The Apostles’ Creed and Love

Yesterday morning, Mark Osler and I spoke at the “Rector’s Forum” at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the subject of creeds. This was a continuation of a conversation Mark and I had at a Mid-Day Reflection at UST Law School a month or so ago; Neil Willard, the rector at St. Stephen’s had attended that first program and invited us to present our thoughts to members of his community. Having engaged in this dialogue publicly once before, Mark and I were both fascinated by the ways in which yesterday’s discussion differed from our prior one; it is clear that each of us have continued to think about the subject, benefitting greatly from the other’s thoughts.

One of Mark’s observations was that he found the Apostles’ Creed unsatisfactory as a Christian creed because it does not speak of love. As he expressed it, love is Christ’s central command and thus, he could not be comfortable with a creed that did not contain the word love.

I have no disagreement of the centrality of love to Christianity. And it is true that the word “love” never appears in the creed. For me, however, love is written in every line of the Apostles’ Creed.

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” I acknowledgement my relationship with a God who created me in love – who breathed live in me and who sustains my existence with every breath I take. A God who fashioned me in love and through whom I find the meaning of my existence.

“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord…” I live with the reality that God loved me so much that God was willing to become human. To walk among us – to model for us what it means to live a fully human life – to show us what it means to love.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit…” I live my life secure in the knowledge that God is with me, in me, always. That I cannot be separated from this God no matter what.

The Apostles’ Creed may not be a perfect statement of faith for many people. Indeed, if I were sitting down drafting a creed from scratch, it might look very different from this one, which, after all, was a response to particular events and heresies of the day.

But I don’t see the absence of love in the Apostles’ Creed. Instead, in its affirmation of the Trinity, I see a statement that is drenched with God’s love for us. And, if we truly internalize the message of the Creed, we cannot help but share that love with the world.

There are some other points that came out in our discussion that I need to think about some more, so I’ll doubtless speak on this subject again. The only other thing I’ll add here is my gratitude to Mark for helping me to reflect more deeply on some fundamental issues of faith.

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3 thoughts on “The Apostles’ Creed and Love

  1. Although I would agree that the Creed is a manifestation of love, the absence of the word is troubling, and to that extent I agree with Mark.

    Unfortunatley, many who have read and recited the Creed over and over, never think in terms of intent or inspiration, but focus purely on the words (if “focus” is even the correct word). The use of the word “love” certainly would have gone a long way in validating the very nature of God and His reason for becoming man and suffering the agony of Calvary. shalom

  2. I find the discussion about creeds interesting. For background: I was born into, and raised in the Community of Believers at First Presbyterian Church in LaGrange, GA. I remained in that communion until my wife and I, after graduation from LaGrange College (UMC-supported), began my graduate studies in Biochemistry at UNC-CH. Since that time, I’ve been a member of the United Methodist communion with me wife, a life-long Methodist.

    After receiving my Ph.D., I spent 20 years in basic biomedical research (I was a grant-getting lab rat.) and another 20 years in clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry. (I developed and directed clinical trials.) After taking early retirement, I’ve written a novel, newspaper columns, and currently have two non-fiction books in progress. My writing focuses on the interface between science, religion, society, politics.

    Back to creeds: I enjoy communal recitation of various creeds, especially the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. I resonate with the majesty and gravitas of these professions of faith. Nevertheless, I have reservations about certains aspects of each creed.

    I think we should keep in mind two considerations: (1) Christianity was a way of life long before a formal Christian theology developed. (2) The Community of Believers is more complete and more full than Holy Scripture, which wasn’t codified untill the mid-Fourth Century. That is, Pentecost and the phenominal growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire occured primarily through the witness of a way of life, not through Holy Scripture of a formal theology with formal creeds.

    To me, creeds represent a distillation of theology, a short hand way of telling ourselves and others the crux of what we belive. As with Holy Scripture, we face the generational problem of constanly having to “re-interpret” and “re-apply” the embedded and expressed precepts because the meaning of the words/terms change. The Christian way of life, especially as reflected by the early Christians, does not ordinarily need interpretation. I do not believe Creeds bring anyone into the Community of Believers absent the witness of the way of life. I have similar feelings about Holy Scripture.

    I do believe we need credal statemtments to summarize what we believe and to unite members of a given communion. Creeds, however, must be inclusive, not primarily exclusive. Exclusion should exist only as a means of self-exclusion: If persons do not agree with the core principles of a communion’s primary creed (statement of faith, profession, etc.), those persons should seek should seek a communion with a more comptible creed. The communion, in most instances, should not directly generate the exclusion of members. In reality, if a communion’s creed begins with, “I believer in God who created all that exists, seen and unseen”, a person who doesn’t believe in creator God would have little reason to belong to that communion.

    I don’t think Professors Stabile and Osler are actually very far apart on the core of creeds. Rather, I think the discussion appears primarily to concern the edges.

  3. Susan,your tender interpretation of the creed fills me with joy. Would that we could recite your words instead! But implied meaning I do not think fills the heads and the hearts of the reciting congregation. We, reciting less stirring words that have become a part of our memory now,deliver up the words with less emotion,I think than a rhyme we learned as children. Perhaps it should simply be read reverently to us. Perhaps the problem is in reciting.

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