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A Guide to Christian Beliefs
About this Class
Every Christian ought to have a working knowledge of what they believe and how it impacts their lives. We all have a theology, we all have a set of core beliefs that control how we think and how we behave. But do you know what you believe? Do you know what is driving your thoughts and actions? Do you know if your beliefs agree or disagree with the Bible? Does that matter to you? Professor Marshall wrote this book when he was 27 years old as a way to collect his thoughts and make up his mind on the basics of his faith; we are thankful that has shared his work with us. The chapters are read by Gary Leonard and Bill Mounce.
If we already have God's revelation in the Bible, someone may well ask why we need to study Christian doctrine: surely it is sufficient to be a Bible student without bothering about doctrine? Perhaps the simplest answer to this question is that anybody who studies the Bible is, in fact, really studying doctrine. A systematic discussion of Christian theology will take the student to many sources of knowledge and areas of thinking. Our purpose here will be the more modest one of attempting to set out the biblical teaching that forms the foundation of Christian theology.
Christian doctrine tells us what Christians believe about God. But before we can discuss what we believe about God, we must tackle the preliminary question of how we come to know about God, and to learn about his existence, character and actions. This question is one of crucial importance, for the differences between the various theological positions Christians hold very often depend on differences in how knowledge of God is thought to be obtained.
Although we cannot by searching find out God, yet God has revealed himself to us in ways that we can understand. Since we are creatures made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), it is possible for us to have some understanding of the God who made us. God has revealed himself by means of human language, and so long as we realize that human language is a true, but inadequate, vehicle for communicating the reality of God, we can make some progress in understanding. God has graciously accommodated himself to our feeble and sinful minds by speaking to us in a personal revelation, and so we must remember that the person himself is greater than the revelation. Provided we remember that he is greater than our understanding, and that human words cannot do justice to him, we can still say much about him.
The story that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is the story of how God created the world, how the world fell into sin and rebellion against him, and how God has begun a process of new creation that will continue until every trace of sin has been destroyed. Humans are the climax and crown of God's creation, for, unlike other creatures, they are the image of God (Genesis 1:26f.). The creation of mankind was quickly followed by the entry of evil into their heart. They were created with the possibility of choosing between right and wrong, between obedience to God and disobedience. But they made the wrong decision at the instigation of the tempter, and sin with all its dreadful consequences entered the world.
The central theme of Christian theology, that which gives it its Christian character, is the coming of Jesus into the world as its Savior from sin. His coming is both a revelation of the character of God as holy love and also the supreme act of love by which God reconciles sinful people to himself.
The next stage in the study of Christian doctrine is to consider the new life which God bestows upon those who accept Jesus as their Savior from sin. We shall begin by looking at two general words which are used to describe our experience as Christians; then we shall discuss four different aspects of Christian life; and finally we shall consider the nature of our response to God's gift of salvation and eternal life.
A person cannot become a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ, without at the same time becoming a member of the people of God along with all his fellow believers and sharing in the life of the church. Indeed, we could not have come to know Jesus without the testimony of other Christians, their work in translating and distributing the Bible, and their prayers for us. Jesus came not to save individuals in isolation from one another, but to found a new community of people who would build one another up in the faith and evangelize the world. We must now explore what is meant by the church and what are its functions.
Eschatology is concerned with God's final intervention in history to bring the present evil world to an end and to inaugurate the new world. But this act of God is not confined to the future, for God began his new creation in the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the church. Prophecies relating to the last days were understood to be in course of fulfillment in the early days of the church. In order, therefore, to understand what is going to happen in the future, we need to recapitulate some of the biblical story so as to put the future into perspective.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the programs intended for?
The Foundations program is intended for everyone, regardless of biblical knowledge. The Academy program is intended for those who would like more advanced studies. And the Institute program is intended for those who want to study seminary-level classes.
Do I need to take the classes in a specific order?
In the Foundations and Academy programs, we recommend taking the classes in the order presented, as each subsequent class will build on material from previous classes. In the Institute program, the first 11 classes are foundational. Beginning with Psalms, the classes are on specific books of the Bible or various topics.
Do you offer transfer credit for completing a certificate program?
At this time, we offer certificates only for the classes on the Certificates page. While we do not offer transfer credit for completing a certificate program, you will be better equipped to study the Bible and apply its teachings to your life.