With all the downgrading of doctrine in the Christian World, we need to know why we hold to certain beliefs and how it impacts our lives. The accusation from the post-modern mind that fancies spirituality and experience, is that dogma is killing the church and with that Christian life. The apple cart is being overthrown for life first and then belief. Well, the question is not if we should do away with dogma and creeds and confessions of faith.

It is a rather silly notion to think that we can have a real meaningful Christian life if we do not know why we have one. The Christian world-view and experience is built on a set of beliefs that feed it and acts as the base thereof. The question is rather what should such a set of beliefs or creed look like. For this, I see in the so called Shema in the Old Testament an excellent example of what it should look like.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 we read these powerful words:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

In these two verses we find the following principles for a really powerful creed.

It calls for attention

The Shema starts with the call to attention: “Hear”. This is not some sort of voluntary choice to be made by whosoever wishes to listen. It is a definite command that can and should not be disobeyed. What we believe should have the same grip on our lives. It should bring us to a standstill to focus on what we confess. All too often do we rush through what we think we believe and when confronted with the truth of it, we shy away because of uncertainty.

I am afraid that the attack against our faith is made so much easier because the church does not demand the same attention to her beliefs than the Shema shows that it should. How often do we still hear what our creeds really confess – let alone what the details of it entails! And because of this lack of attention from the church, there is a general lack of interest amongst the church members and therefore a huge whole to be used by false teachers to undermine the faith system.

It identifies and defines its audience

The Shema is focused towards the people of Israel. They are called to listen and pay attention. Not the outside nations. It demands the attention of a community of believers. Many of today’s churches is that they are seeker-driven, marketing focused. Furthermore, they try as hard as possible to not be offensive towards those that do not think and confess the same.

Well, the Shema demarcated, it called for exclusivity – no matter what the cost. Did it do it without love? For sure not. The good God of Israel would not have allowed it. Did it offend. Definitely it must’ve. The nations around Israel worship idols. The Shema condemns that. It is a clear call to all those who believe in the one true God to listen and pay attention.

It proclaims content

Furthermore after calling to attention those of similar belief, the Shema proclaims its content. The content is focused on the nature and identity of God. There is no bells and whistles to this confession of faith. It cuts right to the heart of what is important and needed the community of faith. For Israel it is important to know the oneness, uniqueness and personal character of their God. For the church this and the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ is important. Why do we believe what we do about the Triune God? This is important to know, as false teachers are up to no good and make claims contrary to this.

It demands practical living

This is important to notice. On the grounds of what they believe and who God is, the people of God are called to a certain lifestyle before God. The content of their faith forces them to live a life worthy of Him in whom they believe. Therefore, although dogma precedes life, Christian life is worthless if it does not show itself. Faith and its content must become a practical reality. This is the whole thrust behind James’ letter. Faith without works is as dead as works without faith.

Our post-modern, emerging culture asks of us to regard the practical life more important than what we believe. It asks of us to regard experience higher than our Christian teachings. In fact, it asks us to disregard the truth of God’s Word and run after a system of disbelief and uncertainty. Against this false and corrupt world view God calls our attention as his redeemed people to focus on what we believe and live meaningful lives based on that.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

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