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A creed is a statement of belief—usually religious belief or faith—often recited as part of a religious service. The word derives from the Latin: credo for I believe (because the Latin translation of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed both begin with this word). A creed is sometimes referred to as a symbol (Greek: σύμβολο[ν]), signifying a "token" by which persons of like beliefs might recognize each other.

One of the most widely used creeds in Christianity is the Nicene Creed, formulated in AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. Affirmation of this creed, which describes the Trinity, is generally taken as a fundamental test of orthodoxy for most Christian denominations.[1] The Apostles' Creed is also broadly accepted. Some Christian denominations and other groups have rejected the authority of those creeds.

Whether Judaism is creedal has been a point of some controversy. Though some say Judaism is noncreedal in nature, others say it recognizes a single creed, the Shema. "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One."[Deut. 6:4]

Muslims declare the shahada, or testimony: "I bear witness that there is no god except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”[2]

The terms "creed" and "faith" are sometimes used to mean religion. Where "creed" appears alongside "religion" or "faith," it can also refer to a person's political or social beliefs, for example The American's Creed.

Pope Paul VI published on June 30 1968 a profession of faith or creed, called the Credo of the People of God.[3]

Contents

Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western tradition, including the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheranism, the Anglican Communion, and Western Orthodoxy. It is also used by Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists.

Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed reflects the concerns of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 which had as their chief purpose to establish what the early Christians believed.[4]

A creed as a denial of heresies

In an atmosphere of increasingly complicated theological controversy, orthodox belief might become more complicated in outline. In the decade before 594, Gregory, bishop of Tours set out to write a "History of the Franks." In Gaul, a part of Europe that had been recently beset with both royal Arians and pagans (until the conversion of Clovis), Gregory prefaced his history with a declaration of his faith, "so that my reader may have no doubt that I am Catholic for they are."[5] The confession is in many phrases, each of which refutes a specific Christian heresy. Thus Gregory's creed presents, in the negative, a virtual litany of heresies:

I believe, then, in God the Father omnipotent. I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord God, born of the Father, not created. [I believe] that he has always been with the Father, not only since time began but before all time. For the Father could not have been so named unless he had a son; and there could be no son without a father. But as for those who say: "There was a time when he was not,"[6] I reject them with curses, and call men to witness that they are separated from the church. I believe that the word of the Father by which all things were made was Christ. I believe that this word was made flesh and by its suffering the world was redeemed, and I believe that humanity, not deity, was subject to the suffering. I believe that he rose again on the third day, that he freed sinful man, that he ascended to heaven, that he sits on the right hand of the Father, that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father,[7] that it is not inferior and is not of later origin, but is God, equal and always co­eternal with the Father and the Son, consubstantial in its nature, equal in omnipotence, equally eternal in its essence, and that it has never existed apart from the Father and the Son and is not inferior to the Father and the Son. I believe that this holy Trinity exists with separation of persons, and one person is that of the Father, another that the Son, another that of the Holy Spirit. And in this Trinity confess that there is one Deity, one power, one essence. I believe that the blessed Mary was a virgin after the birth as she was a virgin before. I believe that the soul is immortal but that nevertheless it has no part in deity. And I faithfully believe all things that were established at Nicæa by the three hundred and eighteen bishops. But as to the end of the world I hold beliefs which I learned from our forefathers, that Antichrist will come first. An Antichrist will first propose circumcision, asserting that he is Christ; next he will place his statue in the temple at Jerusalem to be worshipped, just as we read that the Lord said: "You shall see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place." But the Lord himself declared that that day is hidden from all men, saying; "But of that day and that hour knoweth no one not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father alone." Moreover we shall here make answer to the heretics [note: the Arians] who attack us, asserting that the Son is inferior to the Father since he is ignorant of this day. Let them learn then that Son here is the name applied to the Christian people, of whom God says: "I shall be to them a father and they shall be to me for sons." For if he had spoken these words of the only­ begotten Son he would never have given the angels first place. For he uses these words: "Not even the angels in heaven nor the Son", showing that he spoke these words not of the only-begotten but of the people of adoption. But our end is Christ himself, who will graciously bestow eternal life on us if we turn to him.[8]

Christians without creeds

Some Christian denominations, and particularly those descending from the Radical Reformation, do not profess a creed. The Quakers, formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, find no need for creedal formulations of faith. The Church of the Brethren also espouses no creed, referring to the New Testament, as their "rule of faith and practice." [9] Unitarians, who practice probably the most liberal of all religions, do not share a creed.[10]

Many evangelical Protestants similarly reject creeds as definitive statements faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists have been non-creedal “in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another”.[11]:p.111 While many Baptists are not opposed to the ancient creeds, they regard them as “not so final that they cannot be revised and re-expressed. At best, creeds have a penultimacy about them and, of themselves, could never be the basis of Christian fellowship”.[11]:p.112 Moreover, Baptist ‘confessions of faith’ have often had a clause such as this from the First London (Particular) Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646):

Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.

Similar reservations about the use of creeds can be found in the Restoration Movement and its descendants, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

Some religious leaders in traditional creedal Churches have also come to question the utility of creeds. Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has written that dogmas and creeds were merely "a stage in our development" and "part of our religious childhood." In his book, Sins of the Scripture, Spong claims that "Jesus seemed to understand that no one can finally fit the holy God into his or her creeds or doctrines. That is idolatry."[12]

Many people said (the Apostles Creed), but they understood what it was saying and what they meant by that quite differently. No matter how hard they tried, they could not close out this perennial debate. They cannot establish a consensus and they could not agree on the meaning of that phrase which had been once "delivered to the saints." It did not occur to these people that the task they were trying to accomplish was not a human possibility, that the mystery of God, including the God they believed they had met in Jesus, could not be reduced to human words and human concepts or captured inside human creeds. Nor did they understand that the tighter and more specific their words became, the less they would achieve the task of unifying the church. All creeds have ever done is to define those who are outside, who were not true believers; and thus their primarily achievement has been to set up eternal conflict between the "ins" and the "outs," a conflict that has repeatedly degenerated into the darkest sort of Christian behavior, including imperialism, torture, persecution, death and war.

Bishop John Shelby Spong[13]

Jewish creed

Whether Judaism is creedal in character has generated some controversy.

Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that "By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought" and asserted in his book Basic Judaism (1947) that "Judaism has never arrived at a creed." The 1976 Centenary Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of Reform rabbis agrees that "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life."

Others, however, characterize the Shema Yisrael[Deut. 6:4] as a creedal statement in strict monotheism embodied in a single prayer. "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Hebrew: שמע ישראל אדני אלהינו אדני אחד‎; transliterated Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.) It is recited twice daily by all observant Jews, once when waking up, and once when going to bed.

Islamic creed

The Islamic creed is the Shahadah, the proclamation that "I testify that there is no god (ilah) but God (Allah), and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God."

Other creeds

Other notable creeds include the:

See also

Further reading

References

  1. ^ Johnson, Phillip R. "The Nicene Creed." Accessed 17 May 2009
  2. ^ "Proclaiming the Shahada is the First Step Into Islam." Islamic Learning Materials. Accessed: 17 May 2009
  3. ^ Solemni hac liturgia (Credo of the People of God)
  4. ^ Kiefer, James E. "The Nicene Creed." Accessed 17 May 2009
  5. ^ Book I.i
  6. ^ "There was a time when he (the Holy Spirit) was not" was a leading belief of the Arian heresy at the time.
  7. ^ "and the Son" was instituted by the Catholic Church after the Nicene Council, but rejected by the other 4 Christian Churches at the time, referred to as the filoque
  8. ^ Gregory of Tours (539-594): History of the Franks: Books I-X "IN CHRIST'S NAME HERE BEGINS THE FIRST BOOK OF THE HISTORIES." Medieval Sourcebook
  9. ^ Martin, Harold S.: "Forward", "Basic Beliefs Within the Church of the Brethren".
  10. ^ Maxwell, Bill. "Leading the Unitarian Universalist Association, a faith without a creed." St. Petersburg Times. Apr 11, 2008
  11. ^ a b Avis, Paul (2002) The Christian Church: An Introduction to the Major Traditions, SPCK, London, ISBN 0-281-05246-8 paperback
  12. ^ p.227
  13. ^ Spong, John S. The sins of Scripture. HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 9780060762056, p.226

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

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