Monday, May 03, 2010

The Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed (3rd Century, or thereabouts) says this:
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 Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall 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.
What I find interesting about this creed is not necessarily what it says, but rather what it doesn't say, and what is implied from the things it does say. Of course - and this will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog - I don't agree with all of it. Its not necessarily that I disagree with all of it, but just that I think some of it is treading on that shaky ground where I'm happy to say 'I don't know' and not happy to land on one side or the other.

Most of the 'I believe' statements actually need some unpacking. When it says 'I believe in the Holy Ghost' what does that mean? For example, it doesn't say 'I believe that the Holy Ghost is the third person of the Trinity'. Its more like 'I believe that there is something or someone called The Holy Ghost', but it tells me nothing about what the claimant believes about the Holy Ghost.

And what about the 'Communion of Saints' - we say these words, but what do we actually mean by them? As I understand it, Catholic teaching traditionally means that there is some mystical unity between Christians who are currently alive and those who are currently in Purgatory or Heaven. But I've never, ever, in nearly 40 years of church-going heard this preached upon, and I very much doubt that the majority of Evangelical Christians actually believe this, although they might repeat these words in Church every now and again.

What else? Well, why is the virginity of Mary such an important point here? If I believe all of this, except the virginity of Mary, does that mean that my salvation is lost? I doubt it, so why specify it? Even more than that, why include 'under Pontius Pilate'? The only conceivable reason for mentioning Pilate here is that, at the time the creed was formulated, there must have been some debate - some voices must have been claiming that Christ died at some other point in history, and this creed was aiming to stamp out the heresy.

And what about the 'descended into hell' bit? Is there a hell that is a physical place? Is it below? Was it there 2000 years ago or is it a future thing, like Revelation seems to imply? So much of Jesus's teaching relates to lifestyle-choices which will keep you out of hell, surely he is the least likely person ever to have gone there, if such a place even existed?

But what doesn't it say? It says nothing about how to live, it says nothing about love, relationship, service of others, acts of generosity or sacrifice. It doesn't acknowledge that Jesus did or said anything during his earthly life. The only thing he was born to do was suffer and die, if this is any kind of basis of faith. His commands were clearly not fundamental to faith.

The more I think on these issues, the more annoyed I get. I reject this creed and all others.


Anonymous said...

I feel sure this podcst is out of time but if it comes around again it was very much in tune with my views.
At school we were certainly never taught to think of anything other than the religious knowledge belief system (Catholic Education)where I child went to purgatory for not being baptised !!
I envy my friends commitment to their belief system, offering a social bond and to some an inner strength even in the latter stages dying, to other faiths a willingness to be martyrs whilst butchering others. My own view is that I turned out to be that best swimmer in my class of millions and I am grateful for the experience.

Jonathan said...

This is not an endorsement for any blog / forum I simply find this blog one of the more interesting contributions on-line as I need to understand all to understand myself.