Considering Creeds and Belief Statements

Pam Kramer: Creeds or Affirmations of Faith have been on my mind recently. Creeds are belief statements. For example, the Apostles Creed, which we at Trinity say most often, is a perfectly good statement of our Christian beliefs. Most know it by rote, and perhaps it is said without much serious thought. Some have trouble with
the word “catholic” in it, but remember that the word is not capitalized; therefore it means “universal.” Some believe that the creed was written by the apostles. There are references in the Bible to portions of the creed, but the earliest
written form of this creed is found in a letter that Marcellus of Ancyra wrote in Greek to Julius, the bishop of Rome, about AD 341.

My concern (question) is about the concept of belief. Belief is not action. I don’t think Jesus ever told us what to believe. He showed us how to live. Anyone can profess belief in the words of the creed, but I think that without actions to reflect the work of Jesus, the creed becomes just empty words. Perhaps we need to use more contemporary creeds, such as the one used on Sunday, January 23? It began with, “We believe that faith is active…” I want to affirm my faith, not only by reciting the highlights of the foundation of Christianity, but by what I do that reflects what Christianity is all about. So, Pastor, am I way out in left field here? Am I missing something?

Pastor Justin: This is wonderfully nuanced and exhausting topic. Volumes have been written on this topic and by no means do I have an adequate answer. However, here are some thoughts…

At the heart of this is fides qua creditur, the faith by which one believes, and fides quae creditur, the faith that one believes. The difference is between “faith” taken as the virtue that empowers one to believe and “faith” taken as the beliefs that one accepts. The difficulty people have is the concept of the community of faith (the congregation)
rooted in the fides quae creditor, the creeds, and how that impacts the fides qua creditor, the active faith of the individual. These two understandings are always in tension with one another, and have been before and after 325
when Constantine, troubled by the disunity in the church, called the Council of Nicaea and formulated the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed” (Nicene Creed) as a way to structure belief within the community of faith.

So, should be no surprise to anyone, wrestle with the creeds. Trust that in the community of faith someone will likely believe a portion you struggle with, and that is the beauty of it.

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