First of all, I started writing about this BEFORE the Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video hit the Facebook "fan" so to speak, so this is not written in response. Just wanted to clarify-it's just a funny coincidence. That video has caused quite a stir and since I've not sat down to personally watch it myself (I've only read through the lyrics), I can't really comment too much on it. I think the young man's intentions were good but, I think he may have made some sweeping generalizations about "religion" that missed the point. God doesn't hate religion. He hates false religion-hearts that are fake. But anyhow, I said I wasn't going to comment too much. Secondly, it's nice to be back online. We had a bout of malware on our computer over the last week that took forever to get cleared up. However, after scanning our computer for two hours today, we are in the clear. I'm super thankful for accessible, downloadable software that can easily fix the problem. Yeah!!
And now back to our story...
One of the major things that came out of us learning about Reformed theology was a linking of our faith to the past. I love that non-denominational churches preach the Gospel and really emphasize God's love-this teaching led me to Christ as a child; but in general (yes, I'm speaking generally here), they don't focus much on church history. To me, it was like our faith existed in a vacuum. But that's just not true! The church has been around for centuries. And for good and bad, we began to feel convicted that there were really important things to learn about that history because it's part of where we come from.
So we began reading more about church reformers, early church fathers, later Puritans who were influential in America (like Jonathan Edwards) and various church practices/liturgies passed through the centuries. There is so much out there that we could never process through it all. But we did start to notice that there were many things present in historical Christian worship that we didn't know a thing about. One of these things was the basic creed. Creeds? I didn't even know what a creed was really. I had only heard of the Apostle's Creed because I had gone to Greek School as a little girl (and the Orthodox Church says this creed during their service) and the Nicean Creed, *crickets*. My best guess was that it was somehow connected to the Council of Nicea (which I had only vaguely heard about-it was a lucky guess though).
Intrigued, we started exploring why these things might be important to know about. And this is what we found. Various creeds written after different councils, like the Council of Nicea, iron out the concrete basics of our faith and they were written to defend and define the faith not distract from it. They were written that way for a reason. The early church repeated them in worship to remind themselves regularly of the basics of the Gospel. Creeds were meant to ground us in the basics-to bring us back to square one on a regular basis. For we are wayward creatures and need to be reminded-often. This began to make sense.
One thing that was particularly interesting to discover was that the earliest creeds are in the New Testament themselves. A few are Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Tim. 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Here is one of the shorter ones-you can see how it succinctly reminds us of the basics of our faith:
"Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: 'He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.' " 1 Tim. 3:16
One of the ways we instruct our children is in the 3 D's for the Dauphins (we stole these from Doug Wilson's parenting books). "Don't disobey. Don't deceive. Don't disrespect." There's just three rules. We want it to be easy for them to remember and not be so burdensome. Those D's are their roadmap. In the same way, just as we instructs our children with easily digested instructions, these creeds point us in the way we should go...grounding us in the basics. And repeated regularly in worship, they bring us back to the heart of the Gospel again and again.
Now here's the caveat. Repeating the creeds don't save anyone or make anyone more holy. They are a means to an end. Our hearts are the issue. We want our hearts to be sincere. However, strangely enough, often I find that even when I'm most distracted by the children surrounding me in the pew or the worries of life, etc...that when I do still "go through the motions" and repeat the creeds in service or sing "The Lord's Prayer", the act of doing so still blesses me and brings me back to square one. They are an aid. They are instructive. And I believe they were meant to "help" our hearts focus on our reason for being at church-worship. I don't believe they are necessary to worship God, as in you must do it this way or you're wrong...they're simply helpful.
All of this is just my experience. And I truly respect those Christians who choose to keep these sorts of traditions out of their worship. I have just found them to be deeply meaningful and helpful to my faith in ways I never thought possible and thought I'd share.
More next time.