Kind Words for the Creed  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Creeds just aren't trendy these days.  They are apt to be derided by theological "progessives"--the creeds contain statements that modern people simply cannot accept intellectually--and equally by evangelicals--the creeds are "unscriptural" and divert attention from a personal relationship with Jesus.  But there are more positive approaches to the creeds.  Such can be found in the provocative book Deep Church Rising:  the Third Schism and the Recovery of Christian Orthodoxy (Cascade Books 2014).  This represents an Eastern Orthodox/Evangelical collaboration by authors Andrew G Walker and Robin A Parry.  Below is an excerpt dealing with the ongoing relevance of the creeds.


Creeds often take a fair amount of flack.  In the minds of many people they are lifeless sets of "things to believe" that substitute for authentic heart-felt faith; they epitomize outward "religion" obsessed with form and ritual, as opposed to inward devotion.  For some they are seen to foster a propositional approach to faith that focuses on the primacy of assent to certain claimed facts.  Others see them as a source of oppression, the top-down imposition by powerful ecclesiastical hierarchies of what Christians are compelled to confirm...

...We wish to present creeds differently.  The great ecumenical Creed is, we suggest, an instrument of the Holy Spirit to help keep the church focused on key aspects of the gospel message.  A few points of orientation are in order.

1.  The Creed is indeed concerned with certain critical assertions about God and salvation history--assertions that Christians have historically maintained as central--but it is oriented toward the primacy of existentially committed  belief...the Creed is embedded within the wider context of acts of spiritual devotion and worship.

2.  The Creed does not point toward itself but beyond itself...

3.  The Creed does indeed contain propositions--...but they are misunderstood if they are thought to be simple lists of items to believe.  On the contrary, they are in fact narrative summaries pointing to the grand story of the triune God's activity in creation; in the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; in the church; and in the future with the return of Christ and the new creation...

4.  The Creed is not an attempt to reduce God to a set of sentences, nor an attempt to explain God...

5.  The Creed does define boundaries for orthodox Christian faith, but those boundaries are surprisingly wide...

6.  Orthodoxy may be a large tent but it is not infinitely large.  Boundaries do need to be drawn and this, we maintain, is a good thing.  If Christianity can be anything at all then it is nothing at all...

7.  The ecumenical Creed serves a unifying purpose because all the main groupings within the Christian church--Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant--affirm it...

8.  ...what the Creed does say is intended to provide the normative theological framework within which everything else should be understood...

9.  To say that those who transgress aspects of the Creed have moved beyond the bounds of authentic Christian beliefs is not to say that such people will not be saved nor even that they are not real Christians.

The Power of the Sign of the Cross  

Posted by Joe Rawls

As the above image suggests, the sign of the cross has always been a part of my devotional life.  It is also used by countless Roman Catholics, Eastern Christians, Anglicans (and not just the High Church variety) and a wide variety of other Christians.  But what does it mean, if it is not just an unreflective  act of pious devotion?  A good answer is provided in Stephen Beale's essay "21 Things We Do When We Make the Sign of the Cross" which is found here on the Catholic Exchange website. 


1. Pray
2. Open ourselves to grace
3. Sanctify the day
4. Commit the whole self to Christ:  in moving our hands from our foreheads to our hearts and then both shoulders we are asking God's blessing for our mind, our passions and desires, our very bodies.
5. Recall the Incarnation
6. Remember the Passion of Our Lord
7. Affirm the Trinity
11. Invoke the power of God's Name
14. Reaffirm our Baptism
16. Remake ourselves in Christ's image
17. Mark ourselves for Christ
20. Seal ourselves in the Spirit
21. Witness to others.