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Apostles Creed


Pete
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In many churches that I have been to they sign up to one version or another of the Apostles Creed. I know that the Apostles creed has little to do with the apostles, but I wonder just how much of it members here agree with it. I remember reciting this at church every Sunday when I was a child.

 

 

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 Ghost,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried:

He descended into hell;

The third day he rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sitteth on 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 Ghost;

The holy Catholic Church;

The Communion of Saints;

The Forgiveness of sins;

The Resurrection of the body,

And the Life everlasting.

Amen.

 

Nowadays I have some problems with at least all that is in red.

Edited by Pete
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Hi Pete,

Same scenario as a child here.. I don't really have any problems with any of it or those who still recite it but as a creed it no longer has any power over me. That which you have highlighted in red seems to me to be drafted by men of the church system and is doubtful in this mind as being true.

 

Joseph

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How I feel about it depends on the context. If it is part of our great Christian tradition then it is appropriate occasionally. But if all liturgy expresses theology - blood of the lamb, etc,- that the congregation is not in tune with then I would be against until liturgy is drawn from the treasury of all liturgy including, and predominately, modern. What you often say shapes your thinking. Be careful what you say over and over. Don't let it narrow your vision.

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The problem that I have with the Creeds, Pete, is that they don't express at all what Christians should do. They are, imo, totally about belief, which may or may not influence how we act. Jesus never gave us any creeds. But he talks an awful lot about how we should and shouldn't act, especially how we treat one another. Read the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' largest body of teachings. There is nothing in there about what his followers should believe, only about how they should live. So I find the Creeds lacking in pointing to what really helps us to know Jesus followers - good fruit. We should be known by our love and that word "love" is not found in the Creeds even one time. So, to me, they miss the whole point of what it means to follow Jesus.

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FWIW, here's my take on creeds:

 

For many years, even though I attended the Catholic church, I was silent during the reciting of the creed. I just could not say "I believe..." when I clearly didn't. The word "credo" if I remember my catechism, means "I believe", so if your going to recite one, it would be good to actually, well, believe it! I concur that it would be good to include belief about practice as well as theology, but until a better creed is available, I choose not to recite it.

 

For anyone wanting a creed that is progressive in nature, I recommend the book "Praying a New Story" by Michael Morwood. In it are several creeds, and includes such phrases as "God, present and active from the beginning of time, to this time, and to time unfolding beyond imaging" (That's a paraphrase, not a direct quote). The book has many beautiful reflections and prayers that are most definitely progressive in nature.

 

To clarify (and you probably already know this) "catholic" in the creed means "universal" and does not refer to the Roman Catholic. Of course, even the idea of one universal church presupposes that there is only one truth and Christians have exclusive rights to it. :o

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For me (IMO) Creeds are about control. They require people to think as an organisation would have them think rather than being led by the Spirit. I am convinced that what ever understanding I could possibly have about God it would fall short of God. I also do not see that the Apostles creed is founded in much more than myths formulated by a church after the death of Jesus and by those who never met him.

The nearest thing to a creed I can relate to is Matthew Fox's 95 thesis and even that I am sure will fall short of God.

see:- http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/spiritual-uprising/1326

Either that or as far as a belief goes I believe in Jesus' new commandment. Love God and Love ones neighbour. The rest I think I just put on trust to the leadings of the Spirit (IMO) limited by my own understandings which often errs..

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Could not the reference to Jesus descending into hell and coming out again in the apostle's creed also be a justification for universal salvation? After all, if Jesus was able to descend into hell and rescue sinners from its firey pit once, who's to say he can't do it again? And one curious thing I find missing in the apostles' creed is that it says nothing about biblical inerrancy or biblical literalism being required to be a Christian in spite of all the other beliefs it requires a Christian to have.

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Could not the reference to Jesus descending into hell and coming out again in the apostle's creed also be a justification for universal salvation? After all, if Jesus was able to descend into hell and rescue sinners from its firey pit once, who's to say he can't do it again? And one curious thing I find missing in the apostles' creed is that it says nothing about biblical inerrancy or biblical literalism being required to be a Christian in spite of all the other beliefs it requires a Christian to have.

I am sure your right, there are meaningful ways to take the statement of "Jesus descended into Hell". The problem as I understand it in creed terms is that the belief in hell or heaven for that matter does not exist in Judaism. Hades, Sheol or the fiery pit does not refer to hell. This and the original apostles were followers of Judaism. I also believe one has to take Paul's ministry rather than Jesus' in order to get to the salvation concepts that exist in Christianity today.

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As I said, I don't recite any creed when I attend church. However, IF a worshipper believes as the rest of the congregation does, I do not think creeds are inherently bad. Reciting a set of beliefs can increase the sense of community. There is nothing wrong, imo, with stating one's beliefs. I have written, and will continue to revise my own personal creed. It helps me to focus before prayer and challenges me during study time. I think the problem with the most common, The Apostles' Creed, is that it has not been revised in a long time, and many (most?) say it without thinking about its meaning.

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Something that became very difficult for me, and played a big part in my eventually breaking any sense of my identifying with any particular denomination or even church community or congregation, was my discomfort with feeling my very continued presence within that community, my very silence about things there I did not agree with, often strongly disagreed with, felt too much like lending my tacit acceptance and even approval to those things. It often felt I was subverting my own truths in my "going along to get along" for sake of comfort for them, a place of acceptance within a community for me. It just got to where I could no longer do that. I too often felt that if I presented myself before the world as a "member of the Baptist community", for example, I was giving a false wintess, letting it be assumed I was in at least acceptance of, if not outright agreement with and participation in things I not only didn't beleive or believe in, but felt strongly opposed to.

One of the worst of that sort I remember was when in an SBC environment, so much rah-rah about "being proud of our Southern Baptist heritage and traditions", when I had learned the only reason the Southern Baptist denomination had even come into existence was support and defense of the right to keep slaves, and a major reason for its continued existance separate from the rest of Baptist-dom has been the continued resistance to the acceptance of racial equal rights and integration. The racism and bigotry, in addtion to strongly lingering anti-female attitudes and practices, in that community is STILL powerful and vehement. I live down here in the heart of KKK territory, and have no illusions about the overlap in membership and common agreement in thought and attitudes toward race between the KKK and the tradtional, especially multi-generational, Southern Baptist community.

 

Creeds, whether articulated into a written form, or not, represent the common shared core of beleifs within a community. Baptists aren't big on often reciting creeds, unless you consider their "sinner's prayer" as a credd, which it really is a sort of, but there are a lot of more sublty expressed creeds present.

 

I couldn't continue to do that. Even if I didn't openly speak out against, i couuld no longer accept even appearing to be in alliance with it. I not only ceased attending and participating, but actuall tendered my written request my membership in that congregation be terminated.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Hi Pete,

I agree with you regarding the parts in red, but I have additional reservations. First, I'm not so sure about words like maker or creator. And I think there should be some additional words between "Mary" and "suffered." I agree that Jesus went somewhere, but I don't know whether or not "heaven" is sufficient. I can pretty much go along with the rest, though, and I particularly like the idea of "The Communion of Saints." To me it means all those in whom Jesus is seen to be "risen" by their commitment to peace and justice.

 

There is a statement of faith from the United Church of Canada that I like, and one from New Zealand that I saw recently that I thought had a good feel to it.

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I'm personally partial to the Seven Principles and Purposes of Unitarian Universalism myself:

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interestingly, Bishop Spong's essay for this week ends with a word about creeds:

 

Creeds are at best pointers to the mystery of God. They are not and should never have been allowed to become strait jackets that we were required to put on in order to pretend that we have captured the truth of God.

The first creed of the church was only three words. It was an affirmation that “Jesus is Messiah” rather than a set of beliefs. To call Jesus “messiah” was to claim that in the life of Jesus the transcendent power of the divine has been met and engaged. I think this is still the best creed the church has ever formulated.

 

I concur.

 

NORM

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As I understand early christian history. The early church was very diverse as evidenced by the non-conical writings of the early followers of Jesus. It wasn't until the conversion of Constantine and his calling of the council at Nicea . Up til this hristian movement had been a movement of action, how you lived and related to others. The council attempted and largely succeeded in unifying the movement. It became a movement based on what one believed. The creeds set these boundaries.

 

I find very little good in creeds. They ,by design,set the lines of exclusivity . Lay the groundwork of dualism ... us and them.

 

You will notice the Seven Principles and Purposes of Unitarian Universalism speak of how one lives and not what one believes.

 

steve

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It occured to me that a crucial element in the value of stated beliefs, whether we call them creeds or dotrinal statements or whatever, is that of whether they really "do anything" or not, actually have any relevance to what we do, how we act, how we are.

 

I like the word play of such word sets as "idle/idol" and "prophets/profits."

 

When we consider on how we understand the concept of "idol", such as idol worship, false gods, it conotes something empty, meaningless, and powerless. An "idol" does nothing, is nothing, beyond what value we give it over us. An "idol" is, well, "idle."

What does most of these things we call creeds really "do" by our belief in them? Anything? So what if I believe fully in the trinity, that jesus is god, or whatever else, what does that "do" in me and how i am and how i act? Other than, of course, demanding someone else believe it too.

 

On the other hand, my belief in the principle contained within the "double love command", that I love my neighbor as myself, has very real consequences in how i am, how I think, how I act. It is a "working belief."

 

On to "prophets/profits". As that which is truly prophetic has underlying truth as an inherent quality, it profits me to know, accept, and understand it as best I can. That of "false prophets" leads to "false profits", things that might feel good to me on some level, perhaps work for me in a way of advantage over others, but my sense of profit by it is empty, vain, even often degrading and destructive to me, in my psychological and spiritual maturity and wholeness, wellness, whether or not is "works" for me in any sense of material gain.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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I think the problem is this. Until Constantine gave official recognition to Christianity, there was no definitively agreed set of theoretical beliefs about the nature of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The beliefs and practices of the Christians of the first three centuries AD were for many quite simple. The example and teaching of Jesus, the last and greatest of the Jewish prophets, was what was important; and its truth was confirmed by the fact that he was raised from the dead and demonstrated to the entire satisfaction of the disciples that he was alive after they knew that he had died. This was the central point of Paul’s teaching; and if you faithfully followed the teaching and example of Jesus, you too were assured of being found righteous when you came to be judged, and worthy of the eternal life which Jesus had promised and had shown by his Resurrection to be real. This is all brilliantly explained in a book published this year, Moral Transformation - the Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation, by A.J. Wallace and R.D. Rusk, two New Zealand biblical scholars, with copious citations from the New Testament and from early Christian writers such as Irenaeus and Origen.

 

It was Constantine who considered that Christianity needed an agreed set of doctrines which could be adopted throughout the Empire, so that all could know what Christianity stood for, and who convened the Council of Nicaea with a view to such a set of doctrines being agreed. The result was the Nicene Creed, which reached its final form (except for the word “filioque” which was added by the Roman church later) at the Council of Constantinople in 381 under the Emperor Valentinian II. The Apostles’ Creed reached its final form considerably later.

 

Both creeds were the product of human minds struggling to express in words some of the essential elements of Christianity as they saw them. The beliefs and practices of the early Christians, which attracted many Roman citizens who regarded them as far superior to the decadent practices of many of their contemporaries, did not depend on belief in all the elements of either creed; and I do not consider that literal belief in them is necessary in order that one can call oneself a Christian to-day - the original creed, as Bishop Spong pointed out recently, was three words, “Jesus is Lord”, or “Jesus is Messiah” (Romans 10.9), together with the belief that God raised him from the dead; and that is really all that is required to-day.

 

egg

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That's some good insight, Egg. Thank you.

 

Personally, I'm still undecided on the whole Christian/non-Christian thing. For example, even though the earliest Christians may have believed that "Jesus is Lord" (or Messiah) and that he was literally resuscitated from the dead, I don't even find THAT to be the central message and/or focus of Jesus. Imo, he wanted people to follow him and his way to the kingdom of God. Except for in the gospel of John, Jesus' focus was not on himself, his nature, and the necessity of believing in his resurrection. His focus, imo, was on revealing God to us and calling us to communities of compassion, not on eliciting worship.

 

So I try to follow the best teachings of Jesus and don't have much use for the creeds. I am, therefore, not considered to be a Christian by most people's definitions.

 

"So why do you keep calling me 'Lord, Lord!' when you don't do what I say?" - Luke 6:46 NLT

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Its a funny thing Wayseeker but I am presently reading Barrie Wilson's book which makes the same point you have. Where are the said teachings of Jesus in the Creed?

Quote from the book where he asks why such as the following was not included:-

"We revere our teacher, Jesus who taught us to make the Kingdom of God our highest priority and to prepare for its manifestation on earth, through deeds of compassion and caring backed by an inner spirit of generosity and forgiveness.

We follow the example of Jesus who taught us to be sensitive to the needs of others and to respond appropriately.

 

We believe in the teachings of Jesus who challenged us to live the life of the Torah to its fullest, to embrace correct attitudes as well as right behaviour.

 

We acknowledge with gratitude the Jesus who gave us the hope that God's rule would eventually be sovereign over all the earth and righteous will truly inherit the earth.

 

We have confidence in God, creator of the universe, who alone can redeem and who, forgiving us our failings, will resurrect us from the dead to life eternal.

Why none of this? There's a lot missing from the Apostles' Creed- all of Jesus' teachings, in fact. This is truly astounding."

 

Barrie Wilson.

Reference:- Barrie Wilson, "How Jesus became Christian - The Early Christians and the Transformation of a Jewish Teacher into the Son of God", Chapter 8, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

 

I am really enjoying this book.

Edited by Pete
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It was Constantine who considered that Christianity needed an agreed set of doctrines

My knowledge about this is not very deep but Constantine is not the first to see that the early church needed unity. During a time of persecution. Irenaeus (2nd century) worked hard to unite scatted communities of believers. He also worked at establishing a canon and then when that was not enough he thought only church leaders should interpret Scripture - no progressives around at the time. The core of the Apostles Creed may have been in use in the 2nd century. Constantine was in an unique position to create a Christian state. but not the first to move it toward a unified faith.

 

I guess my point is that Christianity is an evolving tradition and has been from the beginning. We do need authors who take us back and help us shed that which now blinds us.

 

Dutch

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It has seemed to me strange that even when there is no controversy or doubt about just when and where and how later creeds and doctrines and practices arose within the church, even centuries after the time of Jesus and the early Christians, so many within even today's Christianity still embrace and defend them as sacred,holy, and authoritative, co-equal even to anything actually within the bible.

 

Even more puzzling is that even among denominations arising out of the protestant and reformed movements, that consider themselves strongly anti-Roman Catholic church, signficant parts of the common doctrines, creeds, and dogmas they embrace were entirely of later Roman Catholic Church origins, and many actually dating to quite recent centuries, certainly not from early Christianity. And that even when those facts are known and accepted, they still hold them as valid and authoritative.

 

Jenell

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I don't know anything about the apostles creed except I don't like it and heres why. First off I was raised a JW so never had it in my life as a kid but as an adult I have been to many churches where they have a "statement of beliefs" that you need to agree to before you become a member of said church. Everyone knows what I am talking about and even the most "non denominational" churches have something (at least the ones I have been to can't speak for all of them and there are some churches I have found through this site that I haven't been to yet) But anyway it seems that in the absence of something they have made themselves churches throw this creed out at you as kind of a cookie cutter template thing that everyone agrees to.

 

I remember talking to a pastor about this for some reason and she said that all churches agree to this creed and its just something you do. She acted like it was just words and I wonder if it has lost its meaning and it's just another thing people recite without thinking. My problem with it is the part where Jesus goes to hell. I don't like mindless recited words that affirms there is such a place where people go after they die and get tortured etc etc..

 

I don't know thats my take on it I guess my point of view is from the outside looking in as it was never (and never will) be a part of my life.

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Yes, Mark, know what you mean. As for the "non-demonminationals", I found that those are most like "denominations" to themselves, and many somewhat like many little "clusters of a denomination"... I had something of a learning experience, in differentiating between the common use of "non-denominational" vs "ecumenical." That "non-denominationals" are usually at quite another place on the spectrum that "ecumenical", and to many "non-denominationals", just as with many "denominations", "ecumenical" seems equivalent to "universalist." And that's not to even venture into "inter-faith"anything....

 

I've learned also to be cautious about just how really simple some groups' so-called simple creeds are, as well. There is sually a whole lot more that is truly "creedal" within their beliefs systems than is stated in their formal or written statements of creed.

 

Yeah, it get real confusing some times.

 

Jenell

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm pretty new here, so a bit late jumping into this discussion.

 

As a child I was required to learn the Apostle's Creed by heart and have never forgotten it, probably never will, even though I cannot agree with it. Nevertheless, when I visited York Minster in the UK many years ago and attended a Choral Matins service, although no longer an Anglican I really did feel part of the flock because I new the liturgy almost by heart. I was for a moment engulfed in the pleasures of youth.

 

I agree with Jenell. The group to which I now have given my allegiance claims to be creedless and free of ritual, yet I have found that I can easily upset people by expressing my doubts about certain aspects of commonly held beliefs and there is a deal of discomfort when certain elements are missing from Sunday morning's service.

 

It seems that most people crave certainty in their lives. Knowing the Apostles Creed allowed me, for a moment in a strange city, to experience the illusion of certainty even though I sang it without conviction. Afterwards I found myself back in the uncertainty of the “real” world, in a strange country, and having to find my way be road to another strange city within a few hours.

 

So, Mark, even though the Apostle's Creed has lost its literal meaning for me, it may still have a purpose beyond my understanding

 

—Jim

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