What We Believe
The following is a brief synopsis of the doctrinal beliefs of West Coast Church of the Cross. In the interest of clarity and the proper emphasis of individual doctrinal positions held by the Church, we have organized the doctrinal statement into a system of 3 levels.
It should be noted that the list of doctrines contained in this statement is by no means an exhaustive list but rather a representation designed to give an overall sense of where West Coast Church of the Cross stands on most important issues.
In the 1st level is a list of absolutely essential doctrines that are at the foundation of Christianity and must be held to unambiguously by all members of West Coast Church of the Cross. In short, any one who does not hold to the doctrines listed in Level 1, would be considered (by the leadership of this church) to be a non-Christian.
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existent and revealed in three distinct yet congruent personalities: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
We believe that Jesus Christ was and is the son of God, that he was born of the virgin Mary, that he lived a sinless life, that he was crucified, died and raised from the dead on the third day. We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ, all the fullness of God dwelt in bodily form. We believe that the sinless life, the infallible teachings and death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ was necessary for the redemption of the human race from the bondage of sin. Finally we understand that while the life and subsequent death by crucifixion at the hands of sinners was an enormous sacrifice on the part Jesus Christ, it was one that he was willing to make because of his surpassing love for all mankind.
We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of sin, regenerates and converts sinners, and baptizes them into the Church, which is the Body of Christ. We believe that He indwells, guides, instructs and empowers the believer for godly living and bestows spiritual gifts upon them for his service.
The Means of Salvation.
We believe that salvation from the guilt and condemnation of sin is possible only as the gift of God’s grace. It cannot be earned through any human effort. It is freely bestowed on all who put their faith in the teachings and person of Jesus Christ and trust in the work, which he completed on the cross at Calvary. All who so trust the Savior, pass from death unto life, are forgiven of their sins, accepted by the Father and born into His family by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
We believe that man was created in the image of God, but that he sinned, incurring not only physical death, but also spiritual death, which is separation from God, and which is inherited by every member of the human race. We believe that man is subject to the desires of his own sinful nature and the power of the devil. Moreover, man has within himself no ability to overcome these things due to his fallen nature.
In level 2 are a list of doctrines that are strongly held to by the leadership (i.e. elders, deacons, paid staff and lay teachers.) of West Coast Church of the Cross. So much so, that any person desiring to hold a position of leadership in the Church would be required to hold these same doctrines. However, disagreement with any of the doctrines in Level 2 below would not necessarily exclude a person from being viewed as a Christian.
We believe the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired (God-breathed) Word of God, given for the express purpose of revealing to the entire human race their relationship to God and each other. Further, we believe the Scriptures to be infallible in regards to these relationships, and should therefore be the Christian’s final authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
We believe that water baptism is a symbolic act that represents the baptism of the Holy Spirit spoken of by John the Baptist in the gospels. Although it is a symbolic act it is nevertheless an act of obedience that should be carried out by every Christian after the point of salvation.
We believe that communion is meant to be a symbolic ceremony in which the bread is associated with the body of Christ and the wine (or any drink) is associated with the blood of Christ. We believe that within the context of communion, the bread is to be eaten in remembrance of the body of Christ which was broken for our transgressions and the wine is to be drunk in remembrance of the blood of Christ that was spilt for our sins. As in the case of Baptism, we view communion as a purely symbolic act, however it is still an act of obedience which should be carried out by every Christian. Finally, although we have freedom in Christ from ceremonial precision, it is clear that there are times and settings which are fuller and better expressions of this sacrament. For example, while it is perfectly fine for a youth group to hold a communion in the youth pastors house, using gram crackers and soda on any given night of the year; it is obviously a much fuller expression of communion to hold it in the form of a Seder dinner on the night of Passover, which our church does every year, and that incorporates the complete context under which communion was first taken.
The list of doctrines found in Level 3 are those which the church considers open to debate. However while many of the church leaders hold to the doctrines in this level, any disagreement with these doctrines would in no way exclude one from holding a position of leadership in the church.
While the leadership of West Coast Church of the Cross holds to the doctrine of eternal security (the belief that once salvation has been attained through faith in Jesus Christ, that it can never be lost). We fully recognize that there are many Christians who have come to the opposite conclusion, that a person can lose their salvation. We also understand that there are passages of scripture that when interpreted a certain way can be used to defend either position. We therefore see no reason why Christians should be in any way divided over this issue.
The gifts of the Spirit.
There are a number of Christians who believe that some or all of the gifts of the spirit ceased to exist in the first century; those Christians that believe this are referred to as “cessationists”. Most cessationists tend to focus what seem to be the more “supernatural” gifts, such as speaking in tongues, healing and prophecy. Very few cessationists would claim that the gifts of teaching or preaching ceased in the first century. But this makes the doctrine seem somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent. Moreover, since there are no scriptures that explicitly and clearly state that any of the gifts of the spirit should cease before Christ’s return, it is the position of West Coast Church of the Cross that it is at least possible for any of the gifts to be made manifest in any Christian at any time. However, we also recognize that some of the gifts may not have as much purpose today as they did in the first century and therefore may be less prevalent.
There are a number of Christians who believe that the six days of creation spoken of in the book of Genesis are literal twenty four hour periods, these Christians refer to themselves as creationists. However, other Christians, in light of modern scientific advances that date the earth as being about 4.5 billion years old, believe that the days of Genesis are symbolic. These latter Christians point to the fact that much of scripture is clearly meant to be taken symbolically. Moreover, they claim that the general scientific understanding of creation supports the first two chapters of Genesis when the text is interpreted as being at least partly symbolic. The creationists however insist that scripture should be interpreted literally whenever possible and therefore the six days in Genesis must be viewed as being literal twenty four hour periods. While the leadership of West Coast Church of the Cross has some very definite opinions on this issue, we believe that it is even more important to point out that we do not view either of the positions described above as being central to the Christian faith. We therefore see no reason why Christians should separate on this issue. We do however welcome spirited, but loving, debate.
Finally it should be pointed out that the doctrinal beliefs and positions described above were presented in the simplest and broadest form possible. It is understood that any of these doctrines could have been discussed in far greater detail and complexity. However, as we alluded in the preface, our purpose was not to write a thesis on systematic theology, but merely to give the reader a general sense of where West Coast Church of the Cross stands theologically. If the reader desires a still clearer idea of the doctrinal and theological positions held by the leadership of this church, we suggest the following:
- Look at who we are. By understanding the vision of any church, one will probably get a better understanding of the beliefs of that church.
- Listen to some, or all, of our sermons. It is a distinct possibility that theological answers to questions that were not addressed in this statement, may be gleaned from a sample of the actual teachings presented to the church as a whole.
- Finally, we invite you to visit West Coast Church of the Cross in person and speak to one of the pastors or leaders, or call us at (941) 360-8888. We hope to see you soon, but if not, we pray that God will bless your efforts to find the church that is right for you.