A new statement of faith for Aussie Pentecostals

The Australian Christian Churches (ACC), Australia’s largest Pentecostal church network, has been taking a good look at their statement of beliefs.

The new statement is both simple and profound. It reads like one of the historic creeds. (One could even read or recite it in a church service, if an ACC church wanted to.)

There are a number of changes that will create discussion at the ACC National Conference that will meet on the Gold Coast this week. (Eternity is working off a draft revision dated February 24.)

Alongside making it reflect orthodoxy like the creeds, the writers – a team from Alphacrucis College – were asked to maintain the ACC Pentecostal ethos.

In general, the revisions simplify language, removing archaism, and tidying up grammar and sentence structure.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is “a transformative experience, distinct from and subsequent to salvation. It is available to all believers and is accompanied by the initial evidence of speaking in tongues …” Traditional Pentecostal doctrine is maintained at this point, with the change mostly in sentence structure rather than meaning. However in saying the Baptism of the Holy Spirit “is available to all believers”, it is made clear that the view of some Pentecostal sects outside the ACC, that “you have to speak in tongues to be saved”, is rejected. (Eternity does not know if this was the intention of the drafters, but it clarifies an old controversy.)

A significant change is made to the description of Creation. The old statement says, “We believe that man was created by God by specific immediate act …”; and the new simply says, “all people are created in the image of God.” The old wording could be interpreted as encompassing six-day creationism or the historic Adam, while the new wording is neutral. However the “theological supplement” – notes that accompany the statement of belief – asserts the existence of Adam and Eve.

The word “pre-millennial” and reference to a “millennial reign” of Jesus are dropped from the description of his return. The new statement makes it clear that Christ returns to “judge the living and the dead”, an instance of helpfully inserting creedal language.

Those who reject Jesus will be subject to “eternal separation from God” in the new statement. “Whoever is not found written in the book of life shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone,” is the description of the fate of unbelievers in the old statement of beliefs.

One of the best revisions is to a clause about sanctification, which makes it clearer what it is.

In general, the revisions simplify language, removing archaism, and tidying up grammar and sentence structure.

Here’s an example of the changes: the new clause describing “the Holy Scriptures” reads: “We believe that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God and our highest authority for faith and practice.”

The old version said: “We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, namely the Old and New Testaments in their original writings. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is infallible, inerrently revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary for our salvation, and is absolutely supreme and sufficient in authority in all matters of faith and conduct. The Bible does not simply contain the Word of God but is in reality, the complete revelation and very Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that whatsover is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.”

One of the best revisions is to a clause about sanctification, which makes it clearer what it is: “… the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who convicts people of their sin and inspires repentance and faith. The Holy Spirit transforms believers into the likeness of Jesus Christ.” Simple. The older version describes sanctification as “made pure in heart and wholly sanctified”, which is less clear and hints at the confusing Wesleyan doctrine of “entire sanctification”.

The new version is clearer, shorter and just as strong – or maybe stronger – than the old. Some readers will recognise traces of Anglicanism’s “39 Articles” (their statement of belief) and references to old debates about the Bible in the old version, which the ACC does not need.

The simplification continues through the whole statement.

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