Theological Position Paper
A research paper submitted to Dr. Vander Wiele
In Partial Fulfillment of the requirements For
RLGN 489 – Ministry Praxis Capstone
There is a strong correlation between faith, beliefs, and actions. An individual’s actions will always follow their beliefs. Beliefs will always determine the level of faith. At it’s heart, Christian ministry is the attempt to develop faith in other people through the sharing of beliefs. In other words, what a person believes sets the framework for the content and methodology of any Christian ministry. It is, therefore, important that any individual engaging in ministry be clear on their beliefs and how those beliefs affect the work of ministry. What follows in this essay is a statement of theological beliefs and how those beliefs affect the sharing of the Gospel message.
Christian ministry is dependent on the concept of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being and reality. Metaphysics, at least up until the seventeenth century, was defined in terms of Aristotle’s “being as such,” or “first cause.” However, since then several philosophers have expanded the term to cover other topics as well. For the purposes of this theological position paper, the term metaphysics will be defined as those topics which deal with being and the nature of existence. The metaphysical assumptions of this author are that there two spheres of existence: the physical and the spiritual. Additionally, this paper assumes that both spheres can be known through reason and physical senses. However, it must be noted that such knowledge may rely only on reason, or the physical senses, or both. Finally, the existence of God and the truth of the spiritual reality as described in Scripture will be assumed. All additional metaphysical assumptions will be defined in their appropriate theological categories below.
Central to Christian ministry is the belief in the existence of God as the entire Christian message is predicated on the idea that God exists. Therefore, what a person believes about who or what God is affects how he communicates the message within the context of a particular ministry. God is the uncaused first cause and therefore eternal. There is nothing that exists in either the physical or spiritual spheres that exists apart from God. The eternal nature of God’s existence demands that his existence stand outside of time as he has no beginning, nor an end.
God is a person, in as much as He is creative, relational, self-aware, and intelligent. God is omnipotent in that He is able to do all that is able to be done, so long as it is consistent with His character and is not a logical contradiction and therefore impossible. God is omnipresent in that God exists in all spaces of all realities at all times. God is omniscient in that God is able to know all that can be known. It is the belief of this author that God’s omnipotence allows for the intentional lack of knowledge. God is holy in that He is self-complete, perfect, unique, separate from creation, and separate from the corruption of sin. God’s holiness, therefore, dictates what God can and cannot do. God is good, everything He does is absent of evil. God is love and therefore faithful in love. Everything God does is motivated by His love which is demonstrated through his mercy, grace, faithfulness, and personal revelation. (Gen. 1:1, 22:12; Dt. 32:4, 33:27; Ps. 139:7; 2 Sam. 22:31; Mt. 5:48; Acts 15:17-18; Heb. 4:13; 1 Jn. 4:8,16; Rev. 1:8)
God is a Triune in that God is one God in unity of will and purpose yet existing in three eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each Person within the Trinity is distinct in Person and function. Additionally, each Person is equal in substance and nature despite their distinctive personality and roles. (Gen. 1:1-2; Mt. 6:9-10, 22:41-46; Lk. 23:46; Jn. 1:1-9,7:17, 11:35, 14:26, 16:1317:1; Rom. 8:2; Eph. 4:30; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:5, 9:14; Rev 1:17)
Harmatiology or the doctrine of sin is the Christian answer to existence of evil. It explains the why the physical world experiences suffering and death. Sin is the antithesis of God therefore anything not of God must be considered to be sin. Since all the commandments of God are relational decrees to love God entirely and to love mankind entirely and since God is love; any thought or action not motivated out of love is therefore sin. Although there is no sin greater than any other, sin can be classified into two distinct categories: sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission are any thought or action which is not motivated by love. Sins of omission are sins in which acts of love are failed to be carried out. (Ex. 20:3-17; Prv. 24:10-12; Is. 29:13; Mt. 22:37-40; Rom. 3:23, 12:1-2; Heb. 4:12)
Finally, all of creation has fallen into a state of depravity since the fall of mankind. This single act of rebellion against God by the first human beings introduced the sin nature. Since that time, the sin nature has been the influential force in all of creation which is desperately in need of redeeming. (Gen. 1:26-31, 3:16-19, 6:5-7; Rom. 1:18-32, 3:9-26, 5:18; 8:18-22; Rev. 9:20-21)
Anthropology is concerned with the nature and purpose of man. Anthropology directly impacts Christian ministry in that if man is simply a random natural event, then there is no reason for ministry in the first place. Mankind is unique in creation in that he created in the Imago Dei (image of God.). This image includes, but not limited to, resembling God’s intellect, character, self-awareness, and free will among other things. While some scholars deny this possibility, in the opinion of this author the image of God reflected in mankind also includes appearance in as much as their similiarity in form. The idea that mankind bears such an image means that mankind has value, intrinsic worth, dignity, and moral status.  (Gen. 1:26-27, 2:7, 9:6)
The purpose of mankind is to expand God, himself. To this end, mankind fulfills a three-fold role. First, he is to glorify God. Second, he is to live in right relation with God. Finally, he is to live in right relation with the rest of Creation. Since the introduction of the sin nature, man’s moral status is in depravity, setting him at odds with his created purpose. (Ps. 86:9; Is. 60:21; Mt. 22:37-40; Rom. 8:20-21, 29, 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; Col. 3:10; Rev. 4:11)
Man is created with freewill. This freewill is not self-determinate in so much as it cannot countermine the sovereign will of God. The sin nature introduced by Adam and Eve has tainted this man’s will with a sinful bent. (Gen. 2:9, 15-17, 6:5; Rom.1:18-32, 2:5-16, 3:9-12)
Since mankind was created for right relation towards God and the rest of creation, he has been given a need for community. Therefore, God instituted the marriage and family relationship to properly meet this need through covenant relationship. The marriage covenant was to be between a man and woman. (Gen. 2:18-25)
Finally, it is the position of this paper that mankind does not possess an immortal soul. Mankind was created with the potential for immortality. This potential can only be actualized by mankind fulfilling his purpose. Since man’s inheritance of a sinful nature he has failed to live up to this divine purpose. (Rom. 3:23, 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:16)
God did not leave mankind to its fate. The heart of the Gospel Message is that God sent his Son to redeem all mankind. In the person of Jesus, God took the penalty of death upon his self through crucifixation at the hands of the Romans and the Jewish Sanhedrin. God, by His grace, has redeemed all mankind. Redemption is received through acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through faith. (Mt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:46-49; Rom. 1:16-8:39, 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 4:1-16; Col. 1:15-23, 2:9-15, 3:1-11)
There are two phases to the salvation process. The first is the offering of salvation in the present age to certain individuals elected by God through grace. The second occurs at the second coming of Christ, where salvation will be extended to all mankind. Both phases require a three-fold process of justification, regeneration, and immortality. Justification is the payment of the debt of sin by Christ through his crucifixion. Regeneration is the process by which the Holy Spirit matures the believer into the Christ likeness. Immortality is the receiving of everlasting life. Additionally, upon Christ’s return those who are elected now will receive an additional gift of grace in deification or final glorification. Deification is the transformation of the believer into a glorified human being just as Christ became at his resurrection.
Eschatology is the fulfillment of Soteriology in the future. It is culmination of the Christian message and the completion of Christian ministry. God has determined a set date for the return of Jesus in future. At his return those who have died in faith will be resurrected and receive their final glorification. Immediately afterwards, those faithful who are alive will receive their glorification. At this time, all who believed in Christ will meet him in the air and return to Earth with him. (1 Cor. 15:42-54; 1 Th. 4:13-18; 1 Pt. 1:17; Rev. 20:5-6, 15)
Prior to the Second coming there is a time of great persecution for believers and the world at large. This period is known as the Great Tribulation which will last three and half years. Upon Jesus’ arrival, all the dead will be raised and judged for their sin. It must be noted that judgment does not imply sentencing rather a declaration of the truth based upon the evidence. It is at the time those who chose to do so may obtain forgiveness and therefore immortality by electing to enter into belief of Jesus. Those who elect to reject Jesus at this time will be burned from existence (Hell). Finally, the spiritual realm will cease to be two overlapping spheres of existence and merge into one realm of existence. (Mt. 13:42-50, 24:1-31; Rev. 7:14, 20:7-15, 21:3-4)
All the topics which have been previously discussed are futile if the natural world is merely a series of random events absent of any kind of intelligent design. The purpose of creation is the expanding of God himself. This expansion is actualized through the creation of human beings who are created in his image. God created through the power of his spoken word out of nothing (Ex Nihilo). 
In regards to a scientific determination of the age of creation the Bible is silent. While it presents creation to have occurred over a period of seven days, it is the position of this author that such days could not represent a solar 24-hour day. The purpose of the creation was not to establish a when, but to underscore the how. God brought creation out of nothingness, thereby bringing order to chaos. (Gen. 1:1-27, 2:1-3)
Christian ministry implies that it is predicated on truth. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and truth. Human beings can know truth through the senses, reason, and revelation. Truth can be defined as something which confirms to actuality as it corresponds with reality. All truth can be found in the person of Jesus. While God is the possessor of all truth, it is important to understand He has not revealed all truth and therefore a balance between dogmatic theology and skeptical epistemology must be maintained. It is the intent of this paper to maintain such a balance.
If ministry is based on truth from where does said truth derive? God has elected to reveal himself through creation, angelic and human agents, the Bible and his son, Jesus Christ by way of the Holy Spirit. There is no one of these three methods which take precedence over the other as God determines the manner of revelation. Each form of revelation is sufficient of themselves for a justified condemnation of a sinner against their creator. (Jn. 1:14, 16-18; Rom. 1:18-20; Ps. 19:1-6; 1 Pt. 1:10-12, 20; 2 Pt. 1:20-21; Heb. 1:1-2)
Creation is the general revelation of God, perceivable by all mankind. It’s order, aesthetics, and existence speak of a being with intellect, creativity, omnipotence, and omniscience. Four attributes may be perceived through creation. First, God is cosmological in that He is the first cause. God is teleological in that He is the designer. God is anthropological in that God is a person. Finally, God is relational in that he is a moral law giver. (Dt. 9:10, 18:18; Isa. 59:21; Zech. 7:12; John 14:15-27; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:20-21; 1 Jn. 2:20; Rev. 1:1-2, 22:6)
God has used special messengers to provide revelation. These messengers may be angelic or human in nature (prophets). While these messengers might be used today to bring direct revelation, most of the revelation has been preserved in the cannon of Holy Scriptures known as the Bible. The Bible is inerrant, as far as the original autographs, and authoritative in matters of faith and salvation. It consists of sixty-six books of human authorship inspired by God through his Holy Spirit.
Just like any other piece of literature, scripture is best understood in its literary and historical context. The reader must endeavor to understand the context of the author, the audience to whom it was written, and the intended meaning of the words written. However, the antiquity of scripture makes such undertakings difficult as the possible meaning and historical context may not be fully known.
Additionally, it must be noted that nay new revelation is limited to the nature and being of God. It regards to salvation Jesus is the last and final revelation to be given. While insight into prophetic statements may be granted, any new revelation which adds or subtracts from the salvation through Jesus must consequently be rejected.
The personage of Jesus Christ is foundational to Christianity. Any ministry undertaking which is not predicated on Jesus therefore is not a Christian one. Christ is the second person of the trinity, known as the Word. The Word was always God, who revealed the nature and work of God through his human in carnation in the person of Jesus. This incarnation required the Word to empty himself of His Godhood, thereby limiting his omnipotence and omniprescence. Jesus, therefore, was genuine God and genuine man. The relationship between the divine nature and the human nature within the person of Jesus is defined as “a complete divine nature and a complete human nature united in one person without moral complication. As a human being, the word was able to exercise His role as the suffering servant, and die by crucifixion at the hands of Roman authorities and Jewish religious leaders. At the resurrection of Jesus became a glorified human in which the divine and humanity are eternally united. Jesus, then, is the first of a “new creation.” Barth describes this union this way:
“The heart of the Christian faith is the word of act in which God from all eternity will to become man in Jesus Christ for our good, did become man in time for our good, and will be and remain man in eternity for our good. This work of the Son of God includes in itself the work of the Father as its presupposition and the work of the Holy Spirit as its consequence.
It is important to remember that the incarnation experience in no way changes the Trinitarian nature of God. God did not separate or divide himself. (Ps. 2; Is. 9:6, 53:4-7; Jn. 1:1-17; Ph. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:1-2, 7:1-10:18)
The concept of the incarnation assumes the existence of Jesus as a historical reality. Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, born of the Virgin Mary, and conceived of the Holy Spirit. Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament during his earthly ministry. This included His miraculous birth, the miracles he performed, his death, and resurrection. (Dt. 18:18; Is. 53:4-8, 61:1-2; Lk. 2:52; 1 Pt. 2:21; Heb. 2:5-18)
Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross for all mankind. After His resurrection, Christ now exists eternally as a deified human being. To be sure, this state of glorification does not diminish his Godhood or union within the trinity. Yet, this existence is completely different than that experienced by the other two Persons of the Triune. It is the complete unification of humanity with the divine. In this eternal state, Christ is now mediating for humanity before the Father, and directing the Holy Spirit in Its ministry among believers until the day of his return when He will raise the dead, judge all of creation, and usher in the glorious union of the spiritual and the physical. (Jn. 3:16, 4:42; Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 2 Pt. 3:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Jn. 2:2, 4:10; Jude 24)
Axiology, in the broadest sense, is the study of values. This essay will forcus on moral value and aesthetics. It is the assumption of this theological postion paper that value can be objectively measured and expressed. God defines what is good, valuable and has beauty with Himself as the highest measure of these things. Christian Ministry ought to be performed in such a way that such things are highlighted and attributed to God. Therefore, the discussion of this paper will deal with God’s expression of his power, goodness and beauty within the created realties.
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Triune God. It is eternally flowing from the Father, through the Son, into the created realities. Its role is to interact and minister to all of creation. It was involved in creation; provided inspiration to Biblical authors and prophets, indwells within believers guiding them into all truth; advocates on behalf of humanity against the accusations of Satan, and is the downpayment which secures a believer’s salvation. To aid in its ministry; the Holy Spirit provides gifts to the church empowering believers to overcome temptation and sin, and to validate the Gospel message. (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30, 139:7; Isa. 63:10-11; Jn.14-16; Ac. 5:3-4; Rom. 8; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 4; 1 Cor. 3:16, 12:1-31, 14:1-25; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 9:14; 2 Pt. 1:20-21)
It must be noted that some theologians suggest that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. Typically, these are what are usually refered to as “sign gifts.” Sign gifts include Apostle, healing, speaking in tongues, miracles, and the interpretation of tongues. It is the conviction of this author that none of the gifts have ceased, but rather that the personal development of such gifts have diminished. 
The Church consists of every believer from every area of the globe. While there are many local denominations and congregations, the individual believers are united through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the Church is a three-fold evangelical mission. First, it is to bring glory to God and increase its size through spreading of the Gospel. Second, it is to work at changing the worldly culture through philanthropic activities. Finally, it is to provide spiritual direction and encouragement to its members. The Bible refers to the Church as the body of Christ. This means that believers are the physical representation of God within the world. While members are said to be the body, Jesus is said to be the head indicating that all authority and direction of the Church is derived from him. The Bible and Holy Spirit are given as guides to help with day-to-day activities. (Matt. 28:18-20;1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 3:6, 4:12; Col. 3:15; James 1:27, 2:14-16)
The Church is and ought to be theocracy. While the Bible does not specifically give directions for the manner or formation of any congregational hierarchy, it is the preference of this author that a congregation be led by a lead pastor who maintains “final decision” on all day-to-day operations of the congregation. This pastor should be advised by a board or committee of ordained elders who have been given the gift of leadership by the Holy Spirit. Finally, there should be some sort of methodology in place for the consideration of the input of the individual members. However, it must be stressed that other forms of congregational hierarchy are acceptable as cultural, geographical, and purpose considerations necessitate.
As previously mentioned, a lead pastor should lead local congregations. This pastor should be ordained by God and confirmed by the congregation. The Church is a spiritual and biblical community of believers; therefore, its priorities should be two-fold. First, it should seek to worship and serve God in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. Second, it should seek to serve people, again consistent with Biblical principles. This is done using spiritual gifts in humility and love. (Jn. 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 12:1-14:26; Rom. 12:10-16; Tit. 3:1-7; 1 Pt. 4:8-10; Jas. 5:16)
Church members should meet regularly for the purposes of worship and serving. While there are various methods of expressing worship, and serving in love, there are several practices which all congregations should be engaging in. Primarily, all congregations should be exercising the disciplines of prayer and Bible Study. The purpose of these practices is to ensure the spiritual health and vibrancy of the congregation. With these two, baptism and communion should also be included. Baptism by water is the means which a new believer publicly declares his/her acceptance of Jesus. Communion is the eating of bread and the drinking of grape juice or wine for the purpose commemorating the New Covenant by partaking of the Last Supper. (Lk. 22:17-20; Act. 2:42-47, 6:3-4; 1 Cor.11:17-26, 14:26; Heb. 10:24-25)
Christian ethics are derived from the divine virtues of love and grace. These virtues are summarized in the principles and commandments of God in scripture. It should be noted, however, that these principles and commandments are not intended to address every possible ethical situation that might be faced. Believers are to use reason guided by the Holy Spirit to act in a manner consistent with the Biblical exposition of love and grace. This has the implication that an action or lack of action may or may not be ethical given the situational context at the time. (Ex. 20:3-17, 23:1-9; Jos 24:14; Ps1:1-3; Prov. 3:1-6; Mt. 5:17-20,6:21, 15:18-19, 22:34-40; Acts 15:28-29)
God has chosen and continues to choose to educate people. It is the position of this essay that people are capable of learning. It is also assumed that learning influences people’s beliefs and values. “[E]ducation in all its fullness points us to the necessity for a fundamental openness and receptivity to the truth.” Therefore, it is the position of the author that education is indispensable to Christianity. (Ex. 4:12; Lev. 10:11; Dt. 11:19, 29:29; Jos.1:7-8; Jer. 9:24; Prov. 1:2-7; Mt. 28:18-20; Jn.14:26; Act. 2:42; Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:1-2)
The Role of Preaching for Education
It is the responsibility of the teaching pastor or preacher to educate believers in understanding and the practical application of scripture in their everyday lives. This teaching must be based on exegesis, founded upon solid exegetical principles. As previously discussed, the Bible was written for specific people at a specific time for a specific situation, it is incumbent upon the preacher to teach this background to the local congregation as to improve their own understanding. Additionally, the orthodoxy of the congregation must be upheld within the teaching, in so much as the there is no biblical contradiction or prompt to change from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, teaching of solid, foundational doctrine is also imperative. The doctrine may or may not include traditional Christian creeds. (Eph. 4:11-14; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 2:15, 22-26, 3:14-17; 2 Pt. 2:1-3; 1 Jn. 2:20-23, 4:1-3; 2 Jn. 1:7-11; Jude 1:17-21)
Spiritual Formation of the Believer
The spiritual formation of believers is the responsibility of the Church, universally. However, typically this is primarily the function of the local congregation. Christians are directed in scripture to mentor and teach those believers who are spiritually less mature. While there is no denying the role of the Holy Spirit in the maturing of believers, the Church has the imperative to institute educational and mentorship programs as well. (Mt. 28:18-20; Act. 2:24, 18:26; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 5:12, 10:24-25)
Nature of the Teacher
The role of teacher within the Church belongs primarily to the Holy Spirit. He may fulfill this role through illumination or the gifting of human agents with the skill of teaching. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must gift any religious teacher. Another prerequisite for teaching must be a strong Biblical knowledge. This does not necessarily require any formal training, but does require extensive time spent in the exercising of the spiritual discipline of Bible Study. Next a teacher should not be knowing hypocritical. In other words, he should spiritually mature with a faith which produces fruit. Finally, it is the recommendation of this author that a teacher be held accountable to a pastor or church elders for the purposes doctrinal consistency and Biblical truth. (Jn.14:26; 1 Cor. 11:4-11, 27-30; Eph. 4:11-14; 1 Tim. 3:8-; 2 Tim. 2:24; Tit. 1:9)
Nature of the Student
Since the Holy Spirit is the primary teacher, a student, first and foremost, must be open and responsive to the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they must be willing and able to be taught. Next, a student must diligent and intentional about applying the new information into their lives. This requires an attitude of humility and the recognition that all knowledge, while knowable, is not known.
Personal Character of a Leader
It is vital for a church leader to imitate Christ since the failure of leadership carries great consequences both in terms of the corporate congregation and the individual believer. As such, a leader must be wise, mature, humble, and full of integrity. A leader must be honest, their word above reproach. They must be slow to get angry, and quick to mercy. They must be humble in heart and mind, recognizing that all believers are images of God and therefore capable of giving input and advice. A leader must be willing to submit to the authority of God and the Holy Scripture. Finally, the gifting of the Holy Spirit must equip him. (Ex. 18:18-23; Num. 12:3; Ps. 51:17; Mt. 20:25-28; Act. 6:3-4; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 1 Pt. 5:1-3)
The fullest expression of imitating Christ comes in the form of servant leadership. This form of leadership is leading by meeting the needs of people without regard to social and cultural standing of those served. It is leadership which flows out of love. It is putting the benefits of others before one’s own. Love is the overarching principle of scripture and therefore is the prerequisite virtue of any Christian leader. (Mt. 20:25-28; 1 Cor. 12:28, 13:1-7; 1 Jn. 3:16-18; 1 Pt. 5:1-7)
Barth, K. Dogmatics in Outline. HarperCollins, 1959.
Clark, D. K., The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.
Melchert, C. F. “What Is the Educational Ministry of the Church?” Religious Education 73, no. 4 (1978): 429-39. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1296971177?accountid=12085.
Peter van Inwagen and Meghan Sullivan, The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016.
Stevens, B. Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation. Tyndale House Publishers, 2014.
Towns, E.L. Theology for Today. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001.
Von Rad, G. Genesis: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press, 1973.
Walvoord, J.F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Moody Publishers, 1969.
 The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2016 ed., s.v. “Metaphysics,” accessed November 4, 2016, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/metaphysics/.
 E.L. Towns, Theology for Today (Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001), 97-122.
 Ibid., 145.
 G. Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 1973), 58.
 B. Stevens, Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014).
 The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, s.v. “Truth.”
 Towns, 35-42.
 J.F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Moody Publishers, 1969), 12.
 K. Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (HarperCollins, 1959), 65.
 Towns, 306-07.
 C. F. Melchert, “What Is the Educational Ministry of the Church?,” Religious Education 73, no. 4 (1978), http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1296971177?accountid=12085.