Our Vision at Christ Church
(For a quick list of some of the things we affirm and deny, please check here, or the What page above.)
The dazzling richness of the Christian faith makes it somewhat challenging for us to pick a central theme or slogan that would function as a mission statement for the worldwide Church and for our church in particular as one of its local incarnations, in our time and in our city.
This is partly due to the fact that the raison d’être of the Christian Church is firmly rooted in the glorious plan of God for the ages and for the world at large — which takes us back to a time before the creation of the world, then goes on to encompass all of life, and ends up stretching our minds to reach out and grasp promises for each one of us about a never-ending future time of either bliss or dread, depending — and so we dare not trivialize the solemnity of what we are doing through flippant remarks or tired clichés.
This is holy ground indeed, and we want to cultivate and transmit a sense of reverence and awe, known in Scripture as the fear of the Lord. This is easy to say, but it all amounts to just another pious-sounding, self-damning hypocrisy unless its first consuming interest is to honor and to obey Scripture both in practice, and in all we affirm and deny as individuals and as a body. There are creative ways in which everything that is holy and right can be faked, of course, and it remains true that man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Yet we believe Scripture teaches that the fear of the Lord as defined above has to be reflected also in the way we conduct ourselves when we gather as a body. It is also true, however, that our God delights in humor and stinging satire, and we believe there are often ways to describe the view from here (and especially the folly of sin and rebellion against Him, even by professing Christians) in language that highlights and establishes truth with a smile or even better with a laugh.
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, and He has entrusted her with a glorious message of hope and redemption for a fallen world, which we call the Gospel, which the church is told to defend, safeguard and proclaim. This message turns out to be more complex and specific than “There’s a good God in Heaven and everything’s going to be all right” — even though that is, in fact, as far as it goes, a pretty accurate picture of what the deal is with reality, in fact far better than many Christian bumper stickers or t-shirt slogans one can see on the Internet. Is there more to the Gospel? You bet, but then again, as soon as many modern Christians try to go deeper, and attempt seizing the attention of unbelieving minds with pearls of dubious wisdom like “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” immediately the result is theologically problematic, philosophically unwarranted, biblically indefensible, and pastorally irresponsible. It’s a fine line that separates safe and reliable truisms from harmful and baseless platitudes.
So yes, the Christian faith is rich, but it’s also a complex and delicate balance of truths, and particular care is required in handling it and even verbalizing it, or else the wheels will come off before the next bend. We Christians expect critics of our faith to do their homework before they open their mouths, but we are too often lazy to do some homework ourselves. Therefore important clarifications and distinctions need to be made. Having said that, at our church we refuse nevertheless to lock up our message in the attic of timeless truths that are too fragile, spineless and fainthearted to face the rain, the dust, the sweat, the blood of the real world. On the contrary, the Gospel is designed and intended to go out to the real world, and to answer tough questions, which is why we can’t wait to get our hands dirty and put all this stuff in practice.
So striving as we do after adherence and faithfulness to the Word of God, we define the Gospel as the message of good news about Jesus Christ and what He did for sinners, in order to restore them to a right relationship with a holy God — so that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is making all things new, both at the personal level for those who repent and believe, and globally as He redeems human culture and eventually all creation. The preaching of the Gospel is the foremost means through which God saves and gathers His elect in the Church, and there is no other way of salvation than the one provided by God through Jesus Christ.
Taking a broader view, not less stressed in the Bible, the Gospel is about the coming, spreading, and eventual triumph on earth of the Kingdom of God, inaugurated at the ascension of Christ, and it is inescapably woven into the fabric and the plot line of the history of the world, from the creation of the universe in six days to the resurrection of the dead at the end of history, and beyond. To lift the Gospel from its proper context, and sell it as a quasi-psychological program or technique featuring meditation over timeless truths for the sake of personal improvement, as many seem to do nowadays, is to lose it. The Gospel is not about you, although it certainly concerns you, but about God, and one of our first concerns in our ministry is to maintain a God-centered focus.
This is not easily accomplished, however, since it’s quite possible to keep talking about almost nothing else than God and Jesus from a totally man-centered perspective; conversely, it’s quite possible to engage in a conversation on any topic from a distinctively God-centered perspective without ever mentioning “religious words” — so this is not really about the vocabulary employed or about doing a word count. The elusive character and quality of “God-centeredness”, which many strive after but few manage to even remotely approach, is the main reason why the careful observer will notice a surprisingly wide discrepancy between the tone of the Bible and the overall feeling one receives at almost any given church gathering nowadays.
And yet the God-centered tone we find in the Bible was never supposed to be hard to capture and transmit. How does one get started? By studying, believing and preaching the whole counsel of God as found in Scripture, starting from the glorious truths of God’s absolute sovereignty in creation and salvation, the helplessness of man dead in sin, and from there proceeding to unpack the wonders of God’s amazing grace in single-handedly saving sinners — skipping nothing, watering down nothing, diluting nothing, and by refusing at the same time to bow down to modern idols, recent trends, and the current zeitgeist. In order to do that, however, one must know not only what the Bible actually says about God (not something one can easily take for granted these days), but also what and which the modern idols are, and one must have the spine not to bow down to them: on the contrary, firmness and manly strength is required in order to topple them down without blinking. In this respect, sadly, many Christian leaders are more reminiscent of wet socks hanging out of the window than of vertebrate forms of life.
Our worship service is a reflection of our beliefs, as all liturgies inescapably are (and liturgies themselves are inescapable). Because we believe in the centrality of the Church in the plan of God for the salvation of man and society, we consider regular and loyal churchgoing as the hinge upon which all turns for individuals and families interested in living a healthy and balanced life. We also believe that this would necessarily benefit society at large. We in fact encourage church membership. Because we believe baptism is a commission and a knighthood of sorts, we practice believer’s baptism (although we are tolerant of certain forms of paedobaptism). Because we believe in the weekly renewal of our covenant with the Lord, and because we have faith that God will use a liturgically biblical Christian worship to transform the world, we want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (with actual bread and actual wine) at every worship service. Because we believe that our worship songs should have substance and be reverent and God-honoring, we like to sing hymns and psalms.
Because we believe in the deep and insurmountable antithesis between belief and non-belief, and between Christian and non-Christian epistemologies, we reject in toto the concept of religious neutrality. This means that, from the vantage point of an unyielding affirmation of the sufficiency, authority and inerrancy of the Bible, we refuse to treat as negotiable areas of Christian theology and ethics where secular forces and other non-Christian agendas are proposing alternative solutions, concepts or narratives. We refuse to welcome these ideological impostors and counterfeits into the fabric of our church’s structure and message, and we are interested not only in standing for God’s truth in love, but in revealing non-Christian thought, even when it masquerades and clothes itself in pseudo-biblical language, to be the sterile, laughable bankruptcy that it is.
Because we believe salvation is the gracious work of the sovereign Lord, who chose His people before the creation of the world and predestined them to believe the Gospel, and because we believe that He is merciful on whom He is merciful, we affirm that the salvation from eternal damnation does not depend on who runs or on who wills. We reject all attempts to make salvation ultimately dependent on human effort or consent, whether in the form of meritorious good works, or in the form of cooperation through free will. However, we affirm that good works and a process of progressive sanctification necessarily follow regeneration and conversion, as the Spirit leads, in the life of all true Christians. On this basis, in our congregation we encourage a disciplined and self-controlled lifestyle, obedience to all authorities, and brotherly love of the kind that goes beyond empty affirmations, and manifests itself first of all in steering clear of gross social sins such as sectarianism, envy, gossip and slander, and then goes on to display the fruit of the Spirit in concrete ways.
Because we confess man’s radical depravity, his hopeless state of death in sin, and his natural inability to choose God’s way and submit to His will, we celebrate the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ as having procured and secured the certain salvation of all the people whom the Father chose and gave Him to save, and it is therefore in the glorious name of the Son of God that we, who have been effectively called by the Holy Spirit to be His people, gather weekly to worship. We nevertheless affirm and insist that man is fully responsible for his sins and his conduct, and that repentance and faith are essential for salvation. We believe that an unrepentant heart is incompatible with the Gospel, and that the fact that the unrepentant heart may belong to a professing Christian would not make things better for him, but worse.
We trust the Bible to define sin for us, and we hesitate to follow modern trends as the culture around us strives to push for alternative or supplementary definitions of ethically unacceptable or culpable behavior. We take sin seriously, and therefore we dare not burden people’s consciences with unnecessary scruples or superstitions not grounded in the Word of God. Then again, we dare not dismiss, downplay, ignore or tame what God has in fact told us in His Word to be sin.
We believe and teach that sinners are justified in front of God, and receive therefore the forgiveness of their sins, by faith alone, apart from works, and that this faith, which is not dead but living, insofar as it will of necessity produce spiritual fruit, is the gift of God, lest anyone boast. In justification the repentant sinner is declared to be just on the basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, understood as His active and passive obedience both. We are therefore committed to the glorious principle of the Protestant Reformation called the Five Solas: sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus christus, soli deo gloria, i.e. salvation is through ultimate reliance in Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, and so that God alone may receive all the glory.
We believe it is a serious mistake to confine the scope of the Christian message to the salvation of the soul, as if it were a gnostic mystery religion, and we affirm that Christians are called to engage the culture and to spread the biblical worldview, via application, to all of life. A Christian culture involving a Christian way to do art, sports, music, science, economics, philosophy, politics, education, sociology, private business, and more, is the natural product of individual conversions to Christ. We encourage all this, confident as we are that is also a way in which the manifold blessings of God can, and did, and do, and will reach out to the nations.
We do not let numbers or statistics dictate our beliefs or policies, knowing that faithfulness to the Word of God is not measured by counting noses. We believe in scriptural preaching (both expository and topical), scriptural leadership (men only), scriptural ethics (both Old and New Testament), pastoral assistance and scriptural counseling to church members, scriptural church discipline, scriptural evangelism (relying on the power of God and through the faithful preaching of the unadulterated Gospel), and scriptural expectations for the future (the bodily return of Christ, the resurrection of all men, and the Final Judgment, after which the people of God will live forever in their bodies on earth, while the damned will suffer eternal torment in Hell).
Having said all that, we affirm the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in sovereignly regenerating hearts, in bringing light where there was darkness, and life where there was death. Without His work, all our plans, schemes, doctrines, rites, traditions, liturgies and policies, no matter how relevant they may appear, or even how biblical they may be in fact, are completely ineffective, are just a chasing after the wind, and are incapable of saving a single soul, let alone a city, let alone the whole world.
For a fuller and more detailed account of our beliefs, we refer you to the classic Creeds of the Christian Church and the historical Reformed Confessions of Faith, all of them easily available online: the Apostles’ Creed; the Nicene Creed; the Definition of Chalcedon; the Athanasian Creed; the 39 Articles of Faith of the Anglican Church; the Belgic Confession of Faith; the Heidelberg Catechism; the Canons of Dordt; the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms; the London Baptist Confession of Faith. Although the latter confession best captures our position and policy on the sacraments, we are in basic agreement with all these documents, and see all of them as dependable summaries of the faith which was delivered to the saints, and as generally useful and reliable formulations of what the Scriptures teach. In addition, there is a wide range of Christian literature on many topics from both ancient and modern times which we can recommend, and a list is available upon request.
We don’t hold any one tradition or church, let alone our local church, to have achieved final doctrinal maturity, but we sit at the feet of Scripture, cultivating a teachable spirit and attitude, willing to keep learning and growing in our understanding of God’s revelation in the Bible, mindful that this side of heaven there will always be for us ways in which we can formulate things better and mistakes we have to correct — but we intend to hold true to, and live up to, what the Church has already attained, while we keep pressing on toward the goal, to win the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
It is precisely for these reasons that we are generally suspicious of novel and fringe forms of Christianity, and strive to stay on the main path, considered from a broad, robust and informed historical perspective, making allowance for the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in the Church through the centuries and the consequent progressive maturation of Christian thought, diligently researching, considering and profiting from different viewpoints and traditions, avoiding with equal care old heresies and much modern nonsense, nevertheless firmly holding Scripture (Old and New Testaments) as the ultimate authority and final arbiter of what is true and should be therefore preached, taught, believed and practiced.
It is our sincere desire to strive for a wideness in our expression of Christian fellowship that transcends our actual doctrinal positions and policies. This means that you don’t have to agree with all our positions and policies to be accepted at our worship gatherings, or to be treated as brothers or sisters in Christ. Even if you don’t believe a blessed thing of what we have said here, you are still welcome to our meetings.
And so we are more than happy to extend the right hand of fellowship to all Christian residents in Oulu, regardless of their denominational affiliation, regardless of their theological background, regardless of their doctrinal convictions on matters of secondary importance, to all who have been called by the Father, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, love Him in spirit and truth, and have pledged to grow in and seek after holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria, 2013
Last updated: January 26, 2017