Background to Biblical Foundation Statement
Gutenberg College grew out of a campus ministry (McKenzie Study Center) that distinguished itself by its lively interchange of ideas and its willingness to question the unquestionable. The founders of Gutenberg College were scholars who participated in that dialog for many years. Individuals changed their minds on many issues over the years, but a consensus resulted from the dialog; a set of beliefs came to characterize this community of scholars, as it does the Gutenberg faculty today. The Gutenberg College Biblical Foundation Statement documents these beliefs.
All regular and probationary faculty, administrative staff, and members of the board of governors must acknowledge their agreement with the Biblical Foundation Statement by signing the Declaration of Compliance to the Gutenberg College Biblical Foundation Statement. Although the continuing dialog of ideas is a crucial aspect of the Gutenberg College education, ultimately this dialog rests on a shared epistemological method—a set of assumptions that, while being well-founded and of excellent pedigree, are not common in our day. In order to be a meaningful participant, one needs to agree with the epistemological “rules” governing the dialog. Part 1 of the Gutenberg College Biblical Foundation Statement, the “Statement of Methodological Commitment,” delineates these rules, and all members of the faculty (except adjunct faculty) must agree to them. Parts 2 and 3 of the Biblical Foundation Statement further delineate the consensus that has emerged over the years. Part 2, “Summary of the Primary Message of the Bible,” describes what the faculty has concluded to be the essential features of biblical Christianity. Since, however, the summary does not include several issues typically found in such theological statements, Part 3, “Doctrinal Statement,” makes explicit what the faculty believes with respect to other theological issues. All members of the faculty (except adjunct faculty) must agree to Part 1 of the Biblical Foundation Statement. In keeping with the spirit of the dialog of ideas, however, Gutenberg College grants faculty members the freedom to disagree, in good conscience, with particular statements in Parts 2 and 3 but asks them to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the other faculty that these deviations are defensible on the basis of the epistemological method described in Part 1.
Because Gutenberg College wants students and their families to be fully informed about the faculty’s underlying presuppositions in their pursuit of truth, the Biblical Foundation Statement is included on this website. Although all prospective students are required to read the Statement, students are not required to subscribe to its hermeneutical or doctrinal stances. Each student is encouraged to think through how to derive truth and how to articulate his or her own perspective.
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. —Martin Luther
Introduction: Gutenberg College Biblical Foundation Statement
Gutenberg College is founded on the epistemological, hermeneutical, and doctrinal stances set forth in this Statement, which consists of three parts: “Methodological Commitment,” “Summary of the Primary Message of the Bible,” and “Doctrinal Statement.” Together these three parts articulate our beliefs concerning how one arrives at a biblical worldview, the essential core elements of a biblical worldview, and the specific doctrinal commitments of Gutenberg College.
Part 1: Statement of Methodological Commitment
Part 1, “Methodological Commitment,” is Gutenberg College’s philosophical and doctrinal position regarding truth and the epistemological method by which we pursue it. Gutenberg College embraces rational biblicism as a methodological approach to biblical revelation. A biblicist is a person who believes that God has given us the Bible to be the sole infallible authority with regard to matters of ultimate truth. A rational biblicist is one who believes that God has given us our rationality as the ultimate arbiter of truth and, therefore, that no truth will be contrary to the dictates of sound reasoning. These methodological commitments are reflected in what follows:
- We believe that truth exists and is knowable; and we believe that truth about God and other ultimate realities exists and is knowable just as surely as we believe that truth about mundane realities exists and is knowable.
- We believe that God created human rationality, that it is a universal, God-given faculty of every human being, and that God made it to be the ultimate epistemological authority—that is, we believe that what is soundly rational can and should be assumed to be true, and we believe that what is true will be soundly rational. Furthermore, we believe that what is not soundly rational should be assumed to be false.
- We believe that God, through the processes of history, has granted to us an authoritative collection of writings we call the Scriptures. The Scriptures are that set of writings that God providentially brought into being and purposed to serve as an authoritative source of teaching with regard to ultimate realities. We believe that these Scriptures are the only objective spiritual authority that we should allow to dictate our understanding of ultimate realities.
- We believe that no creed, no orthodoxy, no consensus, no tradition, nor any other extra-biblical source of teaching that attempts to claim what the Bible teaches should ever dictate how we understand and interpret the Bible. We believe that our doctrines, beliefs, faith, practice, understanding, and knowledge should be brought into conformity to what the actual text of the Scriptures actually teach; but we do not believe that our doctrines, beliefs, faith, practice, understanding, and knowledge need be brought into conformity to any spiritual authority other than the Bible.
- We believe that our understanding of the teaching of the Bible must be dictated and informed by sound, rational exegesis of the text of the Bible and by that alone. And we believe that sound, rational exegesis can only be exegesis that accords with the assumption that the biblical writings communicate in the mode of ordinary human verbal communication. Any exegesis that does not accord with that assumption we must consider unsound and invalid.
- We grant absolute authority to the Bible and make it our working assumption that everything the Bible asserts—no matter how seemingly trivial or unimportant—should be assumed to be true. We believe that the Bible is without error in anything whatsoever that it does, indeed, assert.
Part 2: Summary of the Primary Message of the Bible
The methodological commitments articulated in Part 1 will lead, we believe, to a certain understanding of the essential core teaching of the Bible; that understanding is presented in Part 2, “Summary of the Primary Message of the Bible.” This summary is far from exhaustive; an authentic rational biblicist will, on the basis of biblical teaching, believe more than is delineated in the following summary. Underlying this summary, and even implicit within it, are beliefs about the existence of God, the nature of God, the nature of the cosmos and the created order, the nature of human existence, the nature of moral goodness, and any number of other beliefs and assumptions. Furthermore, the worldview that is authoritatively revealed in the Bible—and, therefore, will be embraced by an authentic rational biblicist—contains further elements that are arguably tangential to and independent of the elements outlined in the summary below. The purpose of the following summary, therefore, is not to create an exhaustive outline of all that an authentically biblical Christian will believe. Rather, the following summary is intended to delineate the essential core of what constitutes the fundamental message of the Bible.
Our contention is this: anyone who employs the sound, rational exegetical method to which a rational biblicist is committed will inevitably come to an understanding of the core message of the Bible that contains roughly those elements articulated below. Anyone who claims to be a rational biblicist but who does not and cannot agree with the synopsis of the Bible’s message outlined below (or who cannot offer a cogent explanation, in keeping with principles acceptable to the rational biblicist, of where and why they cannot agree) is not likely to be a rational biblicist in the sense in which we mean it.
The following summary is our current understanding of what the Bible itself would purport to be the essential core truths of its primary message:
- What the Bible calls LIFE is the greatest good for any and every human being. LIFE would truly fulfill a human individual, fulfilling his created purpose and longing. No human being can be truly fulfilled who does not enter into LIFE.
- LIFE, as defined by the Bible, describes an everlasting existence in a new age of created reality beyond the present age—in “a new heavens and a new earth” where goodness (righteousness) will prevail. Goodness will permeate that existence. It will dwell in every citizen’s heart and in every institution (if any) that is established in that everlasting society. The Bible describes it as a righteous Kingdom where Jesus, the appointed Messiah, will reign as its righteous King. While the description “Kingdom of God” may be somewhat metaphorical, it nevertheless describes a reality that is a metaphysically supernatural fact about the state of future existence.
- The ultimate fulfillment of every human existence, therefore, is not and cannot be found in the present state of existence. This present world and the things in it are not capable of bringing the fulfillment and LIFE we were created for. The true hope for human existence lies beyond our lives here and now in this world. Our hope lies in a world to come. To expect to find ultimate fulfillment here and now in this existence is futile and foolish.
- Evil, in a human creature, ultimately consists in his stubborn, foolish rebellion against God. Human evil is opposition to what and who God is, to what God values, and to what God has purposed. It manifests itself as some form of rebellion against God’s values, authority, will, requirements, purposes, promises, or anything else that reflects who God is. Evil, so defined, can also be described as the hatred of God. The natural-born state of every human being is just such rebellion and hatred of God at the deepest core of who he is; hence, every human being is naturally evil. Even though human evil is ultimately self-destructive and self-defeating—since it is rebellion against the very thing he was created by God to be and against everything that would most fulfill his created humanity—every human being is nevertheless characterized by just such evil rebellion.
- The first important obstacle to a human being’s entering into LIFE is his moral condition. In his natural-born state, every human individual is inherently evil and morally unworthy. He deserves no good thing from God. In the light of human evil, God’s just and appropriate response to every human being is moral outrage and a corresponding disinclination to grant him LIFE. Therefore, in the absence of something to avert God’s indignation, no human being has any hope of being granted LIFE by God. This is man’s most important problem—that from which every human being is most in need of rescue—namely, his facing a destiny of ultimate rejection by God and being denied LIFE.
- This is the essential, universal core of the gospel (or “good news”) that Jesus revealed and that the apostles proclaimed: God, as a gift of His immeasurable mercy, will not hold any human being’s moral unworthiness against him. Out of mercy and mercy alone, God is willing to grant LIFE to any human being who truly and authentically wants it and is willing to receive it on God’s terms—namely, as a gift of divine mercy to all who will repudiate their natural rebellion against God and seek to know and love Him instead.
- There is a second important obstacle to a human being’s entering into LIFE—namely, what the Bible sometimes calls a “hard heart.” A hard heart is a person’s stubborn volitional resistance to God and the things of God. The same rebellion against God that is intrinsic to man’s basic moral condition—rendering him evil—also controls and dictates those subjective desires and inclinations that become reflected in his everyday choices, actions, and behavior. Accordingly, just as a human being is instinctively evil at the core of his moral nature, he is also—at the level of his conscious purposes, deliberative actions, and volitional life generally—decidedly hostile toward God and all that God is. Due to the hardness of a person’s heart, therefore, a human being, left to himself, would never submit to God’s rightful authority, would never accede to God’s will, would never endorse God’s purposes, would never appreciate God’s values, would never like God’s priorities, and would never love who God is. As a consequence, no human being, left to himself, could ever bring himself to desire LIFE as a gift of divine mercy. The rebelliousness of the human heart would never permit him to do so—for to do so would require of a person (1) that he acknowledge his guilt and unworthiness before God, (2) that he acknowledge the glorious mercy of God and bow to it in gratitude, and (3) that he love the person and values of God and want to exist with them forever. None of these are dispositions that the hard heart of man could ever allow. Accordingly, even though the “good news” of God’s undeserved mercy has been announced by Jesus and the apostles, no human being, left to himself, will ever receive that announced mercy and the LIFE that follows from it; for the hardness of his heart will never permit him to do what he must do to receive it—namely, to acknowledge and honor the God who offers him mercy.
- There are a select few members of the human race whom God has sovereignly chosen to receive His mercy and the LIFE that results. God—through the activity of His Spirit at work in their hearts—makes these people evident by producing a quality within them that the Bible calls “holiness.” The essential characteristic of holiness is that it is the opposite of the hardness of heart that is natural to a sinful human being. While, due to the hardness of his heart, a natural-born human being hates God and is unwilling to acknowledge Him, the one who has been made holy loves God and is desirous of knowing Him.[Important note: the above distinction between a “hard heart” and an “evil moral nature” is important. The one whom God has made “holy” has not been purged of his “evil moral nature.” His “hard heart” has been softened. His conscious, deliberate rebellion against God has been turned into a desire for and commitment to learning to love and submit to God. But this does not mean that instinctually—at the level of his core moral nature—he has been made good. The transformation of one’s moral nature from evil to good is part of one’s future expectation of LIFE. In the final age, beyond this present existence, those whom God has chosen for LIFE will be “glorified.” At least in part, one’s glorification will mean his being re-created such that his moral nature is, at core, good rather than evil. But it is then, and only then, that he can expect to be rescued from the deep-down reality of evil in his own nature. In the meantime, in this present age, the holiness produced by the Holy Spirit is at the level of the person’s “heart,” not at the level of his fundamental moral nature.]
- The Bible delineates a number of different manifestations of holiness in the life of one who has been made holy, but the two manifestations the Bible seems to consider most obvious, dramatic, and noteworthy are these:(a) The holy person responds to God’s merciful offer of LIFE to those who desire to know Him with “Yes. I desire LIFE; I desire to know You; and I thank You.” The one who rejects God’s offer of LIFE, refusing to repent and acknowledge Him, is not holy and will not be granted LIFE.(b) The one who is holy acknowledges the true identity, the true significance, and the real contribution of Jesus of Nazareth. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge who Jesus really is, what Jesus did, and why Jesus is significant is not holy and will not be granted LIFE.
- Jesus of Nazareth was sent into the world by God to accomplish a number of things and to fulfill several distinct purposes, the most important of which are these:(a) Jesus was sent into the world as “the light of the world.” That is, He was the most important of all of God’s prophets. He came to reveal in full what prior prophets had all revealed in part. Jesus came and revealed all we need to know of who God is and what His ultimate purposes are.(b) Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One. He is the one God has appointed to serve as King over the everlasting Kingdom of God. (c) Jesus is the true High Priest appointed by God to possess the right and authority to appeal to God for mercy on the behalf of sinful mankind. (d) Jesus was the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world”—that is, He was the propitiatory offering offered up to God as an appeal to God to be merciful to sinful mankind. When Jesus willingly allowed His own crucifixion, He was (in His capacity as our true High Priest) offering up to God—in the form of his own life-blood—a precious sacrifice, offered up to God in an appeal to God to be merciful. (e) Jesus was and is God become man—the eternal Logos incarnated as flesh, the “visible image of the invisible God.” Jesus represents visibly and tangibly—in the form of a human being—all that God is. Accordingly—even though Jesus is fully a human being like us—it is appropriate to worship Jesus as God Himself, for the authority and character and majesty of God Himself has been embodied uniquely and solely in Jesus.
- The essential core of biblical Christianity, therefore, can be summed up as follows: the one who acknowledges, appreciates, values, and endorses all that Jesus was, is, and did—as outlined in the point above—(and who, accordingly, gratefully receives God’s promise of LIFE as a gift of divine mercy) is among those chosen by God to be granted LIFE in the age to come. The one who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, appreciate, value, and/or endorse all that Jesus was, is, and did is not among those who will receive mercy and LIFE.
Part 3: Doctrinal Statement
Part 3, “Doctrinal Statement,” presents the doctrinal commitments of Gutenberg College, as follows:
- There is one and only one true God. He transcends the entire created order. He is the Creator of all that exists; and in accordance with His will, He transcendently determines all that happens. He has revealed Himself to all of mankind through ongoing disclosure of Himself to the Jewish people through His prophets first, but especially and finally through a man from Nazareth, Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
- The one and only transcendent God is a personal being—having the essential attributes of a person. But, uniquely, He is eternal, unlimited in His power to do whatever is logically possible to do and to know whatever can be known. He is completely and utterly good with no trace of evil in His character. And, most importantly, He is utterly and unfailingly loving so that He is faithful and reliable to bring to pass all the good that He has promised to bring about in and for those whom He has chosen.
- The Bible speaks of three divine persons: (1) Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; (2) Jesus of Nazareth; and (3) the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. These three divine persons are all one. They are all the one and only transcendent God Himself.
- God has left the record of His disclosure about Himself and His will in the Holy Scriptures of sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. These Scriptures we hold to be fully, and uniquely, inspired by God in every aspect of what their authors intend and to be an unerring and true testimony of what God has objectively disclosed to His people through word and act.
- Jesus Christ is God, the living Word, who became a human being through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His birth by a virgin. Accordingly, Jesus is both truly Deity and truly human at the same time. He lived a sinless life and voluntarily atoned for the sins of the human race by dying on the cross, having the wrath of God that every human being deserved poured out upon Himself in their stead. Thereby appealing to God for mercy, He accomplished salvation from death to Life for all who trust in God for their justification. He rose from the dead in the same body, though glorified, in which He lived and died. He ascended bodily into heaven. He is now clothed with the glory of the Father Himself and has been “seated at the right hand of the Father,” having been qualified for and having assumed all the authority in heaven and earth that He was destined to be granted by God. He now makes intercession for His own.
- Man was created in the image of God from the beginning of his creation. Man is not a product of random mutations and natural selection as portrayed in Darwinian evolution; rather, mankind is a product of the supernatural design and creation of God and distinct and qualitatively different from the animals. Man sinned by disobeying God, and as a consequence he was alienated from his Creator. Thus, by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed to all men, for all sinned. Man’s nature is corrupted, and he is thus totally unable to please God in the “flesh”—his natural-born humanity. Every man is in need of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. The salvation of humanity is wholly a work of God’s free grace and is not the work, in any part, of human worthiness or goodness or of religious ceremony, practice, or discipline. In view of the work of Jesus Christ, God forgives the one who humbles himself and puts his faith in Christ alone for his salvation. From such a one, God withholds His wrath against sin and grants His righteousness.
- The Holy Spirit is God Himself come into the world to make God known to the world, to reveal the Truth of God’s purposes, to enlighten the mind of the believer and to open his heart to truth, and to convict the unbelieving world of the coming judgment. The evidence of the Spirit in a person’s life is the seal of and down payment on his eternal inheritance.
- Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, His body, which is composed of all believers, living and dead, who have been joined to Him through saving faith. He, however, has chosen to organize His body and direct it through enabled leaders who seek His wisdom and direction by the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. They are called to be examples to the body in humility and service. The church is encouraged to come together and share their lives with one another through mutual encouragement and edification in the faith through the teaching of the Scriptures, the mutual example of authentic faith, and through mutual loving service to one another.
- Jesus Christ will come to earth—personally, visibly, and bodily—to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. After physical death, believers will be resurrected to everlasting glory and blessing and will enter into eternal conscious reward. At that time they will share in the glory of Christ Himself. After physical death, unbelievers will undergo an eternal punishment and everlasting condemnation.
- The Lord Jesus Christ commanded His apostles to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and to disciple men and women of every nation. The spreading of that Gospel is ultimately the most important endeavor of the Church. Mature believers, pursuing righteousness and wisdom, will consider of utmost importance the proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers, of greater importance than any worldly and personal ambition.
- Satan is real and personal and intent on frustrating the purpose of God.