Why the Apostles’ Creed Matters

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We live in an anti-creedal age. Many churches do not have a body of jointly held beliefs. Where these are present,Creed they often have little or no bearing on the life of the community.  Sermons consist of sound bites, anecdotes and motivational remarks. If the Church is to be a force for change in the modern world, she needs to be clear on precisely what she stands for. She needs to be well grounded in the Truth. A helpful starting point is the document known as the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles Creed is a brief but comprehensive statement of basic elements of the Christian faith and  worldview. And as such it has remained in use by the Church as a statement of essential beliefs which every Christian should hold. Not only has it been confessed by adult believers, it has also been a great tool for instructing children in biblical truth. The great Church historian, Philip Schaff,  describes the creed as follows:

 As the Lord’s Prayer is the Prayer of prayers, the Decalogue the Law of laws, so the Apostles’ Creed is the Creed of creeds. It contains all the fundamental articles of the Christian faith necessary to salvation, in the form of facts, in simple Scripture language, and in the most natural order—the order of revelation— from God and the creation down to the resurrection and life everlasting. It is Trinitarian, and divided into three chief articles, expressing faith—in God the Father, the Maker of heaven and earth, in his only Son, our Lord and Saviour, and in the Holy Spirit (in Deum Patrem, in Jesum Christum, in Spiritum Sanctum); the chief stress being laid on the second article, the supernatural birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Then, changing the language (credo in for credo with the simple accusative), the Creed professes to believe ‘the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’

It is by far the best popular summary of the Christian faith ever made within so brief a space. It still surpasses all later symbols for catechetical and liturgical purposes, especially as a profession of candidates for baptism and church membership. It is not a logical statement of abstract doctrines, but a profession of living facts and saving truths. It is a liturgical poem and an act of worship. Like the Lord’s Prayer, it loses none of its charm and effect by frequent use, although, by vain and thoughtless repetition, it may be made a martyr and an empty form of words. It is intelligible and edifying to a child, and fresh and rich to the profoundest Christian scholar, who, as he advances in age, delights to go back to primitive foundations and first principles. It has the fragrance of antiquity and the inestimable weight of universal consent. It is a bond of union between all ages and sections of Christendom. It can never be superseded for popular use in church and school.

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