Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Prepared Christian Creed?

This week's Prepared Christian assignment has to do with creeds.  As we've been studying the chapter on God the Father, the idea/concept of creeds has come up a few times as we attempt to define the doctrine of God the Father.  One of the things we have learned in our class is that for the early church, most people did not have access to books like the Bible (and may not have been able to read it even if they did).  So, the church had to come up with ways to get everyone on the same page, especially when it came to understanding some of the basic concepts of being a Christian.  So creeds became an important tool in this effort.  Webster's online dictionary defines a creed as:
a brief authoritative formula of religious belief

Our assignment was to review the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed; identify some common structural elements; and then write our own creed.  Having attended a Methodist church for many years, the Apostle's Creed was pretty familiar.  That could also be a holdout from attending a Catholic church as a child.  I was also somewhat familiar with the Nicene Creed.  However, I had never run across the Athanasian Creed before (which, btw, fails on "brief").

Pastor Mark sent us copies of the versions of each of the creeds he wanted us to use. This was a good move as a quick Google search will likely overwhelm you with the different versions that are out there. Looks like the Apostle's Creed version is the Traditional English Version and the Nicene Creed is the International Consultation on English Texts translation as found at the web site. The Athanasian Creed is close to one I found at

I did a little mindmapping as I worked through the creeds and came up with the following (sorry, been trying to figure out how to embed the Freemind file, but it keeps throwing an error when I preview - complains about Javascript and Flash not activated - so you'll have to put up with PNGs):

Using that, I put together the following outline of some Christian creed attributes:

  • Use the word believe. The Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed do this more actively.

  • All seem to focus heavily on the concept of the Trinity. The Athanasian Creed is very, very focused on this. Probably half the creed is spent explaining this concept.

  • God the Father

    • present in all the creeds

    • all use the adjective Almighty

    • references to being the creator/maker of Heaven, earth, all things

  • Jesus Christ

    • the only Son of God

    • begotten

    • emphasis on incarnate nature

    • historical perspective of his life on earth

    • he died, was buried, and rose

    • ascended into Heaven

    • will judge us

    • life everlasting is possible

  • Holy Spirit

    • Ghost is also used (I like Spirit myself)

    • giver of life (general and in terms of Jesus's conception)

    • not much else

  • Other stuff

    • catholic church

    • communion of saints

    • forgiveness of sins

    • resurrection of the body

    • everlasting life

    • Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed set these off; Athanasian Creed seems to incorporate them into the body of the creed

In starting to think about how to draft my own creed, some ideas included:

  • use believe as an active verb

  • touch on each “member” of the Trinity. I tend to feel the Holy Spirit gets the short end of the stick – any way to change that? I like John 14:26 and the reference to the Holy Spirit as the Helper coming to teach us and help us with remembrance, so perhaps use those?

  • As I started writing, I decided the descriptions of the God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would all start with “who”

  • briefly considered structuring it using who, what, when, where, why, and how. That did not last long

  • instead of the “other” things being included, ala Apostle's and Nicene, I decided to go a little different route. I would use the five soli we studied earlier to structure the final section.

So with that in mind, I put together another mind map, this time of my creed:

Finally, converting all of this to a format of a creed that could be repeated yields:
I believe in Almighty God, who is our Father in Heaven and on earth, who created Heaven and earth, who is above us and with us, now and forever;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, who became man incarnate that he might suffer for our salvation, who died, was buried, and rose from the dead, who ascended into Heaven, and who will judge us from His throne;

I believe in the Holy Spirit, who gives us life, who helps us by giving us knowledge and remembrance of what Jesus Christ taught;

I believe God grants us his grace that we may be saved;

I believe our faith is the path and the means to access God's grace;

I believe Jesus Christ is our savior that our sins may be forgiven;

I believe in the Holy word of God as revealed through Scripture;

I believe in the Glory of God.


A pdf version is available of just the creed.

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