Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding the Anglican Way - Part 5, Creed

"No creed but the Bible" is an all too common battle cry for many churches. On the surface the slogan may appear appropriate, for it uplifts the supremacy and sufficiency of the Bible, which is right and good given that it is God's revelation to humanity. A nagging problem creeps into the discussion when you ask someone what interpretation of the Bible is the one that is to be lifted up as supreme and sufficient. Is it the Arminians or the Calvinists? The covenantal theologians or dispensationalists? The Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses derive at least some of their theology from the Bible, perhaps they have the correct interpretation. The battlefield of history is strewn with the corpses of biblical interpretation that have been struck down with the sword of heresy.

The solution to this for many in our modern day is to conclude that since I have the Bible in my hand and the Holy Spirit in my soul I have all I need to understand God and His Word appropriately. This is a very idealistic claim that is tragically false. A careful study of the heresies that have laid siege to the church over the centuries will reveal that most of them are the offspring of well-intentioned biblical scholars who attempted to answer theological questions apart from the developing orthodoxy of the church. Arianism held to the belief that the Son is lesser than the Father and not eternally pre-existent based upon a view of 1 Corinthians 8:5-6. Marcion's view of the Old Testament God being a different God than the New Testament God has its basis in biblical interpretation that struggled to reconcile the justice of God demonstrated in the Old Testament and the love of God presented in the New Testament. Philippians 2:7, and its explanation of Jesus being made in human likeness, provides helpful support for Docetism, which tries to argue that Jesus' human body was merely an illusion.

If I can just close myself in the closet with my Bible and the Holy Spirit I'll be okay, really! The problem is that you've brought yourself into that closet. Saint Peter had to have his theology corrected by Saint Paul due to his struggle to rightly understand the role of circumcision in New Covenant community and to accept table fellowship with Gentiles. If someone who had his feet washed by the eternal Son had to have his theology corrected by the developing orthodoxy of the blossoming church, why do we think we are any better equipped.

We need the boundaries laid out by orthodoxy to keep us from straying into heresy, and it is for that reason that the creeds are so vital to the life of the individual Christian and the corporate life of the church. The three catholic creeds confessed by the Anglican Way are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, and they are confessed on a regular basis. We communally confess the Nicene Creed every eucharist service and the Apostles' Creed every morning and evening prayer. The recitation of a creed directly before the homily in the liturgical order is a potent reminder to the preacher that what they say must be consistent with the orthodox teaching of the church.

This consistent confession of the creeds and the expectation of staying within the boundaries they set forth for orthodoxy has been yet another reason for my wife and I to appreciate the Anglican Way. If your own church doesn't consider the creeds on regular basis I would challenge you to begin reading them and committing them to memory on your own and to ask the leadership of your church why they aren't a part of the life and worship of your community of faith. From the very creation of humanity we have needed boundaries to prevent us from straying off the path marked for us by Almighty God; consider the creeds as such a boundary for our interpretation of Holy Scripture and doctrinal development.

Apostles' Creed

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heavenand earth:And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who wasconceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary:Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, andburied: He descended into hell; The third day he rose againfrom the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on theright hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence heshall come to judge the quick and the dead.I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church;The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen

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