Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Website Update

I've added a new (and very important!) category to our "about" page. If you've viewed the page before, you would have seen that it highlighted three key aspects of the Christian conversation: the conversation between God and humanity, the conversation with our heritage, and the conversation with each other as a community in Christ.

But one important category is missing from that list.

Did anyone catch it?

It's the conversation with our culture and with the world around us. I've been meaning to add this category to the list for a while now, but haven't had a chance (partly due to my frantic schedule and partly becomes my views on incarnational ministry are still evolving).

In other news, the TrailNotes newsletter will remain as it is until the end of October. The reason for this is that we do not have many readers at present, so putting up a new newsletter every month would be unecessary. However, if you have an article or thought that you would like to add to the newsletter, feel free to contribute. Just email your contributions to:

(His) Peace,

The Athanasian Creed: Do we need to believe all the points to be saved from "eternal" punishment.

Leave it to you to start us off with a difficult (and controversial) question :-)

How we answer this question will ultimately be determined by how we understand the concept of "salvation." The Athanasian Creed makes a bold assertion that whoever does not believe in its teaching cannot be saved. Recognizing that there are many perspectives on the role of "correct doctrine" in salvation, I will try to answer from a Biblical perspective.

As I read the gospels, I notice that Jesus never provided a detailed laundry list of doctrinal positions or beliefs necessary for salvation. We are primarily called to believe *in* Him, rather than to believe in a series of statements or facts *about* Him.

John 6:29 - Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

St. Paul takes a similar approach, emphasizing belief in the resurrected Christ, rather than belief in a particular series of doctrinal propositions:

Romans 10:9 - "If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

In the Biblical sense, "belief" entails more than mere intellectual consent. It implies trust and a willingness to follow the path laid out by our "trailblazer," Jesus Christ. The invitation of Christ is not "figure me out to the most minute detail," but: "follow me!"

So what does this mean in the context of salvation? And what role should sound doctrine play in our journey of faith?

Here's my two cents on the matter.

According to historic Protestant teaching (and, I believe, Biblical teaching), we are not saved by any merit on our part, but solely by the grace of God in Christ.

Traditionally, we have taken this to mean that we are not saved by external works, but the notion of "sola gratia" (grace alone) also precludes any hope for salvation through adequate doctrinal consent. If salvation were a matter of arriving at the correct doctrinal conclusions, then theologians and pastors would be first in line at the pearly gates, while the uneducated and the ignorant would hardly stand a chance of entering into God's presence. In other words, if salvation is solely an act of God's grace, then we can take no credit for it - whether by works or by "figuring everything in the Bible out."

We are not called to understand all of the mysteries of God; we are simply called to follow Christ as His disciples. As we walk with Him on this journey of faith, we begin to discover more and more about Him and about His Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit. We are drawn to Scripture by a desire to learn more about Christ, and as a result of our explorations in the Word we begin to draw conclusions, both as individuals and as a community in Christ. The shared conclusions of God's people eventually come to be called "doctrine."

In other words, right doctrine is not the cause of salvation; it is the result of it. It is the product of a lifetime's journey with Christ, as we travel with Him along the road of life and discover more and more of what He is saying about Himself, about us, and about the nature of God.

The Creeds represent the collective conclusions of the early church's journey with Christ. They were written to respond to specific theological challenges that arose in the first four centuries of Christianity. When I confess the creeds, I am confessing that I stand in line with historic Christianity and that I am a part of the ongoing conversation of the Christian church.

I include them in our material in order to provide us with a solid doctrinal foundation and to provide a basic guideline for our speakers. This will become especially important when we begin holding worship services this Fall. As you know, I have been struggling to find an adequate standard by which to hold our members accountable to sound teaching if they want to speak from behind the pulpit. I would like to say "just use the Bible," but there are many cults that claim to use the Bible as their source of authority, so an additional "safeguard" is needed. I believe we need an objective standard beyond our personal whims to determine what types of messages will be acceptable from behind the pulpit.

Ultimately, the Creeds must be held accountable to Scripture. We must also be willing to learn the lessons that Christ wants to teach us today, as we grapple with this generation's theological struggles.

So, to summarize my view, I would suggest that the Creeds are an accurate expression of historic Christian teaching; however, they are not infallible, and we should not take their teaching for granted without consulting Scripture to see that what we are confessing is Biblically accurate. I include them primarily as a historical guide to demonstrate what the church's collective experience with Christ has produced in terms of a general doctrinal direction.

One more thought: The Bible is, and will always be, the final authority in all matters of our ministry. We might consider adding some type of a clause to the section on the creeds clearly stating that the Creeds are subservient to Scripture and stating that we use them as a doctrinal bedrock "insofar as they agree with Scripture." Thoughts on this?

Wow Michael, the creed states: Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever.
Then the creed tells us what true Christian faith is, and it lists off doctrine! I agree with you answer, but it contradicts the meaning of the creed.
The creed says we will perish forever if we don't believe everything included in the creed. Sorry, what am I missing?

You're not missing anything, Jesse. As you know, I am still grappling with the proper use of the creeds in our ministry. The primary doctrine that the Athanasian Creed is trying to defend is the doctrine of the Trinity, and I believe that's an important and distinctive Christian teaching. I stand by the orthodox understanding of One God in Three Persons, and I believe that teaching needs to be clearly defined as one of the distictive beliefs that defines us as "Christians."

But am I willing to say that a person who doesn't subscribe to the traditional understanding of the Trinity "cannot be saved?" No. I'm willing to say (standing on the Bible) that they are wrong, but I will not place myself on the throne of God and suggest that God cannot possibly save that person. I believe that salvation is wholly the work of God, from beginning to end. My confidence in God's sovereignty allows me to hold out hope for everyone, including those without a strong Biblical foundation.

With that being said, I find it difficult to confess the full text of the Athanasian Creed without reservation. I do subscribe completely to the doctrinal content of the creed, but I am not willing to confess (with 100% certainty) that God cannot save those who deviate from its teaching.

As a Baptist, I do not have a strong background in the creeds. But, I present them on our site as historic formulations of what we believe as Christians.

We will need to work out a standard for our ministry that defines our beliefs as Christians while still allowing enough room for discussion. We will need to give serious thought to this matter and approach it with a lot of prayer and with an open mind. I would be open to hearing everyone's suggestions on how to go about this, and I am thinking of talking with some of my friends in the more traditional churches to see how they use the creeds in their ministries. One possibility would be for us to pare down our creedal statements to include only the Apostles' Creed, which is the most general of the ecumenical creeds.

What are your suggestions?

Well, the Hindu can be saved also. I'm hoping that you believe that someone who doesn't have a traditional understanding of the trinity "can be currently saved".
Even most Christians have deviate from the line, "Jesus descended into Hell."
If this is a creed reciting ministry we are no different than the Presbyterians.

Hi Jesse,

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to reply to your post earlier, but my schedule has been frantic lately. You have actually raised two important questions, and I would like to take a moment to respond to each of the points that you have raised. I have been reticent to respond, because the subject demands a rather lengthy examination. Feel free to skip over this post if it is not helpful to you.

"Well, the Hindu can be saved also. I'm hoping that you believe that someone who doesn't have a traditional understanding of the trinity "can be currently saved"."

The issue of whether or not someone must profess the Christian religion in order to be "saved" is a subject that would require a much more detailed treatment then I am prepared to offer right now. Realizing that I'm stepping into a theological minefield, let me offer some preliminary thoughts on the subject.

As you know, I take seriously the Bible's claims that salvation is to be found in Christ alone, and in no other:

John 14:
1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."
Jesus the Way to the Father 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Verse six of the passage given above is often taken in isolation, but I quote it with the surrounding context to give you a better idea of what Christ is actually saying in this statement. The Father is known through the Son, and those desiring a relationship with God must recognize that Jesus is "emmanuel" - God with us. In other words, Jesus is our "contact point" with God, the place (or, rather, Person) in which God has agreed to meet with us. In order to have a saving encounter with God, we have to come to Him through Jesus God - God manifest in the flesh.

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

With that being said, I am willing to acknowledge that this "saving encounter" with Christ may play out in a variety of ways, and that God uses many means to draw men and women to Himself. There are times, I believe, when the Lord comes to us as the cloaked stranger on the road (Luke 24). We may spend years - or perhaps even a lifetime - walking beside Him without even knowing His name or His face. I believe that He will reveal himself to all of His children, including those without a full understanding, in His own good timing (Luke 24:31).

Certainly, this has been true of my own spiritual journey. Throughout my life, I have had a deep yearning (some might even call it an affliction) for something deeper and more beautiful than anything this world has to offer - something that we glimpse, from time to time, in this world, but which can only here be seen in shadows and reflections.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

I believe this yearning for Something Greater is a common experience for many people, and it is through this yearning that God prepares the heart for its saving encounter with Christ. So the Hindu, through his own faith tradition, may find himself yearning after God and seeking after that numinous Something that no earthly pleasure can satisfy. He may not, at first, comprehend Christianity, or he may even find himself rejecting it outright. But still the yearning remains, growing deeper by the day. St. Augustine described it as a God-shaped hole in the heart.

Then one day, the Hindu encounters that Stranger on the road - "emmanuel," God with us - and something inside of him intuitively knows that here at last is the Something (or the Someone) that he has been searching for all of his life. You see, God was drawing him all along and preparing his heart for this encounter with Christ, even in the man's Hindu context, by awakening a desire for God. I really like what Pope Benedict has said on this topic:

"We want to commend to St. Augustine a further meditation on our psalm. In it, the Father of the Church introduces a surprising element of great timeliness: He knows that also among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire. They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption.

And he says that among the persecutors, among the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ. And with this opening of hope, valid also for the Babylonians -- as Augustine calls them -- for those who do not know Christ, and not even God, and who nevertheless desire the unknown, the eternal, he exhorts us not to look only at the material things of the present moment, but to persevere in the path to God. Only with this greater hope can we transform this world in a just way." (

[Cue Ryan's paraphrase.]

"Even most Christians have deviate from the line, "Jesus descended into Hell."
If this is a creed reciting ministry we are no different than the Presbyterians."

Phew. Ok, after that long (and probably rambling) discourse on the salvation of non-Christians, I'll keep this one short. The reason I include the creeds on the site is because I believe it is important to show what makes us distinct as Christians. People may come to the site asking: "What are the distinctive beliefs of Christianity? How does Christianity differ from Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.?" I would like to provide some basic answers to that question.

I am in agreement with you regarding the dubious status of the creeds in a ministry of this type. At the same time, I want to preserve the distinctive beliefs of our Christian faith, including the doctrine of the Trinity.

So what's the solution? I would suggest that we get together as a group and draft our own confessional statement. Hopefully, we can draft a statement that includes all of the key points summarized in the creeds in reasonable language that we are all comfortable with. We can use the statement that I've written for the "about" page as a starting point and work from there as a group. What are your thoughts on this?

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