What do I believe?
Within a hairbreadth, I would believe the Apostle's creed. However, I have one problem with it, as it is printed below:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.
My basic problem is the phrase "descended into hell."
Now, Calvin liked this creed, but even he was forced to reinterpret what the historical church fathers meant. The statement by Calvin below is out of his institutes:
By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge — submitting himself even as the accused — to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained. All — with this one exception: "He could not be held by the pangs of death" [Acts 2:24 p.]. No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that, God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked!
In other words, Calvin said that the decent into hell wasn't literal, but simply reflected the suffering Christ Jesus had on the cross. Unfortunately, this is not what the Church Fathers meant before Calvin In my mind, Calvin was trying to hang onto something that wasn't there. The Apostle's Creed is beautiful, but it is not scripture, and with this one phrase, it shows that it was a construction of man and not of God. For no where does the Bible clearly call out that Christ descended into hell. While the doctrine of Trinity only has gotten stronger over time, this descent into hell has only gotten weaker.
After all, on the cross, Christ declared that "it was finished." And the criminal was with Jesus in Paradise on the day of his death. In many ways, this creed states a bunch of facts, but in many senses this creed is empty.
Thus the best way to pigeonhole me is to say that I believe in the Nicene creed, although I wished that it was clearer on the nature of the Holy Spirit, which I am happy to accept the slightly modified version below. Beauty of beauty, this creed is often accepted by all major branches of the Church: Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox.
We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being [substance] with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen
However, I believe that each of us must put a bit of our own flavor on our beliefs. Why? I think the Nicene creed is very good as a non-scriptural firewall against cults and heresies, but it does not cause us to think about the role of a Christian.
So I would add:
- I believe that I must try to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul and mind. I believe that this love must be expressed to my neighbor.
- I believe faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- I believe that if I love the Carpenter's Son who was the Christ, who died for me, and call on his name for salvation, I will have eternal life.
- I believe that many brothers and sisters throughout history were illiterate and could not read the Bible even if they wanted to, but the greatness of Yeshua of Nazreth's sacrifice is available for those that can't do careful exegesis of scripture. The Bible is constructed to lead us to the Logos, and this book should not become an idol in itself.
- I believe that if the Lord has blessed you with the ability to read, there is little more important that spending time in the historical cannon of scripture on a daily basis. I believe that the entire Bible should be read on a yearly basis, and the fact that reading for 10-15 minutes a day allows you to cover the Bible in a year is not an accident but an insight for us to follow.
- I believe that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And those that believe that they will be saved because they they had a secret knowledge of the scriptures passed down by Saint John Calvin or Saint Jacobus Arminius will have to answer for their faith and the actions that faith created. They will not be judged on their ability to do careful exegesis of a few verses, but on how their faith caused them to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and shelter to the homeless.
- I believe that prayer is not asking for things, but allowing yourself to listen first. I believe that the idea of ACTS for prayer is critical for growth. (Pray in Adoration. Pray in Confession. Pray in Thanksgiving. Pray in Supplication.)
- I believe Jesus wants everyone of us to look for opportunities to tell others of the Good News.
- And while not on my essential lists, the very close to essential list would include: man must save one day per week for worship and man must set aside money to offer as a sacrifice to God.