Today was the first of a three-class series on the Creed I am teaching for the Our Lady of Lourdes parish RCIA candidates. I began by talking about what we mean by a creed and why having one matters. I then spent most of time dealing with the first part of the creed – where we affirm believe in “God, the father, Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” There is a lot packed in that first line – starting with the first four words.
I believe in God. The first part of this first segment of the Creed does nothing to distinguish Christians from non-Christians. That is, all religious people who follow a theistic faith – whatever their particular religious beliefs – share the conviction that “God” exists – that God is something real that truly exists whatever their understanding or concept of God, and whether or not they use the term “God” or “Allah” or “Jehovah” or something else. (Even some people who are nontheistic, have a sense of something transcendent.) Having said that, the line matters tremendously.
Luke Timothy Johnson says that to declare that God exists “suggests that the world we see and touch points to a power or powers beyond our own and outside our control, beyond our sight and touch, which must be taken into account even if we are to give an adequate account of the world that we can touch and see. To affirm the existence of God, then, means to affirm that the physical world, which can be measured and calculated, is not all that is.”
That, he claims is a critical theological concept. Because we are not here affirming one belief among many, that is not a belief of limited consequences. Rather it is statement of belief that commits us to a fundamental posture toward everything else that exists. Everything else depends on the truth of this statement, a statement that we can’t prove in the way we can prove geometric theorems.
And so, by affirming God’s existence, I affirm (in the word of Joan Chittister) that “I am steering by a star I cannot see but which I am convinced is there.” And that affects everything about who I am in the world.