According to Merriam-Webster, a creed is “a brief authoritative formula of religious belief”. The word is derived from the Latin word credo which means “I believe”. Creeds are found in all types of organizations, spiritual or otherwise. There are also personal creeds. In fact, group creeds are simultaneously personal; (i.e., “We believe” consists of “I believe” multiple times).
The Three Major Christian Creeds
Three creeds—Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian—are widely used by various Christian denominations. I’ll refer to them as the Major Creeds. For creed texts and commentaries see, The Top 13 Christian Creeds: Origins, Contents, & Importance.
The Major Creeds date back to early Christianity and were created to address specific issues.
|Date (CE)||Issues Addressed|
|Apostles’||c.215||Clear summary of Christian beliefs: God the Father as creator, Jesus Christ as Son, crucified and resurrected, Holy Spirit, resurrection of all bodies, everlasting life.|
Repudiation of Arianism. Christ is eternal and part of the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
|Athanasian||5th or 6th century||Expresses two essential elements of Christian teaching: that God’s Son and the Holy Spirit are of one being with the Father; and that Jesus Christ is true God and a true human being in one person. “Trinity” specifically mentioned.|
Note that, while these issues are well established today, this was not the case at the time the Major Creeds were written.
During services, I recite the Major Creeds along with the rest of the congregation even though I don’t believe the words. When I sang in the choir, I saw it as an opportunity to practice my diction. I suppose that would be further proof of my heretical nature. Oh well. 😉
But are the Major Creeds still relevant? Are there creeds that can address both believers and non-believers alike? I’ll explore these issues now.
The Relevancy of the Major Creeds
I find little of personal relevance in these creeds, which is not very surprising. After all, I am a professed agnostic atheist. However, I have become acquainted with several thoughtful believers at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu (LCH) that are troubled by aspects of the Major Creeds. For example:
- These creeds tend to be patriarchal (Father, Son).
- Some people do not buy into the notion of the Trinity. My sarcastic observation is that this is a god formed by a committee.
- Other ideas of God’s nature may not conform to what is described. For example, some have an interest in the panentheistic God of Process Theology.
These folks have not necessarily “abandoned their faith” or stopped attending church or being part of the LCH community. Far from it. In some cases, faith deepens as reflection expands. Seeing the Major Creeds in a new light is how they remain relevant.
Here are several other reasons why the Major Creeds remain relevant:
- They provide a sense of continuity and connection to the foundations of the religion.
- Some people, perhaps a large number, accept them as true.
- For some, the familiar words provide comfort and stability.
Creeds of Relevance to Believers and Non-believers
There are many, many creeds that have been developed over the centuries. Here are two from Progressive Christianity that I’ve selected as examples of creeds that can be embraced by both believers and non-believers.
A Creed of Peace
I believe in faiths of compassion
And I nurture benevolent hopes;
I treasure loves without borders
And value simple truths
I believe in the peace of One Peace;
Redeeming, unending, sublime
For my peace is always your peace
As your peace is always mine
Peace makes us One with each other
Where faiths, hopes and loves combine
A Creed for Accepting Change
I accept my changing self
And the altering fullness of others
I acknowledge that I can improve myself
But cannot recover others
I confess that I resist change
And hide in what is familiar
I Suspect what is different
And fear the unknown
Yet I realize that some change is inevitable
I open my heart to healthy change
Open my mind to positive change
Open my spirit to generous change
For by accepting change that brings us together
We reject what keeps us apart
In accepting change that makes me whole
I reject what breaks me down
In acceptance I learn change
The Heretic’s Creed
When I participated in discussions of the Major Creeds and heard questionings of words or concepts, I would imagine people mentally crossing out some words and inserting others. Here is a tongue-in-cheek version of what such a creed would look like:
We believe in some version of “God”. It’s full nature is a mystery. For example: “God” could be eternal and the creator of the universe. Or not. “God” is
omnipotent, omniscient, anda loving god whose love encompasses and enfolds the universe. This includes all humansentient and non-sentient beings. “God” might actually be three separate gods coexisting as one. We refer to this as the “Triune God” or the “Godhead”. You might think this is hard to do. But it’s not, if you’re a god. We also believe in Jesus. He might be the best, most badass human that ever lived. Or a myth. Or both. He might also be part of the “Godhead”, which makes him both human AND god. You might think this is hard to do. But it’s not, if you’re a god. Finally, We believe in the Holy Spirit who is the divine WiFi chip implanted in everything, connecting all with “God”. (Or the “Godhead”. Take your pick). Also, we may not believe in the Triune God. Interesting concept, though. Amen. Stan Baptista, Creeds ’R Us
I sometimes wonder why I attend services at LCH not to mention Bible Study and Adult Ed (basically, Sunday School for grownups). I’m no closer to “believing” now than when my wife and I started regularly participating at LCH in 2017.
But I’ve come to realize that I’m not here in the hopes of being converted or to enhance my chances of a miraculous vision from God. Rather, what I feel mostly is that we’re all in this together. If I can become a better human through the lens of others with different spiritual beliefs, so much the better.
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED
- A Creed of Peace
- A Creed for Accepting Change
- The Nicene Creed
- What Do You Believe?
- Agnostic Atheism
- Process Theology and Philosopy
- Evolving Statements of Faith
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-7
- What is a Creed?
- The Top 13 Christian Creeds: Origins, Contents, & Importance
- Creeds of Christianity
- The Athanasian Creed—St. John Lutheran Church, De Pere, Wisconsin
- The Christian Creeds An Introduction
To my editor and wife: Thanks for all your help and support. ❤️❤️❤️
Stan, your insights make me smile and think. Thank you for your ongoing thoughtfulness and openness!
Thanks Greg! Appreciate it 😀