Do The Creeds Matter?

Post Author:  Darrell

I recently spent some time on a Christian Facebook page that ministers to Mormons.  It is mostly made up of ex-Mormon Christians who feel very strongly about their faith and want to reach out to Mormons.  They write articles explaining the differences between Traditional Christianity and Mormonism and the problems with Mormon Theology and History in general.

A few days ago I had a cordial conversation with a Mormon gentleman regarding the Nicene Creed.  We were discussing the development of the creed, what its terms mean, and what the ante-Nicene Fathers believed in regards to the nature of God.  For those who are not familiar with Mormonism, the Nicene Creed is a particular point of contention for them as its teachings are in stark contrast to Mormonism.

While we were in the midst of the conversation an administrator on the website stepped in and deleted nearly our entire conversation.  When I asked why she did this, she proceeded to tell me that the Nicene Creed doesn’t matter and that the creeds are irrelevant to the subject of defining God, and she chastised me for being “overly intellectual.”

This has led me to do some pondering over the last few days.  What do Evangelical Christians believe when it comes to the Nicene Creed?  Does it matter?  Are any of the creeds relevant today?  Are they authoritative or are they simply their writer’s opinions?

Share your thoughts with me on this poll.  Once I’ve had a chance to digest the various opinions, I’ll likely write a blog post sharing some of my thoughts.

  • Do Creeds matter? There are a number of ways to approach this, but first, in a way that is sympathetic to the LDS position (though they may not recognize it).

    As I have mentioned before, I belong to one of the “creedal” branches of Christianity. The Nicene is said every Sunday, the Apostles’ was formerly said at least once a day at Morning and/or Evening Prayer. It is still used as part of the Baptismal Liturgy. The Creeds are firmly entrenched in our foundational understanding. But although we say them, many in the national leadership no longer believe them. I have spoken with many individuals who say the creed every Sunday …“We Believe …” explaining that this means only that the doctrinal statement then quoted is the “official” position of the body, but while he affirms that “WE (corporately) believe…” One should not assume from this that HE (personally) believes… . And he sees nor feels no contradiction or conflict. Again, many of the national leadership are little different at present.

    I know very little of the insides of the LDS. But I understand to their credit that there is a strong and fruitful position taken towards personal righteousness, and I believe, towards family and social responsibilities. It once was so with us. In social and doctrinal retreat, I cannot prove which is the chicken and which is the egg, nor which came first. But I do know they came together.

    A second and very personal way of looking at it concerns marital relations. If worship is somewhat analogous to romance, from courting to full physical intimacy (and I think it much, much more than “somewhat analogous”) then theology is the “getting to know you” understanding who the other person is. Creedal statements are the formal expression of that process. They define to whom one is actually pledging oneself in marriage. *THIS * Susan, and not THAT Susan, or Suzanne. If I should be found in the arms of Susan Smith, I cannot claim that “any Susan is good; as long as I am sincere in my passion, and my needs are being met, they are all the same.” Creeds define who it is that we are cleaving to. Without it, Our religion becomes a worship of worship itself (and I have seen it happen so), which is as degrading to my God as passion, simply for the sake of passion, with my wife (or any available ‘passion-aid’) as a necessary component.

    But this could be ANY creed; a creed of any group, or simply my own personal expression of “this I believe” no matter how messured or who far away the drummer is. Why THIS creed? Why use this (or these) statements of belief that go back well over 1500 years; but fail to go back all the way to the beginning? Jesus never said them, the 12 never wrote them, Paul did not know them. The closest thing from Jesus to a creed was the summary of the Law, perhaps the closest so one that He knew was the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Why THIS Creed?

    Not to go into the history, Frankly, I don’t know it well enough, but I know enough to declare that The Nicene creed is not Sacred Scripture. It does not carry that authority. Like any human document, It may prove to be wrong. But if I am not to live by elevating my own thoughts to the level of cosmic sublimity, I would do well to listen to the voce of others: my contemporaries, my elders, my brothers and sisters, my grandfathers. Should I find myself disagreeing with the voice of every wise person I know, well I might be right. That’s how new discoveries sometimes are made. But if the voice of the learned assembly is strong, when gathered together specifically for ‘this’ question, and subsequent assemblies agree with their findings, and tens of thousands since have found fruit in their work. Then I might STILL be right.
    But I should check my figures.

    Majority opinion proves nothing. But even in law, we use the concept of “Stare Decisis” to help get at the truth without being blown all over the map by winds of fashion. The old formulaes are not proof – My church’s foundational documents place great value on the past, but more on the scriptures which are to have undergirded those decisions. “Councils can and have erred…” is the wording. One can disagree with them, even the council of Nicea, when and if wrong by the scriptures, but, you really should check your work, and disagree with grave misgivings and deference.

  • Mick Curran

    Hi Darrell,

    I sing the Nicene–Constantinopolitan Creed every Sunday morning at the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom as follows:

    I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one LORD, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only–Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten not made; of one essence with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the LORD, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; and who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    You’ll notice that the filioque is not included. Lex orandi, lex credendi.


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