Creeds help us remember, and prompt us to think. We should use them more in the Church.
Early in the history of the Church the “Scriptures” referred only to the Old Testament because the books we know of as the New Testament were not yet written or at least not in their final form. To ensure that early Christians knew the fundamentals of the faith, churches used Creeds, statements of faith with which one must agree to be considered part of the church. Hebrews 6:1-3 contains one of the earliest creeds in Church History. It includes the following:
Fundamentals in Hebrews 6:1-3 (Bruce 139-143)
1. Repentance from dead works (works which require repentance, sins)
2. and faith in God – and in the context of Hebrews, God the Son, Jesus Christ
3. Teaching about ablutions – Christian rites such as baptism and the Eucharist
4. About laying on of hands – associated with receiving the Holy Spirit
5. Resurrection of the dead – the hope of Judaism and of Christianity
6. Eternal judgment
The Apostle’s Creed was a more comprehensive version of the Christian faith widely in use in the churches of the Roman Empire by the late second century AD.
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins
11. the resurrection of the body
12. and life everlasting
Comparing the two, we see that the “foundation” mentioned in Hebrews 6:1 refers to the foundational beliefs of Christianity. These foundational beliefs were taught to new Christians because they form the foundation of the Christian faith; things every Christian should know.
These fundamentals, whether in the form of Hebrews 6, the Apostle’s Creed, or some other creed or confession, should be taught to every Christian today just as they were in the past. New believers should memorize it and experienced believers should practice it so that they never lose it. Our church does not require new members to recite any creed or confession, but does cover the basics of the faith in our “First Steps” class. It is a class for new believers and new members and generally gets high marks from those who attend.
Reading such creeds is important, studying them is valuable, but memorizing them is essential. In the day of the internet and instant access to information our capacity for memory fades like sunlight at dusk. We think, because we can always go on our iPad, iPhone, or whatever, that memory no longer matters.
But memory matters greatly. We must read, study, memorize and meditate on God’s truth. The mind of a believer must marinate in the Word like meat marinates in sauce, completely taking on its flavor. When Satan tempted Jesus, the Lord didn’t have to search His iPhone, His Bible, or even His mind for the right Scripture to oppose him. Rather the answer came out as if by magic because the Father’s truth so deeply indwelt Him. Creeds and confessions protect our thoughts, so vulnerable to pride or discouragement, from falling away from God’s truth. Depression or discouragement come easily in the quiet darkness just before falling asleep or after waking up at night, but hiding the Scripture in our hearts, and hiding faithful summaries such as the Apostle’s Creed there, will help keep us safe.
In the Army we are taught that in combat there is often no time to think. Therefore we drill basic weapons skills so deeply into soldiers that they respond appropriately and immediately, even mechanically, to the most desperate circumstances. Is spiritual warfare any less important than physical warfare?
The “foundations” that the writer of Hebrews describes are the basics of the Christian faith. Every believer should not only understand them but memorize them. Then he will think of them when standing in line at airport security, ponder them while sitting in traffic, and meditate on them while waiting at Wal Mart.
Assuming he has turned off his MP3 music; otherwise his mind will marinate in that.