Friday, November 26, 2004

Churchly Quality Control V: Creeds

Creeds are a vital part of Church Quality Control. Indeed, the Nicene Creed came about from efforts to combat Arianism. Clergy were obligated to affirm the creed or to stand down. That creed became and remains part of the Eucharist. Participation in the Lord’s Supper implies you believe the creeds.

Creeds play a vital part in baptism in many churches. In the baptism last Sunday at my Reformed Episcopal Church, the adult candidate had to first affirm the Apostle’s Creed as spelled out in the REC Prayer Book. (For infant baptism, godparents affirm it on the infant’s behalf.) You don’t believe the creed? No baptism for you!

I have trouble understanding churches that don’t have creeds. Individual conscience is often cited in dispensing with creeds. Some churches take pride in having no creeds. Some, say, Southern Baptists are strongly opposed to creeds. And I can remember churches who bragged, “No creed but Christ.”

Well, that sounds very nice. But which Christ are you talking about? Just about every cult, ism, asm, and spasm has its token Jesus. So are you talking about the historic Christ of the Bible or a token Jesus, maybe your own personal Jesus that fits into your little box of “private interpretation”?

Because of all the counterfeits and honest misinterpretations that have been out there from the beginning, I think creeds are necessary to spell out the basics of what we believe – and frankly to exclude from Communion and clergy those who can’t say credo, “I believe.”

Now you can believe or disbelieve whatever you want. But don’t deny the Faith of Christ’s church and still claim to be a member of Christ’s church.

Lay non-believers need to be made welcome, of course. But they also to deserve to have the basics of the Faith clearly spelled out and defended without compromise. Creeds, almost by definition, play an important role in doing just that.

Now as for unorthodox clergy, they should be shown the door. If they want help, by all means give them all the love and help you can muster. But don’t let them lead anymore.

Of course, the historic creeds, though trustworthy, are not foolproof quality control. There will always be those who deceive themselves and others by reciting creeds they don’t believe. Some of the semantic and religious games liberals play with creeds can be . . . interesting, to put it nicely. (I am Anglican now, you know.)

For further reflection, I strongly recommend a recent thread by the Pontificator on the Nicene Creed.

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