Tag Archives: Apostle’s Creed

Dropping A Veil, pt. 3

In my Dropping A Veil #2 post of last week, I said that I wanted to address two things that I alluded to in the first post, and I wrote about how Christians are all too happy to settle for popular teachers, and don’t really look for writers and teachers who take them “higher up and deeper in.” Realizing that my verbosity had once again gotten the best of me, I ended last week’s post with a promise to address the second topic that had become important in my spiritual life: that of appreciating the difference between the living faith of the dead vs. the dead faith of the living. Continue reading

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The Apostle’s Creed; Final Word

Last week, I posted my final commentary on The Apostle’s Creed. Actually, it was the final commentary on The Apostles’ Creed, I purposefully changed the punctuation on the title of the Creed, for a reason. The moving of the apostrophe changed it from plural to singular, from OUR creed to MY creed. (I wondered it anyone would catch on to that, but no one ever called me on it.)

Years ago, in one of the libraries in which I worked, I came across a book entitled Pride Of Our People, which was a book of Jewish heroes. This book spoke of Jews down through history, scientists and rabbis, leaders and mystics, who were important Jews, Jews who made an impact in the world and in Judaism. But the one thing struck me as I leafed through that book was that Jewish history didn’t “end.”

For Christians, it seems that God stopped working when John the Apostle put down his pen after writing Revelation. For Christians, it seems, the heroes that are worth studying and remembering and emulating are all contained within the pages of Scripture. We forget that God created and instituted the Church, and that the Church has been living and working for two thousand years now. The Church has been creating saints, evangelists, apostles, and disciples for two thousand years, and each one had the same statement, the same belief. That is what the Apostles’ Creed is; it is the statement of faith of the Church. Not some articles of faith of the Assemblies or statement of beliefs of the Lutherans. No, it is the basic statement that defines the belief of the people who gather under the banner of “Christian.”

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song entitled “The Church Triumphant” which has a recitation by Gloria, with the theme statement, “God has always had a people.” To me, the Apostles’ Creed is the statement of those people down through the centuries. When I say the Creed, I see myself taking my place in the van of saints that stretches back to the Upper Room. For me, Christian history didn’t end with the last apostle.

Instead, when I say the Creed, I am saying that I stand with the likes of Luther and Zwingli, Zinzendorf and Patrick, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and D. L. Moody. When we read the Creed in unison, in our church service, I know that I am stating my belief in “the faith that has, once for all, been handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3)

Here is The Church Triumphant. As you listen to the recitation, think about you taking your place in the van of saint living, and who have gone on before.

CSL

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The Apostle’s Creed, #21

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,

   and the life everlasting. Amen.

Years ago, we had a small book of poems by a woman named Helen Plotz, entitled, “Life Hungers To Abound”. I’ve never forgotten the title of the book, although I can tell you nothing of the poem it apparently comes from.

But those four words describe our world, the spread of all living things, plant and animal, on the face of the earth. We are finding, through research and exploration, that there doesn’t seem to be a niche on the earth that some plant or animal doesn’t find a way to survive. Penguins come to mind, as well as the mutant-looking sea creatures that our unmanned submaries are finding in the deepest of oceans, where no light can penetrate.

In man, this drive to live animates us to strive, to work, to accomplish something, ANYTHING, before we die, but inwardly, we realize that we, too, are merely Ozymandias.

But unlike all other life, mankind has an innate knowledge that this is not all there is; we know that “God has set eternity in our hearts.” (Ecc. 3:11) The apostle Paul spoke to this innate knowledge when he addressed the Athenians and reminded them of their own altar “To the Unknown God.” The mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

With this last statement, the Creed, while staying within the bounds of the revelation of God, speaks to this hope of all humanity. This final statement of the Creed, “I believe in the life everlasting,” affirms trust in God to fulfill the hunger for life that is inextinguishable.

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The Apostle’s Creed, #20

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,

   the resurrection of the body,

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Cor. 15:19)

When I was going to college, I read materials by people who pass for “Christian scholars” by today’s standards, in which they argue that resurrection was a Christian invention, created by the Church, with no basis in the Old Testament or in Jewish thought.

I wondered how they could even teach that to be true, in the light of several OT passages. After all, it was while he was preaching in the synagog at Antioch that Paul cited Psalm 16:2 to show that Messiah was resurrected:

Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ (Acts. 13:35)

If resurrection was foreign to the Jewish mind, why would Paul be citing Psalms to Jews in a synagog to show the validity of Christ’s messiahship?

The clincher for me is a portion that appears in what is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job. Job, in facing down his accusers, confesses his belief in resurrection:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last, he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flees I shall see God. (Job. 19:25-26)

I’ll soon be turning 66. Many who come to read this blog have many more years left to live than I do. And yet, I have a hope, shared by Christians down through he ages, that when I close my eyes for the last time on this life, I will open my eyes and see God. This hope of resurrection is the source of the joy that is expressed in sacred and gospel music. “We shall behold Him.”

CSL

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The Apostle’s Creed, #19, Redux

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** Church,
the communion of saints,

   the forgiveness of sins,

After my rant in my last Creed post, about how society is trying to do away with the concept of sin, I knew that I would need to revisit this line of the Creed and write about it.

To begin, this is the only line in the Creed that speaks to the reason for the Creed at all. Go back over the Creed, above, and you will see that there is nothing that speaks to why Christ came: all the “born”, “suffered”, “crucified”, “ascended” statements are declarative sentences of “what” He did, and don’t point to the “why” that motivated the “what.”

We know, however, that the “why” is so that we “should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) God sent Jesus to save the world. (Jn. 3:17) And this line is the only line of the Creed that speaks to our need, salvation. Those who hate Christianity are wont to speak of Christianity as a “joyless religion”. However, when I survey the world around me, I don’t find joy there; merely desperation. It seems to me that those who aren’t living a subsistence-level life, but actually have time to think about the world and themselves are trying to find as many ways as possible to keep from thinking about their joylessness. We fill our lives with amusements, which, in the Greek, literally means ways to avoid thought.

But when we Christians think of our sin, and the reconciliation that Christ’s sacrifice provides, joys wells up as our guilt is removed, and we enter into the fellowship with God that was intended from Creation. The world is joyless; the Christian lives this verse:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isa. 12:3

CSL

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Apostle’s Creed, #19

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** Church,
the communion of saints,

   the forgiveness of sins,

Of all the words in the Creed, I believe “sins” to be the most hated.

The world hates the very concept of sin; even contemplating the reality of sin would mean that right and wrong exist, and of course, nothing is ever wrong, today! I take that back. There is one thing that is a complete and total offense to today’s sensibilities: a belief in right and wrong, and possessing the cojones to say so.

Okay, rant time. Back in the 70’s, there was a popular psychobabbling self-help book entitled, I’m Okay, You’re Okay. That title gave me the fillip I needed, years ago, to delineate the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Social Compact™. Sociologists define “social compact” as the contracts that peoples agree to abide by, in order to normalize social interaction in a community. If you smile, shake hands, and pat one another on the back, you’re abiding by the compact, and are accepted by the group. If you gibber maniacally and fling dung, you aren’t living by the compact, and quite likely will be sanctioned for your violation of the compact. Possibly locked up, or receive a rock upside the head; who knows. But violate the Social Compact and you will be sanctioned by the group.

The way that the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Social Compact™ works is that different groups, (identity groups, political groups, what-have-you) agree that all the other groups are okay. “If you will say that I’m okay, I will ay that you’re okay. And we will band together and stomp the pudding out of anyone who upsets our applecart.”

And then come Christians with their Creed, who, by believing that sin is real and is a violation of God’s laws, violate the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Social Compact™, and so must be attacked, shouted down and silenced. But here’s the thing: If one is a true Christian, God’s word and will matter than desire for societal approval or fear of societal opprobrium. God is real. So is sin. All we need to do is to look around us to see the truth of that.

*deep cleansing breath**   Okay, rant over.

CSL

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Apostle’s Creed, part 18

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** Church,

   the communion of saints,

The past month has been a watershed for the discussion of “identity”, what with Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal. And Anna Waldherr, of A Lawyer’s Prayer, wrote an article about the white supremacist Christian Identity movement. We talk a lot about identity in our society today, but the Apostle’s Creed cuts across all of gibberish by giving us one identity.

There are many descriptors that might apply me, that would help someone attempt to define me. Here are some that are applicable: I am male, I am Scotch-Irish, I am caucasian, I am a librarian, I am college-educated, I am Southern, I am politically conservative. Different demographic descriptors are used to define, categorize and differentiate us. A female Chinese acrobat should have nothing in common with me, and we should see the world differently. These descriptors, though, are not my identity or definition.

The one thing that defines me is my faith; I am a Christian. Male, Scotch-Irish, caucasian, college, American Southern? Yes, but all are subservient to my identity as a Christian. And because of that, because, for Christians, Christ is our identity, similarities and/or differences don’t matter. A female Chinese acrobat who is a Christian is a sister to a male, Southern librarian who is a Christian.

A good example of this is the woman I mentioned in my first paragraph, Anna Waldherr. Ms. Waldherr is a self-described liberal lawyer; I am somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. Despite our political differences, I find many of her posts challenging and thought-provoking, and she has commented on some of my posts, so I know that she reads my posts, as well. Why? Because we speak the same language and share in “the communion of saints.”

Back in the Cold War era, one of Billy Graham’s associate evangelists (for some reason I want to say it was Grady Wilson, but I can’t be sure), was doing some advance work in an Iron Curtain country. One evening, as he was walking back to his hotel, Wilson(?) saw a man turn a corner a couple blocks ahead of him and start to walk in his direction. Wilson(?) didn’t feel particularly threatened, but was wary as he continued down the street. As the two got nearer, Wilson(?) heard the man whistling, and recognized the tune as a Christian hymn. Wilson immediately started whistling the hymn as he approached the man, whose face lit up with a big grin. It turned out that the man didn’t speak a word of English, so Wilson(?) couldn’t say anything to him, but for just a moment, each experienced a moment of family reunion.

Grady Wilson, a southern preacher, and an anonymous eastern european man shared the same identity and so rejoiced in each other. As Christians, they experienced the truth of the Creed’s statement, “the communion of saints.”

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The Apostle’s Creed, part 17

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

   the holy catholic** Church,

First off, the asterisk. Yes, every denomination that isn’t Roman Catholic, that uses the Apostle’s Creed, places this asterisk in their books, along with a footnote letting readers know that the word “catholic” is used in its descriptive sense, and not its denominational sense. “Roman Catholic” refers to a person who is a member of the Roman Catholic church; the uncapitalized word, “catholic”, means “universal”.  *end of disclaimer*

Now that that is out of the way, this part of the Creed is the disciple’s statement of what s/he believes about the supremacy of the Church. I’m not talking about the Church Militant, as some like to envision it. I’m speaking of the fellowship Christians have with one another just because they are Christians. Today, we speak of “identifying principles”, concepts by which we organize our lives, and by which we identify ourselves. For Christians, there is but one identifier, and that is Christ.

I may be an American. I may be white. I may be male. I may be of Scotch-Irish descent. Other descriptors might be Southerner (not by birth), librarian, college graduate, and so on. Those are demographic categories. But the one thing by which I define myself is Christ. I am a Christian who lives in the U. S. A. I am a Christian who is caucasian. I am a Christian who lives in the South. Other Christians may have identical or similar demographic descriptors, or wildly different. A Christian woman of German ancestry in Brazil who works for a publisher has nothing in common with me – except Christ, which then makes us brother and sister.

I’m great with stories, but not so much with names, so please forgive the following lapse. One of Billy Graham’s assistants (Grady Wilson?) was in a communist country (before the fall of the Soviet empire), and one evening found himself walking back to his hotel alone. This man tells how he was whistling a hymn to himself as he was walking, when he noticed that there was another man about a block away, walking toward him on the sidewalk. When the man got closer and could hear what Wilson(?) was whistling, he started singing the hymn in his own language. Graham’s associate didn’t have his translator with him, and so couldn’t say anything to the other, but they shook hands and hugged, realizing that two Christians were experiencing a moment of family fellowship.

Speaking of the words of the Creed, Glenn Packiam, in his book Discover the Mystery of Faith, says:

These words form a path, a trail to walk on. When we say them, sing them, or pray them with worship and faith in our hearts, we can remember how many others have prayed these words before us. We can think of the great church fathers, the bishops and theologians, the peasants and farmers, the missionaries and martyrs. We can imagine all the saints around the world who gather each week on the Lord’s Day and say these very same words and sing them and pray them with one voice.

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The Apostle’s Creed, part 16

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

Fridays have been my day for writing about what the Apostle’s Creed means to me, how important it is to me. But after I finished the middle section, about Christ, I’ve hit a little bit of a blockage. The problem is that while the first two persons of the Trinity are discussed and the Creed expounds on each, this third section only says, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” and doesn’t discuss the Person of the Holy Spirit or His work.

Yesterday, however, I was reading a book on how worship forms our faith, and the author illustrated the need for the Creed (you know I love the English language, right?), and how the Creed is bigger than just a Statement of Belief.

The author told of watching the Little House on the Prairie program and viewing an episode in which Pa Ingalls and Mr. French tied a rope from the house to the barn, during a white-out blizzard. The rope was the guideline and safety line to keep them from wandering off in the blizzard. The Creed, like that rope, is our guide to keep us from wandering.

The Creed is something that we enter into when we say, “This I believe.” When we confess the Creed, we aren’t saying we believe in propositions or resolutions; we are saying “I believe in God the Father…,” “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,…,” and “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Doctrines are facts, but the Creed is the confession of our faith, of who we are. And once I place myself in the Creed, my statement, “I believe in the Holy Spirit”, suffices. All else is commentary.

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The Apostle’s Creed, part 15

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,
  and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.

   from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

And there it is. The final insult (pun intended? who knows?) Yes, the idea of sin is an offense; the need of a savior is an offense; the inability to do something to merit God’s grace is offensive. Christianity has so many strikes against it, what with being so offensive to the sensibilities of mankind. But this! This is the last straw! The idea that God actually judges sin is just inconceivable! After all, God is the Father of all, and loves everyone (well, everyone that we approve of, that is, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post.)

Sorry, World. As much as you want to makeover God in your own image, the Bible still says that God is committing the judgment of all things into the hands of His Son. And, as Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right?”

Yes, He will. And that scares the crap out of them. Well, and us, for that matter. For we all want mercy and not justice. We cry out, “No justice! No peace!” But we don’t really mean it. We don’t want God the Son to exercise judgment; heck, we don’t even want God the Father to judge us, either. What we want is God the Santa Claus to spoil us and say, “Well, I guess they’re all pretty good, when you get right down to it.”

As much as the suggestion that God will actually conduct any kind of ‘judicial review’ is troubling, it is downright alarming to consider that Jesus not only had no problem with proclaiming God’s judgment, but warning His listeners that such talk was as serious as a heart attack. After all, it wasn’t just some misguided religious zealot who said,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)

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