First, thank you so much for listening to the podcast or perhaps reading the episodes, either in emails or at smalltowntheologian.org. I appreciate your time investment, and I trust that God has used this podcast to deepen your comfort and joy in the gospel in some way. Keep listening. More helpful content is coming.
Second, I want to improve this podcast for the good of my beloved local church, Jerusalem Church, which meets in the small town of Manheim, PA, and for the good of listeners outside my local church. Helpful input from listeners is challenging me to clarify my direction for the podcast. Where is this podcast going? Let me try to explain.
As I continue in pastoral ministry, the more I realize how important the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith really are, how vital it is for believers to know foundational Biblical truths and to connect them to everyday life.
I grew up in the church. In my experience, from the time I was a kid through today, many Christians struggle to connect theology to life because they don’t really understand the fundamental doctrines and how they relate to life. My perception is that many Christians have no organized doctrinal framework. They believe the Bible is God’s Word. That’s right and good. However, they struggle to see how the thousands of pages of Scripture fit together and work to give them deep comfort and joy and to shape their lives.
It’s like the food pyramid. Can you picture it? A food pyramid does not picture every delicious food, but it does picture the major food groups contributing to a well-balanced diet. Of course, there are many delicious foods to eat, and the pyramid doesn’t picture or explain them all. However, the food pyramid does give the big picture. It helps us visualize the most important categories and their proportions. Yes, we should explore the delights of each category, but we must keep a proper balance. A good doctrinal framework does much the same – it helps us deeply understand and apply the most important points of the Christian faith, well-balanced points that lead us to explore and taste the depths of God’s law and gospel.
Christians struggle with how to think about the fundamentals of the Christian faith, how to organize them in their minds, how to connect dots. To test my perception, ask yourself this question, “What is the gospel?” Can you quickly explain it with clarity, conciseness, and completeness? Does your answer include the essentials or are important truths missing? Again, in my experience, when Christians think and talk about the gospel, their minds and mouths often jump to the death of Christ. They say, “Jesus died for my sins so I’m forgiven,” which is true but incomplete. Christians often forget to mention Christ’s righteous life (law), miraculous resurrection, victorious ascension, and continued intercession. These are common oversights.
Ask the Christians you know to explain the law and gospel. My guess is they will struggle a bit to express the law and gospel in a clear, succinct, and thorough way, not because they don’t know or believe these basic truths, but because they have no unifying framework in their minds. They lack a unifying doctrinal framework to help them understand, articulate, and apply the law and gospel every day for their increasing comfort and joy in Christ. Thinking in clear Biblical categories is tough for us.
What if more Christians had the Apostles’ Creed memorized and knew how to use it every day? What if the Apostles’ Creed was how people thought about the gospel? Anchoring to historical expressions of the apostolic faith would help many Christians better know and live for Jesus. But see, many Christians have forgotten the ecumenical creeds and confessions of ages past. They’ve exchanged them for pop-psychology with a Jesus flavor. They haven’t used time-tested creeds, confessions, or catechisms in the daily rhythm of their lives, and their lives show it. Many Christians don’t know the Ten Commandments by heart and are not using the Ten to diagnose their sinful struggles nor to define for them how God wants them to live. Many Christians don’t use the Lord’s Prayer as a divinely constructed outline for effective and God-honoring prayer. Jesus taught them how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13), but they are not following his instruction. These are basic truths that many Christians simply don’t know and aren’t using for their benefit every day. I’ve struggled with this throughout my life.
I sense that many Christians today are looking for a clear and helpful doctrinal framework. I’m sensing a sort of resurgence of ancient creeds and Reformed confessions. New is not always better. People want time-tested truths. People want solidarity with the Church of ages past and its awe-inspiring piety and practice. People find comfort, security, and belonging in the doctrinal heritage of the past.
I want to help you, my listeners, know the ecumenical creeds. By ecumenical creeds, I mean the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, three creeds the Church has been confessing for over 1500 years. But even more, I want this podcast to help you apply the creeds to the daily rhythm of your lives. I want to help you find comfort and joy in the foundational truths of Scripture presented in the creeds. I want to help you teach the creeds to your kids. Kids need their parents to teach them the basics and show them how those basics play out in life.
I also believe that Reformed theology or Covenant Theology most faithfully explains Scripture. The official doctrinal statement of my church is the three ecumenical creeds and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). I know of no better doctrinal framework than the Heidelberg Catechism, so the focus of this podcast will also be to help you better understand the foundational truths presented in the Heidelberg Catechism and to help you apply the foundational truths to everyday life, to marriage, parenting, church life, work, recreation, everything. I will likely bring in resources like the Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, and Westminster Standards, all great ancient articulations of the Christian faith, but my main focus will be unpacking the foundational truths expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism and helping you apply them to your life in a small town . . . or big city. I invite you to tune in weekly as we work our way through the Heidelberg Catechism and ecumenical creeds. Each episode will be less than 10 minutes and focused on answering the question, “What difference does this make in my everyday life” or “How do I put these truths to good use every day.” I hope parents will tune in. This podcast can better equip you to teach, disciple, lead, train, equip, and shepherd your children in the foundational truths of the Christian faith. And of course, my objective remains – to help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.