The Apostle’s Creed – Our Story

StoryChristianityFor some reason, I’ve had a strong desire as of late to read more from church history – not just folk from the past couple of centuries, but from the 2000 year span of the Christian church. The desire was stirred a few years back, and I attempted to get into more of church history. But, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to do this on an almost daily basis as I’ve headed back into Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

I was conversing with a friend of mine just a couple of days ago and he said one of the biggest things that destroyed his theology in seminary was to realize that there is an historical context to theology – history has shaped every single bit of our theology today. None of it was formulated in a vacuum. You and I, we, do not normally believe something because we saw it in Scripture. Rather, it’s usually because it’s been handed down to us over either millennia or centuries.

Thus, we have a story.

That’s what I love about church history, even including the possession of creeds and confessions. We have a story, which has multiple stories enfolded within it. And I want to love that story – the good, bad and ugly. It keeps the narrative authentic, real and earthy. I can grab a hold of something that is authentic, even if it isn’t perfect.

I’d say our theological story is easily summed up in the Apostle’s Creed, and we find the earliest written version of this creed from the early part of the 3rd century.

How does that summary go?

Below is the creed, a modern-day translation of it (like the NIV version of the Apostle’s Creed).

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.

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33 thoughts on “The Apostle’s Creed – Our Story

  1. Here is a fair site for which includes The Apostles Creed, Church History, and of course many things Anglican! It is basically British also. You had said your now wife and family is English (from England). The richness of the Anglican Communion here is quite profound, and well worth the study in British theological history. ‘The Anglican Article VIII. Of the Three Creeds. The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.’

    http://www.globalanglican.org/all-texts-2/the-apostles-creed/

  2. You don’t believe Jesus died to atone for sins and rose to give men new life. Ya know like in Romans 4:25 where it is reported that He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. For instance, among a whole bunch of other places? Because I don’t see that presumably scripturally significant teaching in this creed.

    • If your talking to me? The Apostles Creed, is really a more a post-Apostolic Creed, but it is a very early Confessional Creed!

      And of course I believe myself in the essence and exegesis of Romans 4: 25! Btw, the whole of this begins in verses 22 thru 25! But the “Therefore” looks back to the faith of Abraham, “our father” … “the father of all who believe”, (Rom. 4: 11). So the whole chapter is before us, even in verses 23-25!

      “Abraham believed God, and It was credited to him as Righteousness” (Gen. 15: 6). And so even in the OT Justification by Faith is evidenced, but first in our “father” of faith, Father Abraham!

      • Actually, this time I was talkin to him. In fact I was gonna give you a tip o the hat and buy ya a virtual pint o stout. You’ve been doin a pretty heroic job here.

        And as I say, none of the truths you mention are in the so called apostle’s creed. The Jehovah’s Witnesses would agree with just about all of this. Which is just how these emergent liberals like it. Come one, come all. God’s a hip n groovy sugar daddy who’s probably giving horsey rides to Rudolph Bultmann in heaven as I type this.

      • Agree, the Apostles Creed is only an early Confessional Creed. But it does make some biblical cases and realities! Note, we can see (looking back) that Gen. 22: 8-13, as verse 14: “Abraham called the name of that place The Lord (YHWH-jireh) Will Provide…” Verse 8, “Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked together.” (A beautiful type of the ‘Father and the Son’!)…Surely the Death of Christ was a perfect “Oblation” (Expiation), i.e. “offering”, “once made is that perfect redemption..and satisfaction, for all the sins of the world, both original and actual: and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.” Anglican Article XXXI. That Death, is quite sufficient for all men and sin, but it is efficient, or efficacious for the elect, or chosen alone! (1 Peter 3: 18)

      • Of course the Apostles Creed does not directly interpret the Death and Atonement of Christ, but it does refer to it, as Christ “descend’s” into death and hades! (1 Peter 3: 18-19, etc.)

        Btw Greg, we simply cannot press everything through the so-called “Calvinist” paradigm, but only when the Holy Scripture allows or is speaking objectively here therein, i.e. the doctrines of grace & glory! And myself, I don’t believe Calvin himself taught a “Limited” Atonement, strictly speaking. A Particular, yes! But there is a difference between limiting the Atonement, and seeing that Christ’s Death only effects to certain efficacy those that are God’s chosen by grace & glory. The depth and sufficiency of the Death of Christ is beyond quantity! We must remember too that the Elect are also chosen ‘In Christ’!

      • Allow me gents this great quote by John Frame! Would that we would almost memorize it!

        “Technical theology does not represent anything deeper or more authoritative than the biblical canon itself. On the contrary, technical theology always sacrifices some biblical meaning to make some biblical points more vivid to the reader. That sacrifice is not wrong. We must sacrifice something in our teaching, since we cannot say everything at once. But we must never assume that a theological system will teach us anything more than Scripture itself. Theology is application, not discovery of some new teaching.” – John Frame, Scripture & Theology (Quote from the book: Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, P&R, 1987)

  3. My main point was that McKnight seems to like this is as his test for orthodoxy and Scott has approvingly cited him in that regard. Next thing I know, here is the creed, which, while fine is glaringly absent any actual soteriology beyond the vaguely vanilla:
    “forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting”

    Which aren’t even credited to the person and work of Christ. You’d have to have embraced that ahead of time. If I were to hand this creed to a Chinese rice farmer who’s never heard of Jesus Christ or the gospel, he would not have have enough information to be converted. But then again who cares becasue everybody goes to heaven anyway right? Or at least certainly nobody goes to an eternal hell, so what difference does it make?

    • I will most definitely agree with you that McKnight needs to declare his so-called Church affiliation, as some of his beliefs now! But, I would disagree somewhat that the Apostles Creed is not enough to regenerate a human soul, the Person of Christ Himself can draw people to Himself! (Matt. 11: 28-29-30) Were not so-called “converted” by information in itself, but by the Power and Person of Christ! Indeed as we grow in grace and knowledge, we should then have the assurance of our salvation, but that is also always ‘In Christ”! But as Melanchthon said: “To know Christ is to know His benefits.” Contemporary theology must return to this place and conviction, if it is to really know God In Christ! And in some real sense Christ’s work is the master key to his person, and that His benefits interpret His nature. But in reality, to be a Christian is always to be in love with the Savior! “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2: 20)

    • Church history tells how/why this creed was formed over the 2nd & 3rd centuries. Though I love and partner with those teaching Chinese rice farmers, this creed was not written with them in mind.

      • Btw, perhaps you did not know that China has more evangelical Churches than any other nation! And many of these are Presbyterian and Reformed, and of course mission type Churches. See the book by Reformation Heritage Books, edited by Bruce Baugus, China’s Reforming Churches, Mission, Polity, And Ministry In The Next Christendom. Richard Gaffin has endorsed the book! And as his says: “What is the actual state of the church in China? Only the Lord of the church knows for sure. But one thing is certain. We are in the midst of a time where God is at work in an unprecedented way throughout China, gathering His elect to Himself…” Time will tell? But one thing is certain, the Chinese government will surely bring trial on these Reformed Christians! Hopefully they will be able to survive and somewhat grow? Note in the 1950’s the Chinese Communists basically snuffed out NT type Christianity! Let’s hope it does not happen again! I fought Communism in the Nam, the NVA were hard, antichristian and just secular in the basic communist manner!

  4. Fr. Robert: Were not so-called “converted” by information in itself, but by the Power and Person of Christ!
    And the power and person of Christ is normatively made available to the lost through the (written too) kerygmatos logos. If you dropped this creed from a helicopter to a total heathen in his own language, accurately translated, it’s just a series of assertions which with no other explanation would be meaningless. Of course God CAN sovereignly do what he wants within the confines of His own nature, but if He were to move anyway in the redemption of our friend, He may as well do it with no creed at all as with one that doesn’t explain what’s happening to him.

    • I get your point. But the Creeds have their place, surely! Parts of the NT Letters are somewhat creedal like, noting Phil. 2: 5-11. Not to mention some of the biblical benedictions (doxologies), like Jude 24-25, etc.

      Btw, you’ll like this one, but sometimes reading Barth, is creedal like for me, when I first read (years back) Barth’s book: Anselm: Fides Quarens Intellectum, Anselm’s Proof of the Existence of God in the Context of His Theological Scheme. Here was real “theology”, seeking the doctrine of God!

      John Updike could write: “There is no way from us to God – not even a ‘via negativa’ nor ‘paradoxa’. The god who stood at the end of some human way . . . would not be God.’ This assertation, which would seem to discourage all theology, is by Karl Barth, the most prominent, prolific, and (it seems to me) persuasive of twentieth-century theologians …. As a critical theologian, Barth ranks with Kierkegaard; as a constructive one, with Aquinas and Calvin.”

      You don’t need to go negative! Just wanted to get that out.

      • But surely Creeds are like a fence around our orthodox understanding of God’s Word. BUT they are never that Word alone! Thus there is no infallibility here. Of course for example God Triune is infallible, but never our complete understanding of it/HIM! It is here, as much as I like our Ecumenical Councils, at least the first five, being on Eastern, or EO ground, that I cannot follow their idea of Infallibility. But, their Creeds must be read and held as closely as we can, even in the Western church. I would in fact stand closer to the EO on much of their Christology, and their doctrine of the Trinity of God! No “Filiogue” strictly speaking, but “through” the Son in time! See,Robert Letham’s book: The Holy Trinity, In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship, (P&R 2004).

  5. Father Robert says: “But the Creeds have their place”
    Yes they do I. I didn’t say otherwise.

    Father Robert says: “Just wanted to get that out.”
    I’m glad you did, but I am not getting into it with you here about Barth again. Or anywhere else until you answer my two questions which will remain unanswered should the Lord tarry, until long after the pyramid of Cheops has returned to the dusts of Giza.

    You were doin good here man. Let’s get back on track. 🙂

    • @Greg: YOUR the one mate that has been and is off track as to Barth! WE simply must not “judge” a man’s personal life, that is alone for the Lord! Having opinions is human, but even there we should keep them capped on an open blog! Sadly, Barth’s personal life has been shamefully expressed by far too many, so you are not alone here! But note, that was something that Van Til did NOT do! And I have nothing to say, as to YOUR said questions! Which are both ad hoc, and ad hom! But enough! As we have both said, were never going to agree here! But I will never let a so-called Christian trounce on Barth’s personal life! But yes, his theology and biblical positions are quite open ground! Keep it there, and its fine! 🙂

      • And btw, just for the historical on Barth’s creedal place, he tended towards the Heidelberg Catechism, which Bart saw as not only a confession of faith, but also a theology. And to my mind, the Heidelberg Catechism is more of an “ecumenical” creed, in the best sense of the word!

      • @ Father Robert: No, YOUR the the one who went off track by bringing up Barth at all, who has nothing to do with this discussion whatsoever.

      • @Greg, Perhaps, but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop! As I know your past vitriolic toward Barth! And I will NOT again stand for it! Just so you know! I consider it an attack on one in the Body of Christ! See, Romans 14: 10-13!

        Now, we can move on I hope! 🙂

      • Btw, thank God heaven will include all kinds of devout Christians, Quakers to stuff-naked Reformed, any and all who love Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord! And our “perfection” will alone be HIM with the nail-scarred hands!

      • I should have said, “stiff-necked” Reformed or Calvinists, but I see too so many Reformed as kind of “naked” also. The loss of humility is certainly the loss of spirit also! But WE all lack Christian humility, for in ourselves we are sinful beings still!

  6. This is the last I’m going to say about this here. Scott or anybody else interested in the back story of this situation between Dear Father Robert and myself, should see HERE where I manhandled the ol boy (in Jesus name name by the grace of God) for a couple months on this.

    This is for information only and I will NOT address Karl Barth in this discussion again.
    =================================================================
    Scott says: “Creeds are not given to convert but rather given for believers to make part of their confession.”
    Ok, but that’s not what McKnight said when you cited him approvingly. He said this is the whole measure of orthodoxy. I ask how this can be when the birth from the first Adam into the last by faith, kinda like the whole point of the gospel, is nowhere to be found here.

    • @Greg: This is not really about McKnight either! And the Apostles Creed has a simple beauty of its own, and Jesus Christ is here, as God the Father, the Incarnation, with the Virgin Birth, the literal historical Death of Christ (“crucified, died, and was buried”), the Ascension, the Holy Spirit, the Church Catholic (historical) … the second coming, judgment,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting.
      Amen.

      Your “nitpicking”! Which is your MO!

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

      I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
      born of the Virgin Mary,
      suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to the dead.
      On the third day he rose again;
      he ascended into heaven,
      he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
      and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

      I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic Church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting.
      Amen.

    • Creeds are summaries and summaries cannot cover all things. I think it’s missing, along with the Niceness Creed, any vital statements about the kingdom of God. But it’s ok, if you understand the context of when they were developed and what they were addressing.

  7. Interestingly, when I attended my Evangelical Christian college (Wheaton), Gonzalez’s volumes were the main text in our 1 year course in theology. My professor (Dr. Weber) had deconverted from Bob Jones University & Dallas Seminary to become Episcopal, with a love for the history of the Church. For me, perhaps like your friend, the history, context, politics, rationalizations, sociology and all that behind doctrines and creeds was part of what actually started unraveling my Christianity.

    • @Sabio: I am an Anglican myself, a priest/presbyter, and I like many of the people over the years from DTS! (Note btw, that the old English-Brit Anglican, W.H. Griffith Thomas, helped start the early DTS). And I am even myself something of a Progressive Dispensationalist. At 64, I quite remember Dr. Weber! (RIP) And he would be the first to remind us that the historical Church, must live in the real world of “history, context, politics, rationalizations, sociology”. So wind or crank-up your own Evangelical Christian doctrines and faith once again, in a real Judeo-Christianity! Which btw, is both “catholic” and “evangelical” even for us Anglican Christians! 😉

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