Historically speaking, Providence is connected to the past. Our tradition grew out of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and our doctrine flows directly from the Bible. Protestant movement leaders (Calvin, Knox, Luther, etc.) believed that their teachings were nothing new, but were simply a restating of what the church, as it is seen in the Old and New Testament, always believed. Below are seven core beliefs that summarize these reformational doctrines.
Sinners are Radically Sinful
This does not mean that no one ever does anything decent, just, moral, or kind. Nor does it mean that every person is absolutely as evil in every way as he/she can possibly be (even society wouldn't allow that). It means that every person is a sinner at the core of his/her being and that, apart from Christ, sin rules their perspectives, motives, desires, and purposes. We’d like Jesus to have a more positive attitude about man’s nature, but he doesn’t. He said: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children..." (Matthew 7:11). This statement is quite powerful because Jesus was not directly teaching about our sin nature -- he was teaching about another topic and says this in passing. In doing so, Christ reveals that human nature, at its very core, is sinful. Maybe we prefer something more direct such as the time Jesus taught: "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean" (Mark 7:21). If we take Jesus seriously, we will never be surprised at the corruptness of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. If we have a high view of Scripture, we should have a low view of ourselves as sinners apart from God's grace.
The Bible is Entirely True
According to Christ, whatever the Bible says, God says (see Matthew 15:4) and what God says is absolute Truth (John 17:17). Jesus didn't simply say nice things about God’s Word; He lived under its authority. He overcame temptation by remaining obedient to the Bible. When Jesus countered Satan in the wilderness, all three times he responded with "it is written" (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus' Apostles also maintained a "high" view of Scripture (see I Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). As a church, if we are to be faithful to Christ, we must also hold a very "high" view of the Bible. We are called to believe and obey what it says -- even when it's not to our liking. Churches that have abandoned belief in the entire trustworthiness of the Bible find that their foundation crumbles (eventually if not sooner). If we pick and choose what we will accept or reject from the Bible, then we become the authority rather than holding the Bible as our authority. When this happens, we have placed ourselves above the Word of God rather than under it.
We Worship and Serve a Big God
We believe that God is really big. When we say this, we mean that He is "sovereign," and that all things are under His control -- even falling sparrows (Matthew 10:29). Moreover, we also believe that God is so big that we would never come to Jesus in faith unless He enabled us to do so. It is those whom the Father gives to Jesus that will come to Him in faith (John 6:37). According to Jesus, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). People do not seek Christ because they think it is a good idea. If anyone places his or her faith in God’s Son, it is only because the Father has brought and given them to Jesus. Bottom line, our faith is a gift of God (cf. Philippians 1:29, Ephesians 2:8,9). When you remember that God is big and we are sinful, the words of Christ make perfect sense! (Matthew 11:27, 22:14, John 6:44, John 6:37)
The Cross is Absolutely Central
Here we are at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Jesus' death was the ransom-price that bought our release from our bondage to sin. In Matthew 27:15-26 there is a physical picture of what Jesus' death did spiritually for every Christian. It has been called "The Barabbas theory of the atonement" because Barabbas was the one who should have died, vicious criminal that he was. Yet Barabbas was released and Jesus was crucified. Physically speaking, Jesus took his place. Jesus died for him and spiritually, that is what every Christian says about his Savior: I should have died; but Jesus took my place -- Jesus died for me. "Christ died for your sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (I Peter 3:18).
Grace is Utterly Incredible
Here is an incredible question. Why would a holy God give a moment's thought to sinners? This is God's biggest surprise. Why would anyone care about a woman of the streets having forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:36-50)? What father in his just and holy mind would wrap his arms around a prodigal (Luke 15)? Who would dare teach that a cheating tax collector stood uncondemned before Heaven (Luke 18:9-14)? Who would assure a guilty criminal within a gasp of his death that he would be in paradise that very day (Luke 23:39-43)? There is no explanation, except: that's just the way God is; that's just the way Jesus delights to be! This is the grace of God -- something for nothing, when we don't deserve anything. What an incredible answer!
Christians are Continually Secure
Once God brings a sinner to Jesus, he is secure forever. This doesn't mean he will never sin or that he will never have temptations or endure hard afflictions or that he will never doubt his faith. But it does mean "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day" (John 6:37-39). Or to put it in sheep language: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28). Jesus wants His people to know that they are secure in the grip of the strong Son of God. And we believe that.
Life is Completely Holy
Once when Jesus had cast demons out of a man and made him completely whole, that man wanted to go with Jesus. But Christ had other plans for him: "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you" (Mark 5:19). It may have been more glorious to accompany Jesus, doubtless it would have seemed more "holy," but Jesus knew there was something important he could do among his own family and community. And that matters also, even though to us it seems routine and ordinary. This is good news for the believer. Christ's way engulfs even the routine and ordinary; Jesus rules and cares about all of life. Everywhere, we are on sacred ground. God rules over all of life. Nothing is outside his dominion -- whether business and politics, economics and education, science and sex, history and harvests, art and affliction, music and marriage. All of life is holy and must be submitted to his reign. All the activity of life, then, is holy ground.
The seven core doctrines was edited from the writings of Dr. Steve Jussely, senior minister of Lakeland Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.