What Do You Believe?

As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, I have had ample opportunity to define and re-define what it is I believe about Christianity. Over the years, my list has become shorter rather than longer. It is not because I don’t hold strong beliefs in other area’s, because I do. I simply hold these views to be non-essential to the Christian faith. For too long, we have allowed our in-house theological disagreements over these non-essential matters to divide Christ’s body and dishonor Christ’s name.

It is no longer critical to me if one is an Arminian or a Calvinist, whether one believes in speaking in tongues or is against it, if one believes the rapture will take place before the tribulation, during it or at the end of it or how one might believe about any number of other issues. I view these as non-essentials to our faith. A healthy church and a grounded pastor will allow people the freedom to believe differently on these matters.

It has been a long road for me, but I have come back to the original statement of faith. The one the church hammered out in 325 and finalized in 381 AD. THE creed of the church: The Nicene Creed. All three branches of the historical church (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant) affirm this to be the statement of faith. If one does not hold to this creed, they can not be called a Christian. Even though I can add other things that I passionately believe to be true about the Christian faith, this creed contains what I believe are essentials.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of
God, begotten of the Father before all ages;

Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten,
not created, of one essence with the Father
through Whom all things were made.

Who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven and was incarnate
of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
and suffered and was buried;

And He rose on the third day,
according to the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father;

And He will come again with glory to judge the living
and dead. His kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life,
Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the
Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who
spoke through the prophets.

In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the age to come.

Amen.

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on March 29, 2012, in Christianity, Early Church History, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I passionately believe to be true about the Christian faith, this creed contains what I believe are essentials.

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  2. Reblogged this on Resting in His Grace and commented:
    …pre-mil? post-mil? a-mil? no-mil? pan-mil? calvanist, arminian, anti-calv… speak in tongues… don’t speak in tongues… immersion, dipping, sprinkling, etc, etc, etc…..
    I can relate well with Jim’s words here. Good grief, what a mess we can make! Fortunately, he gives us a great resolution to the problem. You’ll really want to take a moment and let this one work its way in! Thanks, Jim

    Like

  3. Restless Pilgrim

    Hey Jim,

    This does beg the question though: if one accepts the decrees of the Council of Nicaea and Constantinople, on what basis would one reject the *other* Ecumenical Councils, such as Ephesus which declared Mary as being “Theotokos” (God-bearer/Mother of God)?

    This too begs another question: what is the authority behind the Nicene Creed? What makes the theology of the Nicene Creed binding upon Christians? Catholic and Orthodox would point to the Church’s authority (given to her by Christ), but what would you say as a Protestant?

    Also, you say “If one does not hold to this creed, they can not be called a Christian”, but you don’t really say why. What in your opinion makes this creed the test of orthodoxy?

    Finally, I think one also has to ask about the *meaning* of various words in this creed. For example, Oneness Pentecostals will mean something very different from Trinitarians when they talk about “Father”, “Son” and “Holy Spirit”. Likewise, Protestants will mean something very different from Catholic and Orthodox when they say “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. Who gets to decide what these words mean?

    Okay, that’s enough questions now!

    God bless,

    David.

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  4. I think you hit it right on the mark!

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  5. good post…always good to go back to the basics…Christ and Him crucified Darrell

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  6. Great post. This is a key concept that should be taught at each and every church. Paul talked about following Christ, not men. In the same way, all denominations should follow the simple basics as presented in the Nicene Creed.
    There are many differences in denominations, if those differences don’t go against the bible then there should not be a problem.

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    • Hang on to your hats, I’m going to stir things up again… 🙂

      >>> “Paul talked about following Christ, not men. In the same way, all denominations should follow the simple basics as presented in the Nicene Creed.”

      I see a tension here, since the Nicene Creed was formulated by men two hundred years after the death of the last Apostle.

      The Nicene Creed is not Sacred Scripture. It can be defended from Scripture, of course, but it is a particular *interpretation* of God’s written Word. The Arians read the Bible and concluded that Jesus was not fully God. They therefore submitted their own creed for the Council’s consideration.

      The real question is: what makes the Nicene Creed binding? Is it because it happens to coincide with my own interpretation of Scripture? Or is it because the bishops which declared it had authority from Christ (Mt 16:19)?

      >>> “There are many differences in denominations, if those differences don’t go against the bible then there should not be a problem”

      It is the very *differences* in biblical interpretation that gives birth to new denominations! Unfortunately, it has ever been so. For example, Luther thought that Zwingli was going “against the Bible” when he said that the Eucharist was only a symbol.

      This also begs the question: if two different denominations are in complete doctrinal agreement, why do they remain two separate denominations? Is this the kind of unity Jesus prayed for in His high priestly prayer? (John 17:11-23)

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      • The older I get, the more I see the tension you mention. From my vantage point here in the cheap seats, it seems that the issue is not what is the truth, but who gets to decide what the truth is? Do I get to? Or perhaps it’s you? Perhaps it’s my pastor or the particular denomination I align with? Maybe it is none of these. What does one use as authoritative proof to prove their case?

        Up until the Reformation, the Church (in both the East and the West) was the entitity that had the final say on these matters. But it all changed because a German Monk didn’t like the selling of forgiveness. (I wonder if Martin Luther ever regretted all the problems his 95 Thesis caused?) Now, we have Protestant churches of every possible persuasion flooding the earth. We agree on very little. Everyone has their own private interpretation. We all point to the Bible, the same Bible, to bolster our claims. Sometimes I think the shear number of protestant churches is proof that the Reformers erred. Jesus prayed that we would be one, and clearly, we are not.

        Today, churches are competing against each other, building their buildings next to other “christian” congregations. We spend millions of dollars annually to advertise our particular brand of “Christianity” Last Sunday, I stood outside my fellowship and looked out over the back of the property. I could see two other churches within a stones throw. Why can’t we all use the same building and meet together? It is because we have no external authority we can point to, unlike my Catholic and Orthodax brothers and sisters. We disagree on what the essentials are, so we must gather separately and tolerate each other. How can this be the right?

        Is it just me, or does this stuff bother any of you?

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        >>> “I wonder if Martin Luther ever regretted all the problems his 95 Thesis caused?”

        Actually, it wasn’t really the 95 theses that caused the problem. There were indeed abuses in the Church that needed to be corrected, such as the *sale* of indulgences.

        But I still think you raise a good question. I’ve read some of Luther’s later writings and he seemed to me to be extremely disillusioned. At the beginning of his revolt he believed that the doctrines of “Sola Fide” and “Sola Scriptura” would result in an increase in sanctity and orthodoxy.

        However at the end of his life he appeared to recognize that this was not the case. Rather than increasing sanctity, he said it was even worse than when they were under the Papists. Rather than increasing in orthodoxy, every conceivable Christian doctrine was now up for debate, a result of making every individual his own Magesterium.

        >>> ” Sometimes I think the shear number of protestant churches is proof that the Reformers erred. Jesus prayed that we would be one, and clearly, we are not.”

        The Council of Nicea not only produced the first part of what we know as the Nicene Creed, but the council also identified the marks of the Church: *one*, holy, catholic and apostolic.

        Any concept of the “sin of schism” is pretty much lost in Protestantism today and has instead been replaced with ecclesiastical consumerism.

        >>> “How can this be the right?”

        John 11:35

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      John Piper is causing something of a storm with his statements about the Apostles Creed. Here’s a really good critique of the situation and the logical problems associated with editing creeds:

      http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2012/04/john-piper-v-john-piper-on-apostles.html

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      • Thanks for the link to this article. It is very well written. I have included the ending of the article here, because it expresses my own questins so clearly:

        1.If Piper is free to do this, and remain an orthodox Christian, what parts of the Creed can’t be rejected?
        2.As he’s noted, the Arians were able to use the Bible to justify their rejection of the Trinity. If Piper’s not bound by the Creed, why should Arius be? Do we need some sort of Appendix to the Creed, to say which parts we’re really serious about as Christians, and which parts we think are open for further debate?
        3.From a Protestant standpoint, do the Creeds have any binding authority whatsoever?
        4.If they do, how can one justify rejecting Christ’s descent into Hell? Or, for that matter, belief in the Holy Catholic Church that the Apostles’ Creed proclaims faith in?
        5.And if the Creeds don’t have any binding authority, but are just a statement of what one group of Christians happens to believe, why bother? Particularly if the people praying those Creeds omit or reject parts of the Creed they’re praying, as Piper apparently does, what purpose do these spineless Creeds possible serve?

        Increasingly, the choice is clear: either accept Creedal Christianity, which involves belief in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (as the Nicene Creed declares), or reject it, and enter the world of theological anarchy and rampant heresy that Piper both warns against and invites us to.

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  7. I agree with you. However, I think his 95 Thesis had a lot to do with it.

    I recently read through the 95 Thesis (http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/95theses.htm) as well as the official church response (Exsurge Domine) (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo10/l10exdom.htm) to it. If the Pope had responded differently, the reformation would probably not have happened, at least Luther would not have been apart of it. It doesn’t really matter, at this point.

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  8. “The Nicene Creed is not Sacred Scripture. It can be defended from Scripture, of course, but it is a particular *interpretation* of God’s written Word. The Arians read the Bible and concluded that Jesus was not fully God. They therefore submitted their own creed for the Council’s consideration.”

    True, the Nicene Creed is not scripture, but tell me, what part of it is not true…not biblical? What does it matter when it was written? If the Nicene Creed reflects scripture, then the other points you mention become irrelevant. As for the Arians and others that deduce that Christ was not God…well I can’t understand how anyone can come to that conclusion after reading all the evidence in the bible that says Jesus is God.

    “It is the very *differences* in biblical interpretation that gives birth to new denominations! Unfortunately, it has ever been so. For example, Luther thought that Zwingli was going “against the Bible” when he said that the Eucharist was only a symbol.”

    Understood, differences create different denominations. Different denominmations have different thoughts on various things, if those thoughts are in gray areas that are not clearly outside the boundries expressed in the bible, then so what? What is the problem? On the other hand, Luther was out of line to say that, Zwingli was going “against the Bible” when he said that the Eucharist was only a symbol.” The real issue here is not whether or not the Eucharist is symbolic or not…the issue is does the church celebrate it properly as taught in the bible? By that I mean it is serious, not to be taken lightly. Everyone partakes together as Paul taught. This is in remembrance of Christ.

    Just for the record, I wish all churches were one. Not going to happen. Christ wants us all united together, in that way the minor differences that separate churches DO matter. Even Paul taught about not being hung up on minor differences that lie in gray areas. Some won’t eat meat on Friday during Lent, I see no problem with doing so myself…that should not cause a separation between two different churches. I have no problem at all with people who truly belive that they should not eat meat on Friday during Lent, in fact if I was with them, I would refrain from eating meat myself for their benifit…that is called love. Paul taught about this in Romans.

    At the end of the day…you can argue the points of everything under the sun in the bible…what did you accomplish in doing so?

    If people spent the same amount of time encouraging others and teaching the basic truth of God’s Word, instead of tearing apart the Creed, or any of a hundred other things which are unnecessary….would we all not be better off? I’m not accusing any one person here by the way…just saying!

    The only true Authority is the Word of God…not any Creed or other set of words, although I happen to agree with some of that stuff.

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