Statements of belief such as the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds were crafted to identify those elements of Christianity without which Christianity would not exist: the one God’s existence as three persons, God’s creation of the world, Christ’s death, resurrection, and return, the final judgment, forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who repent and trust in Christ. Through these essentials, Christians of all traditions and ethnicities find unity under their common Savior.
However, while transcending cultural, linguistic or socio-economic barriers, the Church has also enjoyed a rich diversity of geographical, national, and cultural expressions. Whitton Avenue Bible Church is one such expression. Seeking to be faithful to the Scripture, and sensitive to the setting of our time and place, we are marked by the following distinctives:
God is the center of the Bible’s story. The Bible begins with the glorious God creating the universe and the Bible ends with the glorious God at the center of the new creation. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25). The central priority of a Reformed understanding of the Bible is the glory of God. Everything revolves around him. This radical orientation to God is captured with one short, potent verse, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).Human sin
Although humans “knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…” (Romans 1:21-23). So a verdict upon the entire human race is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This originally took place in the Garden of Eden and had horrific, pervasive effects at every relational level: with God, with one another, with how they viewed themselves, and toward the creation. Sin brought death into the world. In Romans we read that, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10-11). Ephesians pronounces humans to be “dead in the trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians. 2:1). It’s a state of “total depravity” or “radical corruption, a spiritual inability of practicing righteousness or entering into a relationship with God by our own power.God’s Grace in Christ
Merciful intervention is God’s sovereign prerogative, and it is by that gracious will alone that anyone is rescued from eternal wrath. This theme of God’s sovereign and gracious choice to set his love on particular sinners is central to the Reformed understanding of how God glorifies himself in the gospel. Apart from God’s electing love, no one would seek after him to be saved. This merciful intervention came to its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ, God incarnate. Our heartfelt response to such a God is: worship, humility, prayer, and evangelism. God’s sovereignty in salvation neither removes the responsibility of people to repent and believe in Christ, nor downgrades the necessity and power of prayer and evangelism, but rather reinforces them as the ordained means by which God accomplishes his purposes.
We believe this God-centeredness is evident in all of Scripture, from beginning to end, so it is utterly insufficient to list only some verses as evidence. However, the following texts might provide a helpful start (Genesis 1-3; 12:1-3; 45:5-7; Exodus 33:15-23; 2. Chronicles 6:12-42; Job 40-42; Psalm 115:1-3; 135; Isaiah 40-45; Daniel 9; John 1:1-18; 10:25-30; 17; Acts 4:23-31; 13:48, 17:24-31, Romans 1-4, 8-9; Ephesians 1-2; 1.Thessalonians 2:13; Philippians 2:12-13; Titus 3:1-8; Revelation 1:1-8; 5; 19-22).
In full agreement with the Gospel Coalition’s Confessional Statement, “We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them. We believe that God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that he will one day glorify them—all to the praise of his glorious grace. In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe, having set his saving love on those he has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer.” (TCG Confessional Statement).
The New Testament repeatedly calls on the new believers to be baptized and so publicly profess their faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38) It is a central component to the Great Commission that still defines the church’s mission, “Go therefore…. (Matthew 28:19-20). The main verb of the commission is to “make disciples,” and this is clarified by two participles: baptizing and teaching. This gives us deeper insight into the nature of baptism. It is an initiation into the people of God, the effects of which are worked out as new believers learn from mature believers how to live in obedience to Jesus. This is why we believe that baptism should only be administered to those who have a credible testimony of repentance from sin and trust in Jesus Christ. It also explains why we see baptism as a necessity for church membership, as it is Christ’s commanded means of enfolding repentant sinners into the church family.
Baptism is an outward display of our spiritual union with Jesus, specifically his death and resurrection, so baptism by immersion (whenever possible) best symbolizes the reality to which it points. (Romans 6:1-11). For membership at Whitton Avenue Bible Church we require baptism after conversion, which means re-baptism for those baptized as infants. We welcome into fellowship and church life (but not membership) those who feel conscience-bound not to take this step.
Men and women are created as image-bearers of God, absolutely equal in essence, dignity and value but are different by divine design. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27). God’s created order for human families describes equally important, complementary roles, yet ascribes leadership roles to males (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 9). Furthermore, God has ordained that gender distinctions and male leadership should be maintained and reflected in the leadership of the Christian church, especially as it comes to teaching and authority (1Timothy 2:12; 3:2-7). When men and women embrace their God-given roles, they reflect the image of God more completely than they would otherwise. Both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality in the home, but God has given to the man primary responsibility to lead his wife and family in accordance with the servant leadership and sacrificial love modeled by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7).
The elders/pastors of each local church have been granted authority and responsibility under the headship of Jesus Christ to lead, care for, protect, and nurture the local body through the faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, at Whitton Avenue Bible Church we hold that the role and function of elder/pastor and elder-like teaching and preaching is restricted to men (1Timothy 3:1-7; Titus1:5-9). However, men and women are equal recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church so women are to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to utilize their gifting in ministry to the body of Christ in ways that are consistent with the Word of God (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:4-14; Romans 12:4-8).
God created us in his likeness as male and female, so that we would reflect the loving complementarity and intimate relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-2; 17:5, 24). When God created us as male and female, He also instituted the covenant of marriage in which one man and one woman are bound together for life in a relationship of oneness: relationally, emotionally, and physically (Genesis 2:24-25). Human sexuality is a gift from God and His design for sexual expression within marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to human flourishing. This design for marriage beautifully illustrates God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people. (Hosea 2:19-20; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:31-32).
All of human existence, however, has been thoroughly damaged by the fall into sin (Genesis 3; Romans 1:18-32; 3:23; 5:12). Our sinful rebellion against God and His ways has affected every aspect of our existence, including our sexuality. Although our culture normalizes and even sanctions various sexual expressions and practices, we believe that the Bible unambiguously defines sexual relations outside marriage as sin, but affirms the goodness of sexual enjoyment within the marriage between a man and a woman. (Proverbs 5:18-19; Song of Solomon, Matthew 5:27-28; 1.Corinthians 7; 1 Thessalonians. 4:3-8). We believe that the only remedy for our sexual brokenness, as for any other brokenness and sin, is a radical salvation by Jesus Christ and a life lived in on-going dependence upon him.
The structure of family through which God meant to display His care and love often becomes a place of abuse, manipulation, neglect, and intense pain. Likewise, Satan attacks the family of God, the church. The community which is supposed to be loving, gracious, healthy, and safe can often be a place of legalistic rules, neglect and harm. Both family and church are places where abuse has taken place in all its forms–physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and spiritual.
Throughout the Bible, the fatherless, widow, and sojourner are highlighted as the most vulnerable of society, in need of our loving care, protection and love. (Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29; 24:17-22; Ruth 2:8-9; Isaiah 1:17; Luke 4:18; 10:29-37). Modern day examples also include abused women, children, those with physical or developmental disabilities, and immigrants.
At Whitton Avenue we have been actively engaged in the care and healing of the vulnerable and the abused through Abuse Risk Reduction Policy (ARRP), foster care and adoption, outreach with ministries such as Choices Pregnancy Centers, Hope Women’s Center, Mending the Soul and ministry to families in our immediate neighborhood. However we engage the needs of the most vulnerable in our community, we desire to show the same type of proactive mercy to the powerless and needy as God showed to us in sending his Son. With tangible displays of mercy and justice, we desire to both proclaim and portray the gospel of the kingdom. We want to declare and display the glorious reign of our God in all of life.(For a more extensive treatment of Distinctives 1-5, see http://www.whittonavenue.org/?s=distinctives)
We believe that the Biblical model for local church government is based on a plurality of elders who are entrusted with overseeing and shepherding the flock of God. Overseeing includes authoritative decision-making governed with wisdom and care. It includes management and administration of church affairs and equipping of members for leadership in various ministries. Shepherding includes leading by example, teaching the Word of God,praying for each member, protecting from false teaching and evil influences both within and outside the body. (Acts 14:23; 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4; James 5:14). In all cases, elders must be in full submission to the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus Christ. The elders are men who are committed to this high calling from God and who live in accordance with the standards set forth in the Bible (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9).
We also believe that the Bible teaches that the final decisions on important matters rest on the congregation as a whole and not on elders only. (Matthew 18:17, Acts 6:4; 2 Corinthians 2:5-8). At Whitton Avenue, matters of such nature as confirmation and dismissal of elders, confirmation and dismissal of pastors, establishment of the annual budget, amendment of important documents, affiliation with other churches all require the approval of the members of the church. (For a more extensive treatment see http://www.whittonavenue.org/content/2008/12/Paper-on-Elders.pdf).