I created a one-sentence Christian belief statement, which you can see under my photo on the right. This statement encapsulates some of my most cherished beliefs. Despite the brevity, the statement requires some explanation.
Although you might never have guessed it, my belief statement is intended to be understood as poetry. It’s not a western-style poem but an ancient-style one. This poetic form is known as an inverse parallelism. The simplest form is A-B-B’-A’ but further elements can be added, as in the illustration above or in my A-B-C-C’-B’-A’ structure (below).
Inverse parallelisms can often be found in the Bible. My own belief statement illustrates what they look like. This can help you recognize parallelisms in the Bible, and possibly even create your own.
A The Lordship of Jesus
B the defeat of Satan
C the wisdom (of the Bible)
C’ and relevance of the Bible
B’ human responsibility
A ‘ and divine grace.
This may appear cryptic, but I can explain the pairing of the individual elements as follows:
A-A’ Through Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Universe, we have access to the grace that we sinners so desperately need (Heb. 4:16).
B-B’ Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, but we who are in Christ are called to extend that victory in our generation. Satan was, and is being defeated by Christ and the Church.
C-C’ Through Christ and His Word, we have access to divine wisdom. We are responsible for recovering that wisdom and proclaiming the Bible’s relevance for our time.
Parallelisms don’t exclude consecutive or logical relationships such as A-B. They simply add additional relationships. These can greatly increase our understanding of a message. A-B and B-B’ imply that while Jesus defeated Satan, you and I also have roles to play.
The most important elements of an inverse parallelism will often be at the center. I’m comfortable with having put the Bible at the center, and with having had A-A’ enclose everything. This brings up the fact that the final element (A’ for divine grace) is not of least importance as we might expect from a non-poetic understanding, but is in a flanking position.
When we put it all together, this tells a story. We’re in battle with the forces of darkness. However, we’re hemmed in on both sides by the victorious grace of God and we have the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).
As you probably have guessed, the above belief statement isn’t meant to be comprehensive. In case you’re wondering, I also believe in the Apostles’ Creed. However, a single sentence is ideal for this purpose.
If you’ve concluded that my belief statement says nothing new, you’re right. Every Christian minister will say that they believe in these things. But ask yourself, does your pastor really believe that Satan is defeated, or does he teach that evil people are progressively gaining control of this world? Does he want to see Christians establish God’s reign in all areas of life, or has he largely reduced biblical ethics to refraining from sin and being good witnesses?
Bible poetry is often easier to understand and validate than this poem of mine. Nobody could have proven an intentional use of poetry here, had I not explained it myself. On the other hand, the extended poems the Book of Genesis take us through the alphabet with the many parallels.
If you agree with my belief statement and appreciate the poetic structure, I think you’ll also enjoy, and benefit greatly from my book, Return to Genesis. You can get a discounted price on it through the link on the sidebar. Finally, if you subscribe to this blog, you’ll find out when I post articles on Bible poetry and other topics.