CHICAGO MARRIAGE - REV. DANIEL L. HARRIS
As a wedding minister or wedding officiant, it is important to tell you what I believe about “God” and “religion.” Please keep an open mind and do not jump to conclusions about what I believe. Words can mean different things to different people, so please note carefully my explanations. I would be happy to respond to any who wish to ask me questions. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe I have been given the “truth.” And I only know the truth because God willed it, not because I deserve it in any way.
First of all, although I have very strong religious convictions, one of my beliefs is “freedom of religion.” Religion is a personal matter. I cannot force my views on anyone, and I will not impose my strong religious convictions on you. I do not use the wedding ceremony as a platform to promote my beliefs, which are summarized below.
I am a “Christian” in that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and the teachings of the Bible. All my religious beliefs are based on a traditional, historic interpretation of the teachings of the Bible. Contrary to what a lot of people say, the Bible is very clear on about 98% of its teachings. And Jesus said that the very essence of the Christian faith is LOVE, for God and for other people.
I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the only “Son of God.” He proved that by His life on Earth, physical death, and resurrection from the dead after 3 days in the grave. He is now in Heaven with God the Father. And He will return to the Earth for a final judgment of all mankind. Each person only lives life one time, and after that will be judged by Jesus Christ.
After dying, each person will spend eternity in only one place, either Heaven or Hell. Heaven is a place of eternal bliss with God. And the Bible says that Hell is a place of eternal torment and punishment, with no escape from a “lake of fire.” Heaven is reserved only for those who trust in Jesus Christ alone to forgive them of their sins. No one will be admitted to Heaven who believes in any other “God” except the “triune God” – Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. And no one will be allowed in Heaven if they think their “good” deeds outweigh their “bad” actions. Heaven is only for those who are forgiven. Each person must ask God for forgiveness for his or her wrong thoughts, words, and actions. You must trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the payment for your evil. Apart from this, there is no salvation. All unbelievers will spend eternity being punished in Hell.
Saint Peter, whom many people consider to be the first “Pope,” said these words during one of his first speeches (recorded in Acts chapter 4). Addressing a crowd of more that 3,000 people in Jerusalem, he said, “Neither is there salvation in any other [person], for there is none other Name, under Heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” That “Name” is the name of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that God is a God of love, and is not “willing” that any should spend eternity in Hell. Because I am trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins, I now have a personal relationship with God that will continue forever. My hope and prayer is that you will too, and that we will all spend eternity together in Heaven.
As a “wedding officiant”, my philosophy is similar to the Apostle Paul, who said, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves [as] your servants, for Jesus’ sake.” My goal and purpose is to serve you in the best possible way.
One final point. Although I do not impose my religious beliefs during a wedding ceremony, I will not include any religious beliefs in the ceremony that conflict with my own convictions. That is the only fair way for everyone’s views to be respected. There is much we can agree on about love, romance, and the commitment of marriage, and that is my focus in the ceremony.
Bible References (book, chapter, verse): John 1:1-12; 3:16; 14:6; 20:30-31; Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 8:28-39; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22.
Recommended Readings (available online):
The classic “Westminster Confession of Faith” of 1646. This is the best explanation I know of the Christian faith.
Historic creeds and beliefs of the Christian church.
“The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” by Dr. Loraine Boettner, D.D. This is one of the most influential books in my life. It has helped me understand how God is sovereign and in control over everything that happens in the universe.
Mt. Zion Bible Church has free literature available.