Statement of Faith: What I Believe
I believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in a good God who made a good creation, including us, male and female, made in the image of God. I believe God always pursues human beings for relationship because of God’s great love.
I believe Jesus Christ our Lord, who is eternally God with the Father, who put on flesh and dwelt among us, who is fully God and fully man. I believe Jesus was born, lived, healed and taught, was crucified and buried. I believe Jesus was resurrected in body and spirit, appeared to witnesses, and ascended to the right hand of God. Because of his victory over sin and death, we can be saved out of sin and darkness and into new life in God; as Jesus was resurrected, so we will be resurrected to God’s eternal life.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the person of God who dwells in believers to lead us into the good life God has always planned for us.
I believe in the church as the body of God’s people and that we as the church are supposed to live and work in community. As followers of Jesus, our lives are both already renewed in him and also not yet fully renewed. This is an in-between time in which we have the opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness, to share the good news of Jesus, and to wait and pray and work for the way of God to be complete in the world.
I believe the Scripture is the word of God, beautiful for the mind and heart, and useful for life in Christ. I believe that God’s word is inspired and authoritative, that it tells the story of what it means to be truly human, from Creation to New Creation, and that the whole of Scripture points to Jesus. We study God’s word to meet God in it and to open our hearts to God’s way, because the Bible holds layer after layer of treasures for our lives. I believe God will faithfully meet us in prayer, in Scripture, and in other practices of the faith, and that the Spirit of Jesus Christ will work in us to create true transformation which will begin now and be completed when he returns in glory.
Statement of Faith: How I Teach
It can be hard to select a Bible study teacher, not knowing if you can trust what they say about the Bible. What if I listen to them and they are way too conservative/liberal/fundamentalist/progressive? What If they are Baptist/Catholic/Lutheran/Pentecostal/Evangelical/Mainline/Calvinist/Arminian and something slips by without my noticing? Nerve-wracking, right?
That’s why I’m talking to you about what I believe and what I teach. First, at the foundation, I try to teach the Bible as the universal church understands it.
Wait, is it even possible to teach the Bible as the universal church understands it?
On one hand, yes, of course that’s possible! The church as a whole agrees on the major precepts of our faith down through the centuries and across the four major traditional divisions of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, and Free Protestant.
We all believe in the God of Scripture, the Maker of heaven and earth, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all believe that Jesus came into the world as a human being, lived and healed and taught, was crucified, buried, and resurrected, and has ascended to the right hand of God. We believe Jesus is fully man and fully God, one in nature with the Father, and a separate person of God in the Son. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of God in believers, who shapes us into living the good life God has planned for us. We believe in forgiveness of sins and salvation from sin and death.
Isn’t it amazing and wonderful that we have a common core of our faith across our Christian traditions?
But on the other hand, woah. It’s not really possible to teach the Bible as the “universal church” understands it. We all have differences too. We believe different things about how to read the Bible, the infallibility of Scripture, how we’re to understand the Old Testament, what it means that Jesus was resurrected, how we’re elected for salvation, what salvation consists of, and what the good life of God looks like. And more.
Both these things are true and we have to hold them in tension. We all believe the same and we all believe differently. How do I handle that when I teach?
My Faith Background
I grew up in conservative Protestant Christianity. Specifically, I come from the Church of Christ, a smaller tradition that formed in the US around the turn of the 18th century and is more prevalent in the south. Its leaders formed it as a unity movement to go back to the Bible and let go of the divisive creeds of the day. The Church of Christ considered itself non-denominational. It values every member studying Scripture for their beliefs without a hierarchy telling them what to believe.
The traditional hallmarks of the Church of Christ are believer’s baptism (someone old enough to decide to follow Jesus is baptized at their own decision), the weekly practice of the Lord’s Supper, and worship with a cappella singing (without musical instruments; though many congregations use instruments now). It is congregational, meaning there is no wider hierarchy.
How does this inform my teaching now? Well, I certainly believe in Bible study for every Christian! That’s what we’re doing here after all! I still worship at a church that practices believer’s baptism and celebrates the Lord’s Supper weekly. We have services without instruments, and I also attend our college ministry worship service with instruments (I love both).
I do not look down on someone who was baptized as an infant or who baptizes their infant children. I regard you as real Christians with whom I am in fellowship (and hope for the same from you!). Same with the monthly or quarterly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
I also grew up in congregations where women did not teach adults, preach, lead singing, serve Communion, or serve as Ministers, Elders, or Deacons. I currently attend a church where women do all these things (except that Elders are either men or couples, it’s less than fully defined). This is a change that I believe is biblically based and biblically faithful, and really important as we live out the New Life to which Christ calls us. If you wish, I’ll talk about why I believe this. I also teach women’s groups in congregations in which women do none of these ministry roles—I respect that boundary without pressing anyone on the point.
Finally, I am not Calvinist (otherwise known as Reformed theology), and my beliefs come through in my teaching. At the same time, I understand the foundations of Calvinism and Reformed theology and recognize many of its strengths. I believe Calvinist and Reformed Christians are real Christians with whom I am in fellowship (and again, hope for the same in return). But I think a Calvinist will sometimes disagree with my conclusions, especially in the New Testament epistles. I think that is ok, because we can talk about it respectfully and we can both learn something.
Wider Education and Study
I completed my masters of Theological Studies at a school born from Church of Christ heritage and in communion with the breadth of greater Christian faith. (To which one might say, “Uhhh, what does that mean?”) To boil it down, I’d say the professors were mostly of the Church of Christ tradition and the students were from many traditions. The readings, studies, sources and opinions were from many traditions through the centuries.
We read the Church Fathers from the centuries immediately after the New Testament. We read saints and theologians through the centuries—Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Aquinas, Luther, and many more. We read Calvin and the patron of the opposite approach, Arminius. We read current academics who don’t really believe in Scripture and also evangelical fundamentalists. The goal in reading all these sources was to do so with respect and discernment, to gain theological depth and spiritual empathy, and to agree and disagree well when warranted.
Currently, I write lessons and curriculum by reading from many traditions. My hope is that these enrich my understanding and teaching, while remaining grounded in the core of our faith as I described it above. If you are from a different tradition, there’s every chance we have a teacher, preacher, or author in common as someone we have learned from!
I always have to chuckle when I have to answer a question in class with some variation on “Well, scholars differ on that!” Even within a single tradition, there will be different opinions on many finer points of translation, interpretation, or theology.
I have learned from many differing opinions. When I teach, I try to provide various viewpoints when it’s relevant, so that you can know what ideas are floating around and think about things from new angles. I am then open about what conclusions I take away from the array of ideas.
Trust and Teaching
I hope this helps you trust me to bring you the Word of Jesus Christ. I commit to always work to be faithful to Scripture, to Jesus, and to the common teachings of the wider church, while letting you know some of how teachers through the centuries have taught and how scholars differ now.
Questions? If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me and make this a conversation!
What Students Say
“Deanna’s knowledge and recall of the Bible is amazing! She has taught our women’s Bible study for several years and brings such a depth of insight and appreciation for history to our studies. She teaches both Old and New Testament and, this past year, had Zoom sessions on two different topics each week. I have always struggled with the Old Testament timeline but Deanna has a way of bringing history to life and clarifying events, when and where they happened, and reviewing where we’ve studied those people and places before. And her study of Greek and Hebrew bring a richness and nuance to the words in any Bible translation. I believe Deanna is qualified to teach in any setting, will increase your understanding of the Bible, and be a great asset to your retreat or class series.”Mary, from women’s Bible study class