I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made…
Do these words sound familiar? I hope they do. These words, which have been recited in liturgy, at church councils, in battles, and at dinner tables in hundreds of languages, echo to us today through nearly 17 centuries of continual use. This creed is what has united the church (except perhaps in 1054 when it greatly divided the church) and has helped to defend it against all manner of heresies and attacks.
Sadly, I had never heard of this creed until I was in my late 20’s. In the church I grew up in, creeds were never recited; they were considered to be extra-Biblical and therefore highly suspect. Or maybe people just didn’t know about them. Prayer in our church was usually a long drawn out speech of varying eloquence depending on who was delivering it. Prayer was supposed to be spontaneous and elevated, not scripted and repetitious. To have recited a creed would have meant introducing a form of liturgy into our midst which would have taken us “dangerously” close to Catholicism. After all, the word “catholic” is contained in the creed, right? More on that another time.
And so I missed out on this beautiful tradition which if one looks at closely, is derived directly from Scripture. I believe that this creed, which is only outdated by the Apostles Creed (another creed that I never heard when I was young) should be front and center in every church. It should be inscribed on walls and memorized in Sunday School.
But more importantly, it should be the statement that supersedes all interpretation and theological disagreements. When our reason and logic fail us and when we cannot wrap our heads around the complexities of certain doctrines and dogma, we should always come back to the Nicene Creed (or the Apostle’s Creed!) because they will return us to the simplicity of our faith.
Are the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed traditions? Of course they are. But why should we be afraid of traditions, especially when this tradition comes from scripture and has served as a litmus test for Christians for more than a millennia and a half? Are the Creeds Catholic? Absolutely they are. They were passed down to us through the Catholic Church. But this should not scare us off either. The Lord has used the Catholic Church to pass down many important traditions not the least of which is the canon of Scripture.
I am not suggesting that we make an idol out of the Creeds. I am also not suggesting that they are divinely inspired like the Scriptures are. I do strongly believe, however, that God’s voice can be heard through these creeds and that he has allowed them to represent in a concise and beautiful way what we as Christians believe. We should say them in Church and in our homes and in our hearts, not in vain repetition but with the knowledge and appreciation that we are joining our voices with hundreds of millions of people now and in centuries long past, who have professed their faith in the only true and living God.