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.