A mid the din and bustle of life, there comes a time to revisit “first principles.” First principles are the deepest beliefs by which we live. Everyone has them. They create in us what the Germans call a Weltanschauung, what we term a “worldview.” It is a way of looking at things that shapes all we see. We see all we see and think all we think in light of our worldview, which is animated by our first principles. Even if we do not think about them often, they are always there, lurking in the background, but choreographing what is going on in the foreground. If we take the time and effort, we often can articulate these first principles.
Chalcedon has first principles. Trying to avoid special theological or denominational “trade language ” and speaking earnestly and directly, I here articulate those first principles to our friends, supporters, and readers:
1. All of the universe must be oriented to its Creator and Sustainer, the sovereign, Triune God. Through Jesus Christ, God created and sustains all things (Heb. 1:2). He is the great Creator and Redeemer to Whom all creation is subject. The religion of evolution sees the universe as random and chaotic, to be reordered by the highest animal, man, usually in the form of the state. The religion of Christianity sees the universe as God’s handiwork, under His constant providence and care, moving to a divinely predetermined, glorious end.
Man, God’s supreme earthly creature, was made in His image, and man’s life must be expended in glorifying God, His Creator. His purpose in all things must be to bring glory to God by passionately loving and obeying Him (Mt. 22:36-38).God charged man with exerting dominion over the rest of His creation (Gen. 1:26-28). Man was to be God’s loving, worshipping “vicegerent,” his royal representative, in the earth. He was to create a culture to the glory of God. All created things are meant to bring glory to God.
2. Man’s fundamental dilemma is sin. Man is called to glorify and obey God, and he was created in goodness and innocence. But man, in Adam, sinned (Rom. 5:12-21). He broke God’s holy law (1 Jn. 3:4). Man’s great dilemma is not his “human condition,” but his sin. Sinful man usually wants to deflect attention from his real dilemma. So he blames his ignorance, his finitude, and his environment. This is why political (and theological) liberals usually support gun control, “economic enterprise zones,” and prison systems. They believe that man’s real problem is outside man — man is corrupted by what is external to him; and if he can change his circumstances, he can solve all his problems. Alternatively, the Bible teaches that man is corrupted by his own sinful nature (that which is within). Man must be changed internally (his sin must be dealt with) if he expects to change his circumstances.
Because of his sin (law breaking), man stands under God’s judgment (Rom. 6:23). He is bound to Satan (2 Tim. 2:26) by his sin (Rom. 6:16). In his unsaved state, he is enslaved. He must be emancipated by Another.
3. Jesus Christ redeemed man and creation from sin. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, the eternal Son of God. On the cross of Calvary, He bore the penalty for our sin. God judged Him in the place of us. He was our sacrificial Lamb (1 Pet. 1:18-19). He rose victoriously from the grave on the third day and ascended to His exaltation in the heavens. In doing this, He triumphed over sin, Satan, Hell, and all evil (Col. 2:15; Eph. 1:20-21), liberating even creation itself (Rom. 8 :23).
4. The center of Biblical Faith is the Lordship of Christ. The early Christians saw their Lord as reigning from the heavens (Ac. 2:29-36; Phil. 2:9). He has given His people, His church, a gospel, good news to proclaim to the nations (Mt. 28:18-20). It is that Christ died, was buried, and rose again, and that all those who repent of their sin and place faith in Christ will be granted eternal life — starting now. All nations are to be subordinated to Jesus Christ’s Lordship by the preaching of this gospel, baptism, and instruction in all that Christ commands.
Because He died and rose again, He is Lord (Rom. 14:9). He overturned the course of the Fall in Genesis 3 by His great power. Because there are no spheres over which He does not rule, He is Lord of all things.
5. The Bible is God’s inspired, authoritative Word for all areas of life. This is the principal way that Christ exercises His Lordship in the earth. The Bible sets forth the authoritative will of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is, first a narration and interpretation of great redemptive events. It tells us and explains for us what God has done in Jesus Christ. This Christ today exercises His Lordship. This is why the Bible contains interpretation as commands. It tells us how we are to live our lives. It tells us how we are to govern our world as believers. The Bible, authoritative in all its parts — the Old Testament and the New Testament —“lays down the law,” God’s law, and not just in theology, but in the arts, business, economics, education, politics, science, and technology. God’s revelation, primarily in the Bible, gives us explicit or implicit direction in all of these.
6. The work of Christians is to advance Jesus Christ’s kingdom in time and history. Before the end, when Christ will return to usher in eternity, our Lord’s kingdom will put down all human authority and power (1 Cor. 15:22-28). We are God’s agents in this endeavor (2 Cor. 5:20). The Christian family, the church, Christian schools and home schools, Christian businesses and foundations, and other godly institutions are God’s instruments to further His Son’s mediatorial reign in the earth. Christians and Christian institutions do this by declaring the Bible’s full-orbed gospel and seeking, incrementally, to bring every area of life under Christ’s authority mediated in the Bible. All areas of life must be redeemed. In the words of Cornelius Van Til, “[T]he redemptive revelation of God had to be as comprehensive as the sweep of sin.”
7. We can expect great battles, but eventually a gradual, glorious worldwide Christianization before Christ returns. A sinful world will not take Christianization sitting down. It is hostile to God and His work and workers (Eph. 2:2-3; Jn. 10:20). But the days of a sinful world are numbered, even though great evil abounds today. We do not yet see all things placed under Christ’s feet (Heb. 2:8), but they are nonetheless placed there (Eph. 1:22). The end of redemptive history cannot come until all things are visibly placed under Christ’s authority (1 Cor. 15:22-28). Prior to Christ’s return will be fulfilled all the great Biblical predictions of a godly gospel age (e.g., Is. 2:3; 11:1-9; Dan. 2:31-45; Rev. 11:15-19).
The notion that evil will escalate and overwhelm the earth before Christ returns is a myth. Evil men will become more evil (2 Tim. 3:13), probably as they see the great gospel blessings; but the kingdom of God and the gospel and Jesus Christ and the law of God will pervade the earth.
These are Chalcedon’s first principles, and it is our calling to inculcate, refine, disseminate, and apply them.