Friday, January 06, 2017

I once heard Fr. Richard Rohr point out that what is missing from the Nicene Creed is the word "love." In the 4th century, when the creed was formulated, the preoccupation was with power, not love. The same can be said for many Christians today. Yet Jesus said that Christians would be known not by their preoccupation with temporal power, or by their creeds and doctrines and "statements of faith"--but by their love. The New Testament is replete with affirmations that it is love which marks out the followers of Jesus.
Creeds and covenants and "statements of faith" and doctrinal formulations are great for creating boundaries and defining who is "in" and who is "out." They are tools of a power-orientation. But they do not transform hearts or make disciples of Christ. They are merely tokens of mental agreement with a set of propositions.
The Apostle Paul urged the early Christians to "walk in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5), not to write a creed and follow it (in fact, Paul would have considered doing that to be "falling from grace" by putting oneself back "under the law"). Creeds are external. Creeds are static. Creeds are dead letters. Creeds are a shabby substitute for the God who is living and active and on the move and at work in the hearts of all people.


Anonymous JDM said...

This is an interesting observation and I think there is some truth to it. However, I do not think it is fair to Christians who use creeds regularly as a part of their worship to unequivocally refer to such statements as "external," "static," and "dead letters." For example, in Roman Catholic practice the words of the creed are liturgically connected to baptism, and thus is part of a embodied practice and personal experience. When Roman Catholics recite the creed in Mass, they renew their baptismal vows, not simply restate a set of propositions.

This post critiques creeds for "creating boundaries," but all communities create boundaries and sometimes that is a quite healthy and reasonable thing to do. Quakers certainly do it, and generally I think we need to be much more savvy and honest with ourselves about the fact that we do. Acting as if other Christians have external forms and we don't seems counterproductive. Silent creeds can be more deadly than spoken ones.

12:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home