Book Notes: The Apostles Creed | Part 2 | “I Believe”

These are, as the title suggests, minorly edited book notes, but hoping that a few of you might enjoy a peek into them. The other posts in this series on the Apostles Creed can be found here.

The truest and most important things we can ever say are not individual words but communal words

Myers, Benjamin The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 11)

In our particularly western world, we feel the truest thing we could say is something genuine, authentic and unique emerging from me. Myers points out that this is not very profound. After all, I am using words others understand, but these words have been used before me and will be used after me, so they are not truly mine. I am borrowing them to construct my point of view. Myers argues, and I think this is more intuitive to those of us outside the western purview of individualism, that the “me” who is “me” is formed by the “we.” I am formed and shaped by an interconnected web of persons. I am who I am because of the people I belong to, because of the people who have named me and formed me. Foundationally, this is my parents, but I am also formed by friends, teachers, my culture and my tribe. The Creed becomes the words I say as a part of this new tribe, a new nation for the sake of the nations. It becomes the Constitution of my new country, the place of my second birth.

Because of our desire for individual authenticity, we may feel suspicious of ‘historical’ words we inherit in the Creed, but we are invited to say words that have roots, words that remind us who we are, and whose we are. It reminds us that we belong and that we can believe and trust that all that is, has been, and will be said, is true.

“…when we say the Apostles’ Creed we are reminded that life itself is founded on trust… Most of the things we know about the world are really things we believe on the basis of someone else’s word. We can’t verify for ourselves if events in world history have really happened. But we accept testimonies that have come down to us from the past. We can’t visit every location on a map to verify that they all really exist.”

Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 13-14).

Our lives are impossible without trust. We have to trust to live and yet in an age of verification and fake news, our ability to trust has become mortally wounded. The Apostle’s Creed invites us to say “I believe” and yet the I who believes, when it is just me, is endlessly buffeted by the crosswinds of doubt and uncertainty.

Myers says;

“The tragic quality of life comes partly from the fact that human beings are not always trustworthy, yet still we cannot live without trust. The gospel holds out to us the promise of a totally trustworthy God. Can we verify that promise? Augustine’s answer, surprisingly, is yes. Over time we learn that God’s promise is worthy of our trust. God’s trustworthiness is verified by experience. But we don’t start with verification. We start with trust: this leads to experience: and experience leads to knowledge of God’s trustworthiness. Augustine says, “If you can’t understand, believe, and then you’ll understand.”

Myers, Benjamin . The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (p. 15). Lexham Press.

We live in a broken world with broken people, and many of us have likely had more experiences of broken trust than trust fulfilled. The invitation of the Creed is to believe in and trust a person versus an impersonal maths formula. As Augustine says, counterintuitively to our age of suspicion, we trust in order to know. I married my wife in trust that when she said her marriage vows, she meant them. I had to hold trust so that I could wait to experience a life with her that would validate that trust.

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