Posted on April 14, 2021
Posted on April 14, 2021
These are, as the title suggests, minorly editted book notes, but hoping that a few of you might enjoy a peek into them
It’s hard to imagine a better primer to a journey of deepening our theological understanding for the sake of discipleship than Myers’ introduction in the book The Apostle’s Creed;
“That is why I wrote this book. Not because anyone needs to be told what to believe but because Christ’s followers have everything they need already. “All things are yours,” says Paul: “all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor 3:21–23). We are not beggars hoping for scraps. We are like people who have inherited a vast estate: we have to study the documents and visit different locations because it’s more than we can take in at a single glance. In the same way, it takes considerable time and effort to begin to comprehend all that we have received in Christ. Theological thinking does not add a single thing to what we have received. The inheritance remains the same whether we grasp its magnitude or not. But the better we grasp it, the happier we are. So this small book is an invitation to happiness.”Myers, The Apostles Creed, p. XV (emphasis mine)
Myers goes on to describe the early church’s practice of baptism which included a call and response of these creedal truths. This is, in many ways, the most native place for the creed to exist. Unlike our modern age’s fixation on ideas for their own sake, saying the creed is not an invitation to know in some anaemic way, like knowing your car’s license plate number, this being a dead kind of knowing, an informational kind of knowing. The invitation of the creed, like baptism, is an invitation to be immersed in the reality that the creed speaks of. It is to be enveloped into union and participation with the God who has acted in history and definitively in Jesus the Christ. We lose our lives to find them, but we count what we have lost as nothing compared to the wonder of knowing and being known by this God who is Love all the way down.
Another helpful reality Myers makes plain is that we are baptised in Christ, with many others throughout time and in our own times, in nations and cities, some that we have seen and many that we might never see. Speaking the creed unites us in practice with the many believers both throughout history and around the world who say this creed week in week out as a token of their faith.
The Apostle’s Creed is the earliest, most foundational and inclusive of all the creeds. Despite the many meaningful discussions and disagreements amongst the people of God about matters of interpretation and practise, the creed sets out the primary things. From the beginning, God has purposed in creation the realities the creed speaks of and has gathered us together as the Church, the people of God for His namesake around these realities. We hold on to these things as our hope, and we are the manifestation of that hope to the world and cosmos which surrounds us.
While the Nicene Creed was formulated under the duress of false teaching in the early centuries of the Church, and therefore contains specific formulations inspired by the Holy Spirit to keep the Church’s life on track, the Apostle’s Creed is comparatively simple. It is a simple confession of facts. It is, in many ways, not the lofty or ornate-thinking as imagined by philosophers or even poets, but rather a telling of a series of historical events. These things that happened, despite their plain appearance, are in reality the loftiest and most ornate things that have ever happened.
While the Creed does not replace the intricate weaving of letters, history and poetry that the scriptures hold, it is a basic guide to the substance of the Biblical story. In the early days of the church, and today in many places where the church is only beginning to emerge, illiterate believers and those who don’t have access to a text, find in it a faithful testimony in a form that is easy to retain and repeat.
The Creed is a testimony, but it is more than just information. Myers writes that:
“…the creed is both informative and performative, both educational and sacramental. It is a summary of Christian teaching as well as a solemn pledge of allegiance.”Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 5)
Ultimately, the Creed doesn’t just ask us to believe but to bow. It tells a story and then invites us to live in light of that story and to recognise its continuation throughout our own stories. The Creed encompasses and enlarges our small individual points of view so that we begin to see ourselves caught up in this grand drama of redemption and renewal called God’s Church.