Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Preface for a New Creed--A Survey

Dear Theologians,

I am getting ready to write a new creed. I promised my daughter that I would. Perhaps you could give me a jump start. This Scripture is one that is a bit of a driver for my thinking. How about you?

"We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us - and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."
- 1 John 3:14-18

OK. Here is the survey question.

What do you consider to be an important, primary faith statement, not present in current credal statements that should be included in those statements?


Apostle's Creed
Nicene Creed
Athanasian Creed
Steve Martin Creed

Thanks for any ideas you can contribute.



Anne G G said...

I'm thinking about this survey question, but I don't have feedback yet. I will, though.

We watched a documentary called Hell House last night, which is about Christian hell houses at Halloween. It was disturbing for me . . . enraging, but very interesting and touching at times.

brd said...

Item one to be addressed in the development of a new creed is the primacy of the description of God as Father Almighty. The Apostles and Nicene Creeds seem to break up into three packages. Beliefs about the father, beliefs about Jesus, the son, and beliefs about the Holy Spirit. Underlying this creed is the assumption of God as trinity. The Athanasian creed does not so much assume the trinity as defend the trinity. Rather than say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty," it says:
"So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;
And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty."

All of the creeds agree and celebrate the almighty nature of God. The do not celebrate the all loving nature of God.

This is the first change that I would make. I may not eliminate the word almighty, but I would give it a more secondary placement under the concept that God is all loving.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, brd - the all-loving is overlooked dramatically, and its slight - what of the God of Wrath? - is a weak one, post-Christ, I think. However, I do believe it is a mistake to see God as all-loving primarily, in that to do so sets one up for serious disappointment in the face of what we understand to be love (namely, getting what we ask for). Of course, this is all a bit under the level of the conversation you are hoping to have, I think.

I suppose what I'll say is this:

God is a source unquantifiable - and if that fount of all things has an analog in our understanding, it must be in Love. Love is the only thing we can almost conceive of as being larger than ourselves, I think; the only thing we believe has a power to last not only during the time of its experience, but long, long after - we see and feel it in nostalgia, in family, in the physically intimate - and this, I think, is the closest we have to the great, great sentiment of God. Almighty? I believe this, yes. All-loving? Yes, but in a way that means "loving all, with a love that exceeds amount" rather than "loving as singular emotion." To put it in "creed": I believe in God the Creator, and all He is as the fount of all Love.

I feel a bit fuzzy on this, but I appreciate the forum (as always, brd).

Thank you,

brd said...

Thanks T. Azimuth, I am jotting down your wording. You have put your surgical knife right on the issue that plagues the word all-loving. The power of the word has been slightly disabled by those who would equate it to either a great passion or a passive acquiesence.

But your words, (which I must say gave me a feeling of the philsosophical, kind of like when you read words like, "a Being than which nothing greater can be conceived")are fine ones. I really liked your description of love as, "the closest we have to the great, great sentiment of God."

"I believe in God the Creator, and all He is as the fount of all Love," is very good I think. Maybe we could use the word "source" rather than "fount" and perhaps work in that good word you used, "unquantifiable."

The unquantifiable part reminds me a bit of what the Athanasian creed is trying to get at in line 9, "The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible." I think that original word contains both the sense of being unlimited and not confined in our understanding.

Cate said...

I suspect that part of your discomfort with the Creeds as currently written relates to the fact that they were written in defense of a body of doctrinal statements. They are a bulwark against the enemy, so to speak, who would threaten the foundation's of Christianity. The idea of love was not as important as keeping the boundaries and belief system clear. So they do leave something to be desired. Although they are very concerned about explicting the relationship of the Trinity,they do not capture "relationship" between creature and creator. Perhaps a defense of Christianity or "creed" is not the right vehicle for expression in this case? -Cate

brd said...

Yet a creed is different from an apologia or defense of the faith. A creed is a simple statement of belief, not a theological defense for it. In that sense, for me today, it is much more important that relationship, creature to creator be addressed than for some apologetic for the trinity to be explicated.

Your reference to boundaries reminds me that I promised Anne GG that I would offer some thought on exclusiveness. Perhaps, the idea that a creed must set up exclusive content is a bit of what I am rebelling at. Must we assume that a statement of positive beliefs necessitates the non-belief of the unstated.

I'm not trying to go post-modern on you, but I am trying to dodge my old fundamentalist roots.

Cate said...

I'm probably more okay with post-modernism that you are, and I have no problem with your going "post-modern" on me. I'm not sure post-modernists would be too comfortable with creeds though.

While a creed is not technically a defense of the faith, it is a fairly circumscribed description of belief. I'm not so sure this was always the case. I agree with you that the creeds are lacking and while I don't think we should assume that a positive statement of faith necessitates non-belief of the unstated, I do wonder if this is/was an unacknowledged assumption underlying the creeds.

I read the creeds last night. At the moment what I remember most was the focus on the Trinity and getting the particulars worked out (especially in the Athanasian creed). It feels like more than a simple statement of faith. As with everything else, we say what we say for a reason. Times change.

Perhaps the new creed should include a statement of intent so that what is not stated is not assumed to be a lack of belief. The issue of (non)exclusivity should definitely be addressed in the new creed. A statement of intent?

Cate said...

P.S. I'd be very interested in your thoughts on exclusiveness.

brd said...

The prayer at the beginning of our church service on Sunday shed some light on our discussion about, "I believe in God the Father Almighty." I quote it here:
"O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fulness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen"

Anne G G said...

Well. All right. I'll post something on creeds, though I'm having a lot of trouble working it out.

If I were revising my creed, I believe I would steer away from changes to the old "belief statements", because I don't think it helps the matter much, for me. Basic changes in gender exclusivity and so forth are useful, I believe, but beyond that, I wouldn't make too many changes in the particulars of what is stated. In my opinion, there isn't much use, as the next generation will upbraid us for our short-sighted thinking, our misunderstanding of the vital elements of the faith, and will proceed to change our creeds all around again. Best to stick with the old statements of belief, and simply understand that all our statements are hopelessly flawed.

From there, I think what I'd do is this: I'd make a new statement of the actions I believe all Christians should take, a "statement of Christian duty" if you will. What are the critical actions a Christian should take in their life? What should they be doing? I know it's going to end up looking like a statement of belief anyway -- if you put "feed the poor" at the top of the list, and not "save the unconverted," it reflects on your beliefs and priorities -- but this feels more useful to me, and more subject to change. Other people can add on, change the order, demote "save the earth" if they choose. But it would serve as a guide, I think, for what I should do with my faith, whereas belief statements only leave me frustrated if I think about them too long.

Anne G G said...

One more post:

I think the key truths are these --
God is a mystery.
Selfishness will only hurt you, and love will only help.
Jesus served as our example of goodness and sacrifice. Loving Jesus can teach us how to be good.
Useful sacrifice is central to the Christian faith.
Love for enemies, and genuine forgiveness, is a crucial virtue in the Christian faith.

That's all I've got right now.

brd said...

I think that you have said some really essential things. The two I especially notice are:

1. "Selfishness will only hurt you, and love will only help."
2. "Useful sacrifice is central to the Christian faith."

I'm thinking you can't acknowledge the first without the second, because though selfishness hurts in the long run, it can be convenient in the short run And, though I believe that love does help, it does not help painlessly and indeed is integrally sacrificial though useful.

Your first thoughts remind me that it is time for me to post my second part to my series on exclusiveness. I will do that tonight.