GodReflection: I Believe.
That Sunday morning worship was one I would never forget. A colleague and I were visitors among a small group of fewer than thirty believers in rural South America. We knew the families due to our periodic encouragement-teaching trips to their town as guests in their houses. I was young and inexperienced, so I too was a learner.
Unique to the group was the fact that only one of the ladies could read. The assembly also was home to a faith-filled old man, a one-of-a-kind person like I’ve never found in any church where I have worshipped. The truth is, never again have I encountered someone like him—he was a leper. On that Sunday, Sabastian, a leper stood to pray. Wounded by his disease, one eye missing, fingers gone—with my eyes closed in prayer I could almost see the ever-present deformed smile across his old face. Then I heard his memorable plea as he prayed, “God watch over us who don’t know how to read.”
Can you imagine the difficulty faced by millions of believers who follow God the Father, Jesus the Son, and directed by the Holy Spirit who are limited because they cannot read. Don’t they deserve added assistance?
Now let’s think back and attempt to envision a time in our world prior to Mr. Johannes Gutenberg who, with his invention of movable lead type over 500 years ago, changed history. Subsequent to his conceived creation, books and newspapers, magazines, and Bibles, did not exist. Had I been a follower of Jesus previous to 1500 AD, and before Mr. Gutenberg’s printing press, don’t you think I would have desired added assistance?
One more what if?
What if I found myself among the millions of illiterate people in our world who—like my friend Sabastian the leper—cannot read? What if I were unable to read my Bible (should I own one) to learn how to grow in the gift of salvation made available by Jesus? Wouldn’t I need added assistance?
All the above is merely a sketch of the reasons for the early appearance of creeds in the Christian church.
Credo is a Latin word, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a statement of the beliefs or aims which guide someone’s actions.” Written or unwritten we all live by a creed. Creeds are nothing more than concise statements of the values we hold. It is the list of does and don’ts—rights and wrongs that we each follow as we make decisions. It is what tells us to stop or to go.
Creeds received negative press from the pulpits of my childhood church. Since our church tribe sought to “Speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent,” we frowned on and belittled written statements of belief. Even though our church bulletins did not lack belief statements to clarify for all who read what we held as the vital doctrines of our church.
As we scan the letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, and the Book of Hebrew in our New Testament Scriptures, we find short belief (credal) statements peppered across its pages. These crisp declarations seem to answer false doctrine in circulation at the time.
Think back on the above observations and apply them to the thousands upon thousands of Christians who lived in New Testament times and across the early centuries of the church. They found themselves among new believers in Jesus—many unable to read—who, even if they had learned to read, lived at a time when no one owned printed personal copies of anything as they were non-existent. Now as they hear the verbal message, they find themselves confronted with an enormous amount of vital information about this Son of God. A Savior for all eternity who offers salvation and a better way to live in a distorted world. How could they incorporate into their souls this large body of truth that was so vital to their daily walk?
And so, the Holy Spirit gave them short statements they could commit to memory like the one Paul sent on a scroll to believers in the city of Philippi, province of Macedonia in present day Greece:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
It was a useful creed they could commit to memory. A truth that would be ever present. A statement to allow them to always declare, YES, I believe.
Is it helpful to consider creeds in this light?
Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection on Credo—I Believe.
One thought on “Credo—I Believe”
Excellent posts as usual Gary- Best! Denise