Blue Ridge Church is made up of believers who've come from a variety of spiritual (and non-spiritual) backgrounds, and we seek to live out the spirit of the saying In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. This phrase, attributed to Marco Antonio de Dominis and often repeated by the early Protestant Reformers, points us to the truth that a handful of essential beliefs are held by all Biblical Christians (the physical life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the triune nature of God, etc.) Of a secondary nature, though certainly not unimportant, are such questions as the mode of baptism, worship music, and similar things in which Scripture appears to offer support for more than one view, with no absolute command from God. In these secondary concerns, we should allow liberty within the context of what Scripture supports, and not break fellowship with other sincere Christians who see them differently. And in all things, love for our fellow man--particularly those who belong to God's Church--should prevail.
Thus, there's no way a brief statement can tell you all of what we believe, but we do subscribe to some traditional Christian creeds and statements of faith that help express our theology. All of them are human attempts to understand and encapsulate the truth of our vast and infinite God, and we acknowledge them to be helpful, but not all-encompassing. Therefore, they are offered as guides, and we value them precisely to the extent to which they reflect and summarize God's Holy Word in Scripture.
No member of Blue Ridge Church is bound to specifically confess every tenet of any of the confessions, creeds, or catechisms, though elders and deacons affirm that they assent to their truth as it reflects Scripture. Rather, these documents guide our seeking as we pursue God's truth, and they provide a framework for thinking about Biblical theology.
The Five Solas of the Reformation
Out of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century came a series of ways that Reformed Christians expressed their faith. One of these is the Five Solas (from the Latin sola, "only"). We believe and teach:
♦ Sola fide (by Faith Alone): God's Word teaches that faith is the one requirement for salvation. By this, we mean faith in Jesus Christ is the one and only way for people to be saved. Nothing more or less can ever suffice. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life in this world, making Him the only possible sacrifice Who could satisfy God's justice against our sins. No good deed or right living on the part of man could ever add even a tiny bit to what Christ has done for us, so faith in Him is God's sole requirement for us to be saved. Further, the faith by which we come to union with Christ is God's gift to us, not our own work.
♦ Solus Christus (by Christ Alone): Jesus Christ is the only worthy object of our faith, the image of the unseen God, and the only one able to redeem us and give us peace with God and eternal salvation. Faith in anyone or anything else for salvation is idolatry.
♦ Sola gratia (by Grace alone): Even the faith that brings us to salvation is God's gift to us, extended to those whom God has chosen and called. It is this grace that makes us unable to boast in anything except God's gracious love for us.
♦ Sola Scriptura (by Scripture Alone): The Bible contains God's will for mankind, breathed by God the Father and communicated by the Holy Spirit to human authors who wrote the Scriptures. Because God is sovereign, He is more than able to preserve His Word in its entirety, to communicate His will to man. We don't worship the Scripture itself, but the God revealed in it. Yet, the Bible--the inerrant, infallible Word of God--is our one ultimate standard for understanding and knowing Him. All other creeds, confessions, teachings, prophecies, and revelations must conform to the words of holy Scripture, which alone has the power to bind the conscience of man and the Church.
♦Soli Deo gloria (for the Glory of God Alone): All of creation--the earth, mankind, and the Church--exists for God's glory. Our lives together and individually should seek to bring Him honor and glory above all else.
The Five Points of Reformed Theology (TULIP):
Another way of expressing Reformed theology is through the more modern memory device of T-U-L-I-P, reminding us of five principles the Bible teaches us about man and God:
Total Depravity: The effect of sin on mankind is disastrous. We are not merely "hurt" by sin, but ruined by it. As a result, there is no good in man that can earn salvation, or even better standing with God. Certainly sinful, lost people do some good things--but nothing that any human can do is enough to counteract the condemnation that we are all under because of sin. We are born as heirs to the sin of the first man, Adam, and we have all sinned as individuals, leaving us unable to seek what is righteous and holy and unable to achieve any better standing with God on our own merits. This is why the Scriptures say we are dead in our sins and trespasses, apart from union with Christ.
Unconditional Election: God is righteous, holy, and sovereign. All people are born under God's condemnation because of the effect of sin, yet in His grace and love, God chooses to extend the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to all of us. Yet, in His all-knowing providence, God has known since before the foundations of the world that some people would come to saving faith and others would not. Unconditional election expresses the understanding that God has ordained some people to be saved, and that He knows others never will be. There is no special quality about any individual person that earns this salvation--it is the free gift of God. To our human minds, it might seem unfair that some people are not being saved, yet, when we consider it, the amazing fact is that some people are being saved through no work or effort of their own, but only through God's loving grace. Those who are condemned receive justice from God; those who are saved receive mercy--but no one every receives injustice from God's hand.
Limited Atonement: God loves all people--the Scripture is clear about this--and so, it is commonplace to say that Christ died for all people. Yet, the Scripture shows us that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, while sufficient for all the sins of all mankind, atoned for the sins of those whom God is saving ("the Elect"), not for every person who has ever lived. If the atonement of Christ were for everyone, no one would ever go to hell, but this isn't what the Bible teaches us.
Irresistible Grace: The Scripture plainly teaches us that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign over all things. If this is the case, then clearly God accomplishes all things He has ordained, and His grace to us cannot fail to bring us to salvation. The doctrine of Irresistible Grace says that when a person is elect (that is, called by God to salvation), nothing can prevent that person from coming to saving faith in Christ.
Perseverance of the Saints: In Paul's letter to the Roman church, he asks, What, then, can separate us from the love of God? The answer is that nothing--no created being, no force or spiritual power, no government or angel or demon, not suffering nor famine, nor even death itself can separate those who have been redeemed from the presence of God. This doctrine teaches that once truly saved by faith in Christ, it is impossible for any elect believer to fall away from God or lose his salvation.
Creeds and Confessions
Blue Ridge is a confessional church. While no written creed or confession of faith is valuable only to the extent that it reflects the truth and authority of Scripture, well-written statements of belief serve to remind us of biblical faith, provide boundaries for our church in worship and service, and help bear witness to the world of biblical truth.
Among the historical documents we generally subscribe to are the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Apostle's Creed, the Canons of Dort, and other like-minded expressions of orthodox faith. We also use the Heidelberg Catechism and Longer and Shorter Westminster Catechisms for teaching and worship. Click below to view some of the major Reformed confessions:
|WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH|
|WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM|
Other Important Points:
The Bible: We believe the Bible, in its original form, is the inspired word of God; that it represents God's revelation of Himself to mankind; and that it contains everything we need to know and understand God. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21)
God: We believe in one eternal God Who reveals Himself as Creator (as seen in the Old Testament), Redeemer (as seen in the person of Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit (Who dwells in the hearts of believers, empowering us to love and serve God.) We believe God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present; that He created mankind in love; and that because of His love, He came into the world in the person of Jesus to become the only possible sacrifice for our sins, to give us peace and relationship with Himself. (Ephesians 1:11; Acts 4:24-27)
Mankind: We believe that God made man in His own image for the purpose of having relationship with God and bringing Him glory; We believe all humanity has value and purpose in God's sight; We also believe that mankind broke that fellowship with God through sin (willful disobedience and rebellion against God's purposes.) Apart from God, we are condemned by our sin, unable to serve or please God and unable to regain right relationship with Him. (Romans 3:9-19; Romans 8:7,8)
Jesus Christ: We believe Jesus is fully God, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to a virgin, becoming fully human as well. In this, Jesus became our mediator, a bridge between man's sinful plight and the perfection of God. In order for man's relationship with God to be restored, God's righteous judgment had to be satisfied. For generations, mankind labored under the laws of the Old Testament, offering temporary sacrifices and trying to do good, but it wasn't enough to conquer sin completely. When Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf, He paid our debt, taking on our sin and God's wrath once and forever. Jesus was crucified, bearing the full penalty for our sins; died; was buried and rose to new life in physical form by the power of God. Ascending to heaven, Jesus now sits in the presence of God, making intercession for our sins and reigns with God the Father. Through faith in His atoning sacrifice, we are redeemed to God, restored to right relationship with God and are being perfected to dwell in His presence one day.
The Holy Spirit: We believe the Holy Spirit is a third expression of God Himself, dwelling in the hearts of believers and leading them to follow and worship God. Through the Spirit's work in us, we attain new spiritual character (fruits) and are given new spiritual abilities (gifts) for the purpose of growing the church and glorifying God.
Salvation: Salvation is to be found in no other name than Jesus Christ. By God's grace, He calls us to faith in Christ, saving us and setting us apart as His own by the gift of saving faith and through the work of His Holy Spirit in those He effectually calls.
Baptism: We believe that baptism is a symbol of God's covenant relationship with man, a mark of every true believer, and God's command for His children. Baptism does not save a person, but represents a person's membership in God's covenants. Our congregation affirms both paedobaptist and credobaptist understandings of Scripture, believing that there is adequate Biblical support for both, and that such things are secondary matters of faith, not primary tenets of the Gospel. Baptism may be either by affusion (pouring), or by immersion, at the discretion of the candidate and Session.
Communion: At Blue Ridge Church, the Lord's table is open to everyone who, by his own testimony and the witness of his actions, is a disciple of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the faith tradition you grew up in, if you trust in Jesus as your only Savior and follow Him as Lord and Master, you are part of the family of God.
The Church: We believe in both the Visible Church and the Invisible Church--that is, we believe that all believers, past, present and future, constitute one true Church. We believe this Church is made up of many congregations, and of everyone who relies on Christ alone as his means to salvation. This True Church will remain united to the Visible Church (that is, all those who claim the name of Christ and gather for worship), but will stand apart and be recognized by Christ at the day of His return.