We Believe: Part Two “Why the Nicene Creed?”

Before we explore the particulars of the Nicene Creed, I think it is worth addressing some of the potential objections to the use of an Ancient Creed as a statement of faith in the 21st century. And, since we often recite and memorize the Nicene Creed in our classrooms and campus devotions, we may as well address some potential objections to regularly reciting a Creed as well.
Objection 1: No Creed But Jesus

There are some who would say that Christians are called to have “no Creed but Jesus.”

Before we move on it is worth noting that Jesus is far superior to any statement about Him. This goes without saying, which is why it is worth saying.

But let’s think a little bit about the phrase “no Creed but Jesus.”

For starters, “No Creed but Jesus” is a Creed. It is just a really inadequate Creed; one that fails to define the very Jesus it claims to believe in. In other words, you could say “No Creed but Jesus” and mean just about anything you want about Jesus. No Creed but Jesus, that wise sage who died an early death just when his political career began to show promise. No Creed but Jesus, that miracle-worker who tricked people into believing he actually died on the Cross. No Creed but Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Those are three very different Creeds. 

Creed comes from the Latin word credo: I believe. Every time we say we believe in Jesus, we are reciting a Creed.

Objection 2: I don’t mean it every time I say it.

My, often surprising, response to this objection by friends, parishioners, or students is usually something along the lines of, “Perfect. That’s what it is there for.”

When you recite a Creed, you are not so much proclaiming what you happen to affirm on a given Sunday morning or Friday afternoon: you are proclaiming the reality that the Scriptures present to the Church about the Triune God and His saving work.

If you have not faced days that make you wonder what you believe, you will. And, perhaps more importantly for our context: your students will.

Thank God that, in those moments, we don’t have to rely on what we think we believe, or what we feel like believing at a given moment. What a fickle God we serve if it is up to us to maintain our own belief.

Reciting the Creed is not a performance of your faith, it is an exercise in strengthening your faith. (More on this in our final post in December.)

Objection 3: Doesn’t saying the same words over and over make them less meaningful?”

Not always.

Do you know any couples who have been married for forty, fifty, sixty years? The next time you see them, ask when they last said “I love you” to each other. Chances are, they will tell you it was very recent. It is likely the sort of thing they say multiple times a day.

Couples that have been married this long have been through more sorrow and more joy in their marriage than I have in my lifetime. They have repeated “I love you” to each other more times than I have said my own name.

And as much as I love my wife, I am confident that when they say “I love you” to each other, they actually mean it more than when I say those same words to Vivien.

There are some words that actually become more meaningful the more often we say them. As you all know, words of Scripture are such words. And so are the words of the Nicene Creed, a statement soaked in biblical language.

Why the Nicene Creed?

I may have sold you on the concept of Creeds in general. (Or not, but at least you are still reading!)

But of all the Creeds of the Christian Church—and there are hundreds of them—why would our school choose this one in particular?

There are many reasons, but I want to focus on three.

1. There is not a more widely-accepted summary of the Christian faith than the Nicene Creed.

There are other good contenders, like the Apostle’s Creed. But it is really difficult to pinpoint the origin of the Apostle’s Creed. It did not stem from an official Council, for example. It just appeared. Lots of Churches recognize the Apostles Creed, but the bottom line is this: there is not a single statement of faith that more Christian Churches accept than the Nicene Creed.

For a school that is not attached to one specific Church, Denomination, or Tradition, this is really helpful for us.

2. The Nicene Creed is both broad, and definitive.

The Nicene Creed is broad in some areas: we don’t find narrow, overly-defined statements on some of the most visible differences among our Churches in the Nicene Creed. Two Churches can both affirm the Nicene Creed, and yet disagree on whether or not to baptize an infant. The same is true on Church Governance, the nature of Sacraments, the role of women and men in ministry, and so on. A church that calls their pastor Brother Bill and a church that calls their pastor The Rt. Rev. Dr. Sumner can both affirm the Nicene Creed.

But the Creed is not just broad; it is also incredibly definitive in some areas.

We see, for example, a very specific presentation of the person of Jesus. Much of the rest of this series will explore this language, but for now it is worth noting how specific the Nicene Creed is about who Jesus is.

The Creed is broad where it should be, and definitive where it should be.

3. The Nicene Creed is ancient.

It gives voice to those Christians who have gone before us. The Creed forces us to listen to ancient wisdom. It pushes us beyond the issues of our day.

The Nicene Creed is widely accepted among Christian Churches. It is both broad and definitive. And it is Ancient, giving a voice to the Church that has gone before us. 

Next week we will explore the historical background of the Nicene Creed. Where did it come from, and how did it take the shape it has today?

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