[A guest post from Hunter Beaumont of the Resurgence Network]

“And” is the most theologically important Christian word. We can’t even describe God without it. He is Father and Son and Holy Spirit: three persons, one substance. The same goes for Jesus, fully God and fully man in one person.

Orthodoxy Requires “And”

Like a journeyman point guard, And forged the way to early Christian orthodoxy. The key to And’s genius? It held together things that are distinct but inseparable, neither confounding the persons (distinct), nor dividing the substance (inseparable). Most heretical blunders missed this. They either emphasized one thing to the exclusion of another or blended them into an unholy confusion. But And struck the perfect pitch. “So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet there are not three Gods but one God,” sings the Athanasian Creed.

The Church Requires “And”

In similar manner, And is essential to building a healthy church, one that makes true converts and growing disciples for Jesus. If we picture the gospel as the bridge between God and culture, then we have to ask, “What are the support pillars that hold the bridge up, making sure it doesn’t crack or collapse?” The support structure is not the gospel itself but is essential to ensuring that the gospel stays strong and vibrant—that people from culture cross the bridge to be with Jesus and that the church crosses to do life in culture. The support pillars always include And.

  • Contend and Contextualize. The purity of the gospel must be constantly fought for. And the gospel must preached in a way that connects with people in the world.
  • Scripture and Tradition. Scripture is our final authority on all matters; it has to be proclaimed, explained, and obeyed. And it has to be interpreted in a way that honors orthodoxy.
  • Doctrine and Life. The gospel requires faith in a certain body of teaching about God, Jesus, humanity, and the world. And our creed has to overflow into the stuff of everyday life.
  • Words and Deeds. Evangelism requires proclamation and explanation. And it needs to be buttressed by visible good works toward the world.
  • Personal Faith and Church. People must be called to an examined, personal conversion. And they must be integrated into an organized, visible church.
  • Purity and Grace. The gospel calls us to sanctification from sinful lifestyles and attitudes. And it gives us the power to change when we are weak, the forgiveness we need when we fall short.

Don’t Neglect “And”

History is littered with churches and movements that atrophied because they didn’t exercise both arms of And. Perhaps they met the need of a fleeting moment, correcting their parents’ biases, but once they grew up, they died of their own one-sidedness.

The same thing is happening in Evangelicalism. As we transition to post-Christian America, some are working out the neglected left arm while insisting that the right arm isn’t needed for today. Others are still flexing their one good bicep. But churches that lead a lasting resurgence will embrace the full scope of And.

[This is part of a larger series by Hunter Beaumont found at his blog at TheResurgence.com]