An introduction to our new series...
but remember it doesn't start until Jan 8th!
In Jan 2012 we begin a new preaching series. The series is called “The Need for Creed” and is based around unpacking the familiar (or not so familiar) statements of faith in the Apostles Creed.
As Christians we live within a society of deeply entrenched relativism. A world in which conflicting or antithetical ideas and commitments can be held by the same person seemingly without contradiction or problem. We live in an age when the passion behind the belief is of greater importance than the belief itself, and in which the value of a belief is gauged not by the content of it but by the vociferousness of the proponent. The creed reminds us that it’s not just the passion of the belief that matters but also the content of what we believe to be true.
Also present in our society in ever more obvious ways is the drive towards the privatization of faith and belief - the notion that it doesn’t really matter what one ascribes to so long as the belief is held in private and is not manifest in the public square. With the drive to ever more privatized religion comes, of course, a danger of dilution of shared commitments of faith and a drive towards a purely personal faith without reference to any doctrine or commitments beyond itself.
In studying the creed we’ll think through what commitments of belief stand at the heart of the Christian life. It will help us engage with the tenets of faith that define a Christian, and without which the label ‘Christian’ is undermined and made nonsensical.
The Apostles creed is a helpful tool in achieving this end. It doesn’t engage with the more controversial aspects of Christian ethics and it’s not concerned with the interpretation of rules for Christian living. It’s concerned simply with stating the central doctrines of Christian faith – the things around which Christians gather.
So that is the rationale behind the series – but it’s not simply about the discussion of doctrinal information, although this is a part of it, it’s also about exploring what lies behind the words ‘I believe…’
In exploring these words, we’re concerned not just with the articulation of what it is that ‘I believe…’ the statement of the faith that is held, we’re also concerned with unpacking what it means to place our trust in the realities that ‘I believe…’
Archbishop Rowan Williams sums this up beautifully as he writes
“…the opening words of the Christian statements of faith, the creeds, are about just this [trust]. This doesn’t always appear straight away, though. We say, ‘I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth’. The form of words might initially remind us of questions like, ‘Do you believe in UFO’s or ghosts?’… questions about something ‘out there’ whose existence is doubtful….”
he goes on to say:
“ ‘I believe in God the Father almighty’ isn’t the first in a set of answers to the question, ‘how many ideas or pictures have I inside my head?’ as if God were the name of one more doubtful thing like UFO’s and ghosts to add to the furniture of my imagination. It is the beginning of a series of statements about where I find the anchorage of my life, where I find solid ground, home.”
In the course of this series then we are laying out the ‘solid ground’ we are re-orientating towards ‘home’ or perhaps orientating ourselves for the first time. We are helping each other, whether of deep or shallow faith, old or new faith, strong or weak faith, to find the true anchorage of our lives and souls – the trustworthy reality of God.
The Apostles Creed is one of a number of creedal formulations which succinctly state orthodox Christian doctrine and belief. It is shorter than the equally well known Nicene Creed. The earliest known written copy of the creed dates from AD215.
The creed is known as the ‘Apostles Creed’ because a 5th century tradition claims that the 12 Apostles dictated the creed. It was well known before the 5th century and is likely to have been used to teach and prepare candidates for Baptism.
The dates and themes:
The dates and themes:
Jan 8th – Setting the scene – the need for Creed
and the bankruptcy of relativism
Jan 15th – “I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
Jan 22nd – “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.”
Jan 29th – “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.”
Feb 5th – “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended from the dead”
Feb 12th – “On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father”
Feb 19th – “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
Feb 26th – “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
Mar 4th – “I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins.”
Mar 11th – “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
In addition to these dates, On Weds 11th January Bishop Christopher will be hosting our ‘Engage’ evening and exploring the theological and historical formulation of the Creeds.
Tokens of Trust. Rowan Williams, Canterbury Press. ISBN 978-1-85311-803-6
I Believe – Exploring the Apostles Creed. Alister McGrath, IVP.