Monday, June 19, 2006

Christian Faith: The Basics, Part 20

Every week in churches at worship around the world, one of three creeds--or statements based on them--are recited and confessed. A creed is a statement of belief, the word being rooted in the Latin term, credo, I believe.

The three statements are the Apostles' Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was composed by a council (or conference) of the early Church to address issues of contention. But both the Athanasion and Apostles' Creeds are of more obscure origin.

Tradition long held that the Apostles' Creed was composed by the group of followers designated by the New Testament as apostles, Greek for sent ones. They were given special responsibility by Jesus to lead the early Church and rightly pass along the Good News about Him. (For the Good News, or the Gospel, in a nutshell, see John 3:16.)

It's highly unlikely that the Apostles' Creed was composed by the apostles themselves. But it is clear that every line of the Apostles' Creed reflects the faith taught in the New Testament and various forms of it go back to at least the second century. Martin Luther said of the Apostles' Creed, "Christian truth could not possibly be put into a shorter and clearer statement." And John Calvin noted, "We hold this to be beyond controversy that the whole history of our faith is concisely and in distinct order stated in it; on the other hand, it contains nothing which cannot be supported by sound testimonies of the Scriptures."

We began our look at basic Christianity by discussing the Ten Commandments, as Luther does in The Small Catechism. Following his pattern, in the next few installments, we're going to look at this succinct summary of Christian belief about God, the Apostles' Creed, paying special attention to the Scriptural basis for each statement in it.

One thing to note right away is that the Creed is composed of three parts, or articles. Each one deals with a Person of the one God, as the Bible reveals that there is one God in three Persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus the Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

For all its simplicity, then, the Apostles' Creed takes us to the very heart of the mystery of God, a mystery we can never fully understand, but can learn to appreciate. As Joseph F. Girzone notes in his book, Trinity: A New Living Spirituality:
The Trinity is not a theological definition. It is the very nature of God. It is the God we worship. God revealed himself to us through Jesus, not so he could be imprisoned in a theological concept to be memorized as a condition for baptism. He revealed himself to us because he loves us and wanted to share himself, his inner self with us, so we could come to know and love him as he is. [italics mine]
In the Apostles' Creed, we celebrate the mystery of God and His love, we confess God as He has revealed Himself to us, "God in three Persons, blessed Trinity."

[Links to the first 19--actually, 18--installments of this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14 (Oops...there was no Part 14)
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19]


Icepick said...

Okay Mark, you're up to twenty posts now on "The Basics", and a good number of those posts are rather long and detailed. This isn't feeling like a "basics" course any more!

Mark Daniels said...

You're probably right...I got a little carried away. I am going to try to keep future posts shorter, while still using The Small Catechism as the skeleton.


Icepick said...

Mark, I wouldn't sweat it too much. All twenty posts combined are STILL shorter than the New Testament, right?