Kirkwood Baptist Church Believes…

William Sloane Coffin said it is the task of Christians to recover tradition and to recover from it.  The community that is “Kirkwood Baptist Church” has recovered a way of living out authentic faith in a contemporary world.  Both because of and in spite of our Baptist heritage we have grown to embrace, however imperfectly, these values:

Love over Literalism –We believe the Bible is worthy of understanding and interpreting, but every passage must be interpreted within its historical and our contemporary context.  The lens through which we read the Bible is the love of Christ.  This love compels us to bring all of life to the text (e.g., science, experience, reason, tradition).  In the end only the ethics of love will conquer human evil.

Mystery over Magic – By definition God is beyond our human understanding.  We recognize that both in scripture and theological tradition God is understood to be inscrutable and ineffable.  Hence we resist the temptation to provide predictions as to what God will or will not do in this life.  We reject the claims which intimate that through faith we can twist the arm of God.  This perspective is reflected in our worship which seeks to embrace both the transcendence of an unknowable God and the imminence of a loving God.  We sing to a God closer than we can imagine and a God beyond our imagining.

Praise over Proof –  We praise God out of a sense of the wonder of existence and of the joy of life and hope for eternity.  We do not worship out of a doubtless and faultless theology.  Nor do we feel the need to live without doubt or questions.  We sing what we cannot say.  We praise what we cannot prove.  We embrace the mystery of existence and give gratitude for every moment we can praise God.

Science over Superstition – We do not believe that faith and science are fundamentally incompatible.  Nor do we believe that faith and reason are necessarily at odds, although they are often in tension.  We believe that a part of the “narrow way” to which we are called requires us to let our faith inform our science and science inform our faith.  In general terms science answers how and our faith why.

Tradition over Traditionalism –  There are traditions which nourish the soul and there times when slavish dedication to tradition becomes traditionalism, a soul crushing exercise of futility.  We believe the annual church pilgrimage of the church year, for example, feeds our understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  It is more than habit and yet it is less than the heart of our faith.  That is a relationship of faith.  Our faith is empowered by tradition but birthed by a mysterious work of God.

Morals over Moralism – A consistent theme of Jesus was the opposition of the Pharisee’s moralistic power plays.  They demanded of others what they weren’t willing to do themselves.  A fundamental value of Jesus is servant-hood and an essential part of being a moral human being is self-reflection.  We are committed to an ethical journey of self-reflection and a spiritual journey of sanctification; the goal of both being transformation.

Justice over Handouts We have embraced our call to be the “presence of Christ” in our church and in our community.  This is more than “being nice.” We desire to give more of a hand up than a hand out.  Justice requires eyes of faith looking out for the “least of these” and doing our part to meet their needs.  The sheer weight of biblical verses dealing with economic justice is an indicator that we are not only called to moral purity, but to economic recovery: leading all people to a more just world; that it might be here as it is in heaven.

Community over Ideology – A part of our Baptist tradition is the individual’s responsibility to interpret Scripture for themselves but within the community of faith.  This emphasis requires freedom be granted for differences of opinion on non-essential matters.  What we do know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that we are called to love one another.  About more complex issues we may have belief but not knowledge.  This disposition reflects the emphasis of Jesus (particularly evident in the sermon on the mount) that our personal ethics are vastly more significant than traditional orthodoxy.