Our common Christian faith in ten articles

The great articles of our common Christian faith, as outlined by Frederick C. Grant in a time of world-wide crisis

In the summer of 1937, following the ecumenical conferences in Oxford and Edinburgh, Episcopal scholar Frederick C. Grant published a fifteen-page essay in which he presented a ten-point summary of “our basic faith” and discussed these points “in the light of our present-day knowledge, with especial reference to the conception of Christianity as the world religion.”

The ten articles could serve as the beginning point for discussions today of the faith that Christians confess in common, and they could stimulate a new discussion of how this faith relates to the issues of Christian life in our own world. (The first step in the discussion would be to revise these points into language that is not gender-bound.)

1. We believe in God, who is supreme, who is one, who is living and active and concerned with the life of the world and with the lives of individual human beings—who is, in short, the one described in the Bible as “the living God.”

2. We believe that God is a person and has a will and purpose for the world, and that he requires certain things of men and nations if they are to live in accordance with his purpose. National, indeed racial, survival depends upon obedience to this will of God; and individuals are equally amenable to his will.

3. God has not left mankind to find out his will, as best they can, by their own initiative or efforts. He has revealed himself and his will to men. This has taken place slowly and gradually, over many centuries and in many lands: God’s self-revelation culminated in the Incarnation, that is, his self-manifestation in Jesus of Nazareth.

4. This revelation is found not only in the words and deeds of Jesus, but in his whole person, his spirit, his attitude toward life, his interpretation of life’s meaning and his unveiling of that meaning in his whole life and character.

5. The sin of the world, that is, our falling-short of this divine standard, is removed by God in Christ “reconciling the world unto himself”—specifically in his death on the cross; and through his resurrection has come a new power that enables men to live in accordance with his revelation of God’s will and of man’s capacities, as redeemed.

6. The church is the Body of Christ, the extension of his Incarnation, the fellowship of his redeemed; and its work consists chiefly in the ministry of word and sacrament, whereby the kingdom of God is enlarged, and more and more persons are brought into the divine fellowship. (This is not to deny God’s “uncovenanted mercies”; for God is not limited to our ministry; but these are the normal means for saving men and drawing them into the circle of the divine life—the “life in grace.”)

7. We believe in the forgiveness of sins, and the reconciliation of individuals, classes, and nations, through appropriation or sharing in Christ’s spirit; and that the goal of human progress, or of human development in accordance with the divine intention, is possible of attainment through the renewal or regeneration which is in Christ—and in no other way.

8. We believe in eternal life, as a sharing in the very life of God himself, the Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of life. But we do not understand this as a substitute for “social” effort. Rather, the full realization of the ethic of salvation means the coming of the kingdom of God upon earth, where all mankind shall be one harmonious, peaceable, because righteous, family of children of the one God and Father of us all. Christian eschatology does not “cut the nerve of social action,” but inspires it. “Apart from these ye cannot be saved.”

9. The Christian ethic is summed up in an ideal of the highest justice, which is love: or conversely, of the highest love, which is supreme justice and righteousness. Neither is a substitute for the other; at the highest level, they coincide.

10. No formal definitions can state exhaustively the content of this basic Christian faith; for essentially it is a faith rooted in life, that is, in experience and in action. “He that doeth the will [of God] shall know of the doctrine…” Naturally, then, no definition can do more than shadow forth, symbolically, the meaning of the new life in Christ, which passes understanding and goes beyond words. But we do not hesitate to affirm that, so far as human word can convey this transcendent meaning, the language of the Bible, and that of the historic creeds and liturgies, hymns and other devotions and statements of doctrine of the churches, do convey as they were designed to convey, the meaning of this new life in Christ and its significance for all men everywhere.

Frederick C. Grant, “Our Basic Faith,” in Christendom 3 (1938), 337-351.

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2 Responses to Our common Christian faith in ten articles

  1. Rod Reeves says:

    Well Keith, I’ve long maintained the notion that the summer of ’37 was a momentous time being the summer of my birth. (smile) Now, I’m reminded that important ecumenical conferences in Oxford etc.; Edinburgh took place approximately the same time as my arrival on Mother Earth.

    A ton of evolving changing perceptions within the larger Christian community has been under process over the past 74 years since the summer of ’37, not long after which Frederick Grant wrote his 10 point summary of our basic faith. It is a stretch to claim today the 10 points he listed represents “the faith that Christians confess in common.”

    Four examples from his list of “ten points.”

    Point Two: Today, more so than I suspect in ’37, many self described Christians do not perceive ‘God’ to be a “person” or a “being” as we think of a person or being. Rather, as Marcus Borg points out in his latest book, Speaking Christian (2011), many Christians experience ‘God’ more as a prevasive sacred presence, “the one in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), or to use Borg’s offered simple analogy, “we are in God as fish are in water”. The whole notion of pan*en*theism (everything is in God) in contrast to pantheism or theism, reflects, based on my growing anecdotal observation, the increasing sensibility of an increasing number of Christians in the 21st century. Borg further appropriately affirms, in my view, it is ok to personify God in the language of worship, devotion, and relationship. But it is a stretch to call the language of worship engaging in common confession, since the language for many, likely most participants, is understood literally, and for many, as largely metaphoric language.

    Point Five: Again, primarily based on my own anecdotal experience and observation, more self described Christians, have increasing difficulty integrating into their Christian world and life view the notion that the God of their worship participated in a salvific plan of redeeming “the sin of the world” via a process of *redemptive violence* in the blood (death by crucifixion) of Jesus, executed about two thousand years ago outside the walls of Jerusalem at the Place of the Skull, called Golgotha.

    Point Seven: There is within Christianity a pretty wide consensus, I think, in “we believe in the forgiveness of sins” — but the notion that forgiveness and transformation “which is in Christ — and in no other way”, is a form of Christian triumphalism that many Christians today (more so I suspect than in ’37) do not share as part of “our basic faith.”

    Point Ten: Much of the language of the Bible, historic creeds and liturgies and hymns is read by more and more self described Christians, metaphorically, rather than literally. My children’s generation is much more grounded, than Frederick C.Grant’s generation, in the classic quote of Joseph Campbell in his The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (page 56): “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck to its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”

    Keith, thanks for your post of Grant’s “10 point summary of Our Basic Faith.” There are likely more diverse widely different dynamics at play today, than in the summer of my birth, 1937, beyond a less gender-based language, to be vetted, in attempting to claim “the faith that Christians confess in common.”

    • I agree that more needs to be updated than the gender-biased language that was the normal speech of most people when Grant wrote his summary. A challenge facing people who would reflect upon these ten articles is to start by examining what they actually say. Most of them quickly lead to theological elaborations, some of which are helpful and persuasive, some of which are not. Some theological discussions today reject any statement that even has hints that could be elaborated as redemptive violence or substitutionary atonement. The result is that other doctrines that elaborate upon Jesus’ death and God’s participation in forgiveness are rejected out of hand. In his essay “Atonement Theologies and the Cross,” published in “Encounter” (Winter 2010), Clark Williamson notes that “the past is a source of forgotten alternatives.” A good discussion of Grant’s ten articles would include remembering some of these forgotten alternatives, and maybe some others from our own time. Thank you for your strong, informed response to the posting.

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