Christianity And Creeds

Even during the lifetime of Jesus, people who followed Jesus had various opinions of who he was. Was he the promised Messiah and if so, what kind of messiah is he? After Jesus’ death, the confusion multiplied. Some were convinced Jesus rose from the dead. Others believed he was the true God come to earth. Many thought of Jesus as a prophet who was inspired by God and uniquely obedient to the divine guidance. Followers of the Way [as Jesus’ followers were known] gathered around these various understandings.

Things changed when the Roman emperor, Constantine, wanted to use the growing Christian movement as a tool for uniting his empire. He called bishops of the church together at his mansion and insisted they agree on a unified understanding of the Christian faith. The resulting statement of faith became the core of what later developed into the Nicene Creed. It was predominately about their understanding of Jesus. Decisions were made by the majority vote of the bishops.

It is interesting that writers didn’t necessarily begin with statements of their belief, but rather made faith statements which eliminated the positions of the bishops in the minority. Thus the Creed became a document which separated those who were ‘in’ from those who were ‘out.’ The documents were expanded during later Councils to give even a more precise understanding of ‘correct’ belief.

For many, this had the effect of turning a living, fluid faith, into intellectual battles over ‘correct’ doctrine. This unfortunate struggle continues into the present, with the fracturing of the community of believers into groups, each of which claims a common belief in a doctrinal statement.

The words which follow are my opinion at this point in my faith journey.

Each of us is a unique individual. How we think, how we perceive certain events, what images we use to objectify our mental perceptions, etc., are unique to the individual. We don’t fit one common mold. Why should we think that we could expect uniformity in the most unique, complex area of personal consciousness: religious belief? It is my thinking that we should accept the historical Creeds of the Church as documents that served a purpose in their time of history, but that the historic Creeds of the past should not limit the working of God’s spirit in our own time.

I would like to see the development of a statement of faith which is faithful to the Christian tradition and yet broad enough so as not to exclude any follower of Jesus. Individual Christians could have additional beliefs which are part of their unique journey with Jesus. I propose the following as a beginning. I am open to suggestions for changes.

A Statement of Belief

I believe in God, the mysterious energy of creation which is all around us and in us.

We get glimpses of God in the world which is our home and the universe which expands beyond our imagination. We see God revealed in the earth as it nourishes us while renewing itself. We see God in the miracle of life as it comes into existence, produces offspring and dies.

We experienced God in the human family, and especially in Jesus of Nazareth. His life was so unique that in Jesus we see God’s nature revealed as a model for our lives. Jesus was not bound by the human barriers his contemporaries had set, but accepted the outcasts and extended his welcome to everyone. He advocated peace by demanding justice for all. Jesus was admired by his followers, killed by the oppressors of society, and yet he continues to be present with those who open their hearts to him.

In the midst of the distractions of human activity God’s spirit calls followers of Jesus into communities, and unites them in one timeless, universal church. The spirit reminds us that God is present in our lives and in everything that exists. God cares for creation and for us, God’s human likeness. Sustained by his love, we are called to reflect God with our lives.

Topics: Belief and Faith. 8 Points: Point 1: Teachings of Jesus. Ages: Adult and Young Adult. Resource Types: Evolving Affirmations of Faith and Gather.

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