The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Biblical faith includes three parts. They are knowledge, assent, and trust. My focus in this article is the first, knowledge. Simply stated, having faith assumes a certain body of information about the object. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.”
I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to many different Christian denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God concerning our common faith in Jesus Christ.
Theologians and pastors of the early twentieth century called these basic truths the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. These men were given the name Fundamentalists. They sought to list what every Christian throughout the ages affirmed to be true about God’s plan of redemption. They arrived at five basic truths. History recorded these truths as the Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. They are:
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant.
2. Jesus was born of a virgin.
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal, and substitutionary.
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection.
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic.
The first is the basis of the other four. The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Bible is without error. It does not refer to translations of the Bible but to the original autographs. Now, if you have been reading and studying the Bible for any length of time, I am sure you are aware that we do not possess any original autographs of Scripture. But we do have thousands of New Testament manuscripts, the blessing of the oral tradition of the Ancient Hebrew people (the Masoretic text), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 B.C.).
Using textual criticism, the original can be reconstructed. For example, nearly all our English translations are based on the work of the textual critics. The result is that you can be assured that when you open your Bible and read it you are reading the truth of God. Textual Criticism increases the accuracy of the Bible! It does not challenge it.
Second, the virgin birth was challenged during the period known as the Enlightenment. The fact of Jesus’ birth was challenged because, they said, it is naturally impossible. But that is exactly the point! Jesus was born outside of the natural course. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary. If you look at Genesis 3:15, you will notice that it was the “seed” of the woman who would bruise or crush Satan’s head. The Messiah was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. Jesus was the sinless and perfect sacrifice. Without the virgin birth, we are all still dead in our sins! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [the Son] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Third, the atonement of Christ was substitutionary. He took our place. It was penal. He was punished for sin. Jesus bore the full wrath of God. It was full and complete. There is no other sacrifice for sin. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, emphasis mine). Jesus’ last words were “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Fourth, a man got out of the grave! The body that was buried was the body raised in glory. The Bible says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we are the most to be pitied, (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
Fifth and finally, miracles are supernatural events. Only God can break into His created world and ordain a miracle. The miracles recorded in Exodus, of Joshua, of Elijah, of Jesus and Apostles were factual occurrences.
Jude, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The fact of the matter is, we do not as Christians make up our faith. We believe in a faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible.
The Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith simply condense and articulate biblical doctrine that all who profess Christ affirm.