Let us say what we believe

David Heim’s recent post reminded me of how the creed is introduced in worship in the last two churches where I’ve belonged. Immediately after the sermon the pastor says, “Let us say what we believe” or “Let us confess our faith in the words of the Nicene [or Apostles] Creed.” Then we all stand and say what we believe.

At both churches, the pastors are sometimes unorthodox or even just plain weird. But to the consternation of my evangelical friends, who would never attend anything but a “Bible-believing,” gospel-preaching church, I don’t think this matters much. I grew up in Baptist fundamentalism. In college, I jumped around from church to church looking for the best preachers, for sound Bible teaching persuasively delivered by “men of God.” I frequently heard the same few favorite texts from Paul, John and Revelation.

Now, however, I go for the whole liturgy, steeped in the gospel. With other believers, I worship God, confess sins and pray for the world. I am fed the bread of life and cup of salvation.

No matter how good or bad, how orthodox or unorthodox the sermon is, I stand and say,

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. . . .We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ. . . .We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.

The creed keeps our faith centered on the most important things: the Trinity, the gospel, the Eucharist and the scriptures, mediated by the lectionary of the entire canon.

Preachers should be faithful to the word of God. But the cure of souls is not limited to the medicine of their message.

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Chuck Queen said... Tom,

Chuck Queen said...

Tom, I don't really have any boundaries. My understanding of authentic Christianity is that of following the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, the way of open, honest humility, compasssion, and selfless love and service (which I don't do very well at times). I believe a lot of other things of course, about God, Jesus, the Bible,etc., but none of them are essential to personal and communal transformation. And they are always subject to change. I've discarded a lot of beliefs over the years that I at one time thought important. I think there is a very significant distinction to be made between belief centered Christianity (for which creeds, confessions, and statements of faith are important) and a living faith that opens one to experience the Divine Love that I believe is the essence of God, and as a Christian believe that such love became embodied in Christ. The Christian Mystics would never attempt to define God by a string of words or concepts, but they do stretch the boundaries of language when talking about the wide, large, expansive, and inclusive Mercy that pervades all reality. Creeds, in my opinion, simply provide another way for dividing the world between "us" and "them"--we have the creed, we have the truth--and conformity to the creed becomes important. A living faith has little to do with certitudes, dogma, and creeds that we can check off as true or false; it has everything to do with tasting and seeing the goodness and grace of God that is present among us and within us. Following in the way of Jesus opens us up to the grace and goodness that is God, transforming us into conduits and channels of God's love.

Colby Cheese said...

Colby Cheese said...

(excerpt from RECLAIMING NOT by Doug Sloan)
http://dmergent.org/2010/07/29/reclaiming-not/

What is not the Good News:

Committing acts of war, violence, brutality, coercion, intimidation, discrimination, or exclusion in the name of faith or religion or scripture or Buddha or Jesus or Mohammed or Allah or God or in the name of any entity divine or mortal.

Viewing a faithful life as being in a war or a combat operation or viewing the faithful life as requiring a warrior mentality or viewing faith as a weapon or a shield.

Claiming a specific faith as a national or cultural identity or the practice of that faith as an act of patriotism, citizenship, or civic duty.

Compelling or attempting to compel others – as individuals or as community - to celebrate, observe, or respect religious holidays in accordance with religious or nationalistic or populist or commercially specified behavior.

Claiming a literal or singular or absolute or sole authoritative interpretation of scripture.

Using scripture as justification or empowerment or authorization:
- to commit or to incite murder or violence or physical assault or property damage
- to commit or to incite verbal abuse or the use of demeaning labels or ostracism or shunning
- to commit or to incite intimidation that threatens to use any of these acts
- to control or to attempt to control the lives, behavior, and choices of others.

Responding to theological differences:
- with the commission or incitement of murder or violence or physical assault or property damage
- with the commission or incitement of verbal abuse or the use of demeaning labels or ostracism or shunning
- with intimidation by threatening to use any of these acts.

Standing on a city street or in the middle of a college campus and shouting at people about the supposed errors of their supposed sinful lives.

Practicing discrimination or exclusion or an “us/them” and “here/there” world view instead of an “us/here” world view.

Advocating a patriarchal, matriarchal, racial, ethnic, caste-based, tribal/family-based, or political/citizenship/empire-based social order as the will of God.

Requiring belief in a torturous execution as an atoning sacrifice.

Preaching eternal damnation and preaching that eternal damnation can be avoided only by conversion to or by the acceptance of a rigid pre-ordained belief system or membership in a particular faith, sect, denomination, or congregation.

Tom said... Hi Chuck,

Tom said...

Hi Chuck, what would say are the legitimate boundaries of the Christian faith? Reducing all Christian belief to "Jesus is Lord," leaves out some pretty important stuff. Thanks for the dialogue.
Tom Johnson

Chuck Queen said...

Chuck Queen said...

Surely "the cure of souls is not limited to the medicine of their message," but neither is limited to the creed. I don't care for creeds much, even when they are reduced to the quote mentioned above. Creeds are confining and reductionistic. If one's Christianity is grounded in following the way of Jesus, not the confession of a Triune God, then for that Christ follower, the creed becomes somewhat offensive. In my estimation any time we go beyond "Jesus is Lord" we are in danger of restricting the Spirit of the living Christ

Ivy said... I couldn't

Ivy said...

I couldn't agree more,having gone the route of trying to find a really "spiritual" church with fabulous preaching/teaching and great worship. My needs for such have been met in the Lutheran church much the way that Anonymous #2 has found in the Episcopal church.

Anonymous said... I

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Johnson's post. After years of jumping from church to church looking for the best biblical preaching, my husband and I finallly found one toxic enough to drive us into the arms of the Episcopal church. Thankfully we read excellent books by Dr. Robert Webber of Wheaton College enlightening us "bible believers" on the value of the liturgy and the importance of the faith of the whole church as expressed in the creed.

Anonymous said... This is

Anonymous said...

This is what is called theological, liturgical maturity."When we were children, we thought and reasoned....and followed the so-called best preachers from church to church.......but when we grew up, we quit our childish ways......".

BriBor said... Good

BriBor said...

Good point. At many churches, only one gets to say what he or she believes. This is an important reminder to keep our services, whether by saying the creed or other means, opportunities for *all* of us to make a proclamation.

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