In seeking to get acquainted with a church, questions are often asked not only about its history and philosophy of ministry but also about its theology. The question is sometimes phrased: “What does Emmanuel Presbyterian Church believe?” We hope that this document will assist you in understanding our basic beliefs better. Should you have further questions, please contact us for further information.
We are Evangelical
To say that we are evangelical means that we take our stand with all those who believe in what used to be called “the fundamentals” or the fundamental tenets of classical historical Christian doctrine. These fundamental beliefs are the existence of the triune God, the deity of Jesus, the virgin birth, the substitutionary and vicarious atonement of Christ, the physical resurrection of Christ, the sure and bodily return of Christ, and the divine inspiration, infallibility and divine authority of the Bible as the written Word of God. We joyfully affirm our unity with those from every tradition and denomination who hold to these fundamentals, including those true believers in Christ who, for whatever reasons, find themselves members of denominations or churches with which we might have certain disagreements.
We are Evangelistic
This means we take seriously the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Without compromising the sovereignty of God, we affirm the responsibility of each person to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and our responsibility to extend the Gospel invitation as a call to salvation to everyone who hears its message. We invite all, without distinction, to drink freely of the Water of Life and to live eternally. This is the initial step we take in seeking to extend the transforming presence of Christ’s Kingdom.
We are Reformed
The word “reformed” can be defined simply in two ways. (1) It is a reference to our historical link to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and intends to describe us as the heirs of that tradition which comes from Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and other reformers. (2) The word “reformed” is used also to refer to certain theological distinctives which have marked reformation believers, particularly those of the Calvinistic tradition.
These distinctives can be summarized by our glad affirmation of the responsibility of every person to repent and believe, and that it is God who, by His sovereign electing grace, draws men and women, otherwise dead in sin, to faith in His Son. By this faith alone are God’s people justified.
Reformed distinctives include the sovereignty of God in His creation, providence and election of believers apart from any merit of their own; the irresistible grace of God provided for and preceding the faith of the individual; the sufficiency of God’s grace apart from which man is dead in sin and wholly defiled in all his faculties of soul and body; the efficacy of Christ’s death for all those who believe in Him by grace; and the safe-guarding of all those for whom Christ died for eternal life.
We seek to hold to our reformed convictions humbly, recognizing the sincerity and earnestness of godly men and women who have other positions touching upon these distinctive doctrines. Further, while we require our ordained ministers and officers to subscribe to these distinctive doctrines, belief in the reformed distinctives is not a prerequisite for church membership.
We are Confessional
This means that we have a written confession of faith which we believe to be a good and accurate summary of the Bible’s teaching. Our confession consists of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. These documents are not without flaw; yet we believe they do contain carefully worded summaries of the Bible’s content. All Ruling and Teaching Elders in the Presbyterian Church in America must vow that they hold to these standards and are required to indicate to their presbyteries or sessions where they take exceptions. It is important to note that every church has a confession, formal or informal, written or unwritten even though they may state that they have “no creed but Christ.” Every church summarizes its convictions in some form in order to identify its own church or denominational distinctives.
We are Covenantal
To say we are covenantal means we believe that the unifying principle of the Scriptures is the one covenant of grace that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally and most importantly, in Jesus Christ. The covenant is a pledge or bond of loyalty which God made to His people through each of the above named persons. The covenant is a relationship of loving loyalty that God has initiated with us as His people throughout human history. To speak of the unity of the covenants means that there is one way and one way only to salvation in both Old and New Testaments-that is, by faith alone in Jesus Christ.