, who had given birth to a daughter just days earlier, were martyred by gladiators in Carthage in AD 203. Polycarp (AD 155), disciple of the Apostle John, was burned at the stake before a crowd of thousands, or Maximus (AD 662) who died after his tongue was cut out and hand cut off by ecclesial officials to stop him from defending the faith against heresy. More Christians were martyred for their faith in the twentieth century than in the prior twenty centuries combined. All of these and so many more are in the great cloud of witnesses.
No one is required to be Christian, although God desires that all would come to Him. What we can never do, however, is change the Gospel and call that Christian. Perhaps everything in the alternative creed above is true. I do not think any of it is true, but for a moment, let’s pretend it is. If all of those statements are true, then whatever religion is defined there is a new religion we should follow. But let us at least be honest that whatever it is, it isn’t Christian. Christianity is the religion of the crucified God.
At heart, the Good News is that the God Who created all that is has come into the world in His Son to save us from the sin, death, and evil that plague and destroy us. By giving us His Spirit, we are born to new life in Christ, and we become true children of God, co-heirs with Christ to our Father’s Kingdom. However inconvenient and difficult are faith today, we are not being slaughtered violently for holding fast to the faith we inherited. In every circumstance, we are called to follow Jesus Christ and endure for the joy of the Kingdom.
To become the new, we must die to the old. If we want to know the God Who gave Himself to save us, we cannot ask Him to join us in our habits of death. Sin is fun until we discover it has mastered us. If you hear a message that celebrates who we are and does not cultivate humility and repentance for our rebellion against God, don’t believe it. When sin has mastered us and evil owns us, there is no hope to be found in a false faith.
Christian faith has not changed. The Lord continues to call each by name, to come to Him and to follow Him. Offering Him the sacrifice of our lives of sin and death, we receive immeasurable joy and abundant life.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau