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.

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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.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 30, 2014 at Sunday, November 30, 2014 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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