The Rev. Kevin Huddleston of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kansas seems somewhat embarrassed by the basics. He has a beef with Apostles’ Creed. As a Voice of Faith columnist, he entitles his article: “Is believing creeds what Christianity is about?” He says: “The simplistic answer to this question is ‘no.’” In sort of a “Captain Obvious” manner he says, “At the heart of Christianity is a person, Jesus of Nazareth.”
He laments that he had to memorize the Apostles’ Creed as a kid, and had to pledge his belief to it even though he didn’t’ believe that Jesus descended into hell, or that Jesus “sat at the right hand of an old man on a throne.” He sarcastically closes by saying that, at the time the Apostles’ Creed was written, he would have been “burned at the stake for such thinking.”
The Reverend is setting up a false premise. He sets up the straw-man question: “Is believing creeds what Christianity is about?” He implies that the Creed is the object of our faith instead of an expression of our faith. We don’t believe IN the creed. We believe WHAT the Creed says about the God IN WHOM we believe. The Creed is a statement of what we believe about Christ, about the Triune God, about other clear teachings of the Bible. Obviously, as Huddleston says, “At the heart of Christianity is a person, Jesus of Nazareth.” But you can’t have Jesus and reject what Jesus taught!
Jesus asked His disciples to state their belief (not merely an “opinion” as Rev. Huddleston defines a creed): Who do YOU say that I am?” Peter said it for all of them: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” That is Peter’s creed – his confession of WHAT and IN WHOM he believed.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” said Paul to the Romans. Several chapters later, he says: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The word “creed” comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe.” Everyone has a creed. As soon as you open your mouth about what you believe about God, that is your creed. Even if you are an atheist, you have a creed. You believe that there is NO God! The question is not whether you have a creed. The question is whether your creed agrees with the Bible.
The ancient, universal creeds are not a replacement for the Bible. They are the believers’ response to the Bible, a confession of faith that agrees with what the Bible teaches and rejects anything that contradicts the Bible. The Athanasian Creed, which we traditionally use on Trinity Sunday, may seem a bit wordy in an age of sound-bites and tweets. It may prove embarrassing for so-called Christians who want to play kissy-face with other beliefs. But sooner or later, we must all answer Christ Himself: “Who do YOU say I am?”