Matters of Creed
In the summer of 1975, I memorized the Apostle’s Creed. I practiced every morning in front of the mirror. I rehearsed for my family at the dinner table. I prepared for that fateful day in 6th grade Sunday school when I would stand in front of my teachers and friends and recite the creed out loud, hopefully in correct order with no omissions.
To this day, I can still say the Apostle’s Creed from memory. I know many of you can as well. I am able to state the creed in about 20 seconds, so it is useful for proper hand washing in a pandemic. You will be happy to know Central still teaches the Apostle’s Creed every year to our 6th graders.
Knowing the creeds by heart is one thing, but believing the statements are true is what really matters. The word “creed” is from the Latin credo which means, “I believe.” What we believe matters.
What Are the Creeds?
The Church is built on scripture and creeds. Early Christians authorized a canon of books we know as the Old and New Testaments of the Bible at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. The Church recognizes the authority of scripture.
The basics of the Christian faith have been established for centuries. These truths are summarized in a list of accepted doctrines authorized by the early church called the creeds. The church around the world has affirmed these common statements for generations.
The most well-known creed is the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s Creed was not written by the apostles but does originate in the New Testament. When converts to the Christian faith were baptized, they made a public declaration of faith. These statements of belief defined Christian belief and formed into creeds over time. The earliest known occurrence of the Apostle’s Creed was found in a letter written to the Bishop of Rome in 341 A.D.
The Nicene Creed was compiled at the First Council of Nicaea in modern day Turkey in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed is influential in the history of the church because it settled the question of how Christians can worship one God and also claim that God is three persons. Trinitarian theology is beautifully expressed in the creedal statements. The Nicene Creed improves the language of the Apostle’s Creed and includes more specific statements about the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Why Are the Creeds Important?
Throughout Christian history believers have repeatedly moved away from the creeds and then returned to them again. This rebounding movement is often in response to the introduction of unfamiliar doctrines by the surrounding culture.
The creeds summarize the basics of the Christian faith and proclaim the most important elements of belief. When religious teachers introduce ideas that are outside of Christianity’s core beliefs we notice. We are not fooled by unorthodox heretics or persuasive television preachers. The creeds enable the church to be secure in doctrine, preserve deep truths of Christian understanding and protect from new theologies that claim to know better. The creeds enable us to correct mistakes and protect believers from false teaching. The creeds stretch back centuries to early believers and tie us securely to our faith history. The creeds matter.
Beyond reciting the creeds in corporate worship, I encourage you to read them thoughtfully. Prayerfully consider these statements of belief and ask yourself if you can truly respond, “Yes, this I believe!”
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic* and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
A Fresh Start Built on the Scriptures and Creeds, Dr. William Abraham
I Believe: Exploring the Apostle’s Creed, Alistair McGrath
Faithlife: The Apostles Creed It’s History and Origins
Zondervan Academic: The Nicene Creed: Where It Came from And Why It Still Matters