What we have in common with other Christians is more important than whatever differences there may be in theology and practice. Presbyterianism is a way, but not the only way, of being Christian. It is important to note that to be a member of the Presbyterian Church you do not have to believe a certain set of “Presbyterian doctrines”. You do not have to subscribe to a formal set of beliefs or practices. All that is required for membership is a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Presbyterian ministers and elders, however, must declare their acceptance of “the essential tenets of the Reformed faith” as expressed in our Book of Confessions.
Basic Christian Affirmations
Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior: An affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God … as the Nicene Creed says “very God of very God” and that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are forgiven of our sin, made new creations in him, and assured of eternal life.
A Triune of God: An affirmation of the unity of the Godhead in three persons.
Salvation by Grace through Faith: An affirmation of salvation by the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, not by works or perceived merit, and received by faith / trust.
The Authority of Scripture: An affirmation of the books of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to be the “unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ … and God’s word to you” with an authority greater than (but not exclusive of) tradition, reason or experience.
The Sovereignty of God: An affirmation of God’s loving power and providence, majesty and mercy. God creates, rules, sustains and redeems in intimate relationship between Creator and creation. Note these are present tense verbs, not past tense. The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice! (Psalm 97:1)
Election for Service (not status): A humble affirmation that God is the one who does the choosing! We do not find nor reach nor deserve God’s grace. God chooses people, Israel and the Church, to be instruments of God’s will. Like Abraham and Sarah, we are blessed to be a blessing.
Recognition of Human Sinfulness: An affirmation that though we are created in the image of God, we are nevertheless tainted by sin. There is no element of our lives free of sin. It cannot be cured by education or intent or effort. We cannot save ourselves.
Sanctification: An affirmation that God continues to work through us to bring about the kingdom of heaven. We are called to service - to faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation; to a holiness of life growing our of repentance and forgiveness; and to an inclusive ministry that seeks to reform the world.
The Covenant Life of the Church: An affirmation that the Church is not simply an aggregate of separate persons, but a community brought together by the intention of God, ordered by the Rod of God, and led by the Spirit of God. The Church is, therefore, more than a voluntary society or organization. The “connectional” nature of the church is rooted in God’s choice, not our free decision.