This is the second installment of my “What Does Your Church Believe?” series. Last week I discussed the notion of open communion and the importance of it in DOC theology (click here for Part I). This week we will look at “Freedom of Belief.”
Back in the 19th Century when the what is now know as the Disciples of Christ was beginning to form as a movement, one of the pillars that many lifted up was the notion of freedom of belief. Our founders came out of a Presbyterian background. While there is nothing wrong with being Presbyterian, the founders did not like the use of creeds in worship and as tools for believing the ‘right’ types of things. Over time the motto of the Disciples of Christ became “no creed, but Christ.” This means that we are called as followers of Christ to seek out a relationship with God in a way that is meaningful for ourselves, just as long as we center our beliefs on that idea that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
We all come from different backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic status, generations and education levels. We are NOT going to interpret the same thing even though we are reading the exact same passage. Some passages that were meaningful to us five years ago do not mean as much today. I like to give this example. My daughter, Violet, was born on February 1. On January 31, passages in the Bible that mentioned parenting, God as a loving parent, or that the people of Israel were God’s children, it not mean as much to me as they did when I read them on February 2.
Now if there was just one interpretation, who would get to decide which was “correct?” Would the Catholic interpretation be favored over the Baptist interpretation? Would the Presbyterians be “more correct” than the Methodists? As you can see this would cause major dissention between the denominations (and there is already enough of that to go around.)
Does Freedom of Belief mean you can believe whatever you want? In sense no. When reading the scriptures one has to remember the original intent of the book or passage one is reading; we can’t make the Bible “say” something that it never was intended to ‘say’ in the first place. The Disciples of Christ sum it up by stating “Persons are free to follow their consciences guided by the Holy Spirit, study and prayer, and are expected to extend that freedom to others.” The key here is extending grace and acceptance to others. We may not all believe the same things, we may all see something different when it comes to the Bible, but if we are grounded in the one essential of faith, Jesus Christ, then everything else is secondary.