THE REV. KEVIN D. HUDDLESTON, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Mission: The simplistic answer to this question is “no.” At the heart of Christianity is a person, Jesus of Nazareth.
It is the acceptance that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is manifest in a historical person. Furthermore, it is the conviction that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same God who freed Israel from the bondage of slavery at the Red Sea.
Because death is no longer to be feared, one is free to pursue a life that will ultimately lead to union with God. A disciple of Jesus is one who trusts that following Jesus will bring a person to this union with God.
Christianity is about trust and hope. You have the assurance that there is nothing you can do to make God love you less, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you more. You are a child of God.
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And how does one live/behave/operate as a child of God? You do so by looking to Jesus as an example of what God desires or designed a human being to do/be — radical self-giving on the behalf of the Other. The Other can be discovered in everything God created, which is total existence.
The creeds (Nicene and Apostles’) were originally statements to draw boundaries around what that means, but never to say all that this trust/belief means. The creeds point you in the direction of what that has meant and how you should aim to live your life.
THE REV. DUKE TUFTY, Unity Temple on the Plaza: A creed is a statement of belief. A belief is an opinion that may or may not be factual. Every organization, religious or not, has a creed.
Every person has a creed they live by. That is to say everybody lives according to what they believe to be true whether it is or not.
As a teenager growing up in a fundamentalist religion I was taught the Apostles’ Creed, made to memorize it and required to pledge my belief to it in order to be confirmed. My pledge, however, was a false one, for I didn’t believe in what I was saying.
I didn’t believe that Jesus descended into some tortuous place called hell. I didn’t believe he then sat at the right hand of an old man on a throne for the sole purpose of judging the living and the dead. I didn’t believe the creed because the words were not of Jesus but rather those of a Roman emperor with political intent who lived hundreds of years later.
Many denominations are all about creeds. They find it necessary to have people commit to a statement based on someone else’s opinion in order to be saved. I don’t have a problem with them doing that; it’s just that I prefer something different. I do well setting the dogma, doctrines and creeds aside and engaging in a more spiritual Christianity based on the practice of Jesus’ teachings.
At the time the Apostle’s Creed was written, I would have been burned at the stake for such thinking. In the name of Jesus, no less.
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