CFC, Stan Grenz & our First Principles

Like so many others I was shocked to learn of Stanley Grenz’s death. He died early in the morning March 12, 2005 24 hours after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage. He will be missed and he had a profound connection to me, (Dick Staub) and CFC.

Our little not-for-profit, The Center for Faith and Culture, has been chugging along since 1998 doing interesting things with little fanfare (and limited financial support!).

When I was trying to decide whether or not to move back to Seattle, Stan and I talked over dinner in Chicago about his sense that God was doing something amazing in “Cascadia.” He was always generous with his time and genuinely interested in the way we were working the territory at the intersection of faith and culture.

Early on we at CFC recognized the importance of thinking about our work clearly and theologically, so after I moved back to Seattle we gathered an ad hoc group to my house (Tom Beaudoin, Erika Carney, Marty O’ Donnell, Lou Carlozo, Mark Drovdahl, Paul Ingram, RA Harlan, Dave Petersen) and we asked Stanley to join us and to draft a theological foundation on which we could build.

We were all amazed at how quickly he worked, listening intently, heading off to another room and returning in a few hours with the document below.

Stanley was that rare combination of head, heart and imagination that made him such an innovative theologian and inspiring friend. He is missed and others of us need to continue our work with more passion to honor the legacy of his.

Statement of First Principles
The Center for Faith and Culture
October 22, 1999

Called to be a gospel people in mission on God’s behalf to humankind, we affirm as the theological foundation of our efforts within the Center for Faith and Culture the following:

1. The gospel:
The gospel is the good news that God has acted in Jesus Christ and is acting through the Holy Spirit to bring to pass the purpose of the triune God for all creation.
One central aspect of the gospel is God’s invitation, made available through Christ and by the Spirit’s power, welcoming humans into fellowship with the eternal God, through which they enjoy reconciliation with one another, with creation and with themselves.
This gospel speaks about the grace of the loving God offered freely to humans in the midst of their failure and alienation, a grace that seeks to bring humans to the divinely-given goal of their existence.

2. The gospel and discipleship:
While some people may respond to the gospel through a particular encounter with God in Christ at a specific point in time, the goal of the gospel moves beyond any initial religious experience to bring about a life characterized by fellowship with God through Christ by the Spirit’s power. This life of fellowship, known as well as “discipleship,” entails continual repentance and faith in what God has provided through Christ. Moreover, discipleship involves devotion to God, service to others in Christ’s name and living as stewards within creation.
In this sense, the joyous task of embracing the gospel encompasses all of life, both temporally and qualitatively. That is, the life of discipleship is to stretch from the awakening of faith until the end of earthly life and it is to encompass every dimension of existence.

3. The gospel and community:
Christians are a people defined by the gospel. That is, the good news of fellowship with God, others and creation provides the basis for our understanding of ourselves as a community of faith. The Christian church is to be a sign and vehicle of the good news.
The gospel is “individual” in that through the good news God addresses humans individually. At the same time, this divine address does not come to the individual in isolation, but to individuals-in-relationships and to people-in-societies. Further, the goal of the gospel is not the refashioning of the individual as such but the renewal of persons-in-community and the transformation of social structures.

4. The gospel and culture:
As Lord of creation, Jesus Christ alone is the rightful sovereign over all of life, including human social relationships and cultural expressions. As the giver and sustainer of life, the Holy Spirit is not only present throughout creation but is also at work within the human cultural life.
As social beings by divine design, humans quite naturally express their understandings of the meaning of life and creation through shared expressions and above all through cultural symbols.
The Christian community likewise expresses its understanding of a creation under God (the gospel) through language and other cultural markers. Yet the media through which the gospel comes to expression are not limited to overtly Christian symbols. Rather, insofar as humans express their deepest longings through shared carriers of meaning and because these longings are ultimately spiritual, human cultural symbols can also be instruments in understanding and expressing the good news.
Because Christ is the Lord of creation and the Spirit is the giver of life, as Christians we intentionally participate in the cultural milieu in which God has called us to live, to learn and to serve, for the sake of comprehending, embodying and proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace.

5. The gospel and mission within culture:
As a people defined by the gospel of divine grace, we participate within the wider cultural milieu.
This participation includes engaging as disciples of Jesus with others in the ongoing conversation about the meaning of shared cultural markers. The goal of such conversation is the continuing task of interpreting and clarifying the quest for God expressed through human cultural symbols, as well as understanding more completely the gospel itself.
As Christians, we enter this ongoing conversation motivated by the divine love for others we ourselves have come to know in Christ through the Spirit. Imbued with the Spirit of Christ and conscious of our calling to be disciples of Jesus, we seek to pattern our participation after Christ’s own example, who incarnated the good news in his life and who humbly served others. Consequently, our involvement in the cultural conversation is to be characterized by a spirit of mutuality, genuine humility and the desire to listen and learn as well as to speak and teach.
As a gospel people, therefore, we seek to glorify God by being instruments of the Spirit in the divine program of initiating the reconciliation, fellowship and community that lies at the heart of the good news from which we gain our ultimate identity.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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