Introductory Note:

Credo in unum Deum ... I believe in one God ...

Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17). We too often appear to be many. But, gifts of the faith like the Apostles’ Creed remind us of the One to whom we belong, and in remembering these words, we recognize that we really are one body, unified in Christ.

Thomas Oden helps us to understand why the Apostles’ Creed is such an important part of our faith heritage in today’s post. We hope you enjoy it.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Classic Christianity

Clas­sic teach­ers as var­ied as Augus­tine, Thomas Aquinas, and Luther have held that the Apos­tles’ Creed remains the best con­densed state­ment of Chris­t­ian faith and the most reli­able way to learn the heart of faith. In pro­fess­ing the Creed, Cyril explained, the believ­er is helped to keep close­ly to the cen­ter of faith as deliv­ered by the apos­tles, which has been built up strong­ly out of all the Scriptures”:

For since all can­not read the Scrip­tures, some being hin­dered from the knowl­edge of them by lack of learn­ing, and oth­er because they lack leisure to study, in order that the soul should not be starved in igno­rance, the church has con­densed the whole teach­ing of the Faith in a few lines. This sum­ma­ry I wish you both to com­mit to mem­o­ry when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all dili­gence among your­selves, not writ­ing it out on paper, but engrav­ing it by the mem­o­ry upon your heart, tak­ing care while you rehearse it that no cat­e­chu­men may hap­pen to over­hear the things which have been deliv­ered to you. I wish you also to keep this as a pro­vi­sion through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no alter­na­tive teach­ing, even if we our­selves should change and con­tra­dict our present teach­ing. (Cat­e­ch. Lect. 5.12, is here slight­ly amended)

Dur­ing the per­ilous times pri­or to Cyril, there was an evi­dent rea­son for mem­o­riz­ing the creed: per­se­cu­tion, tor­ture, impris­on­ment, includ­ing the seizure of sacred books by the author­i­ties, and the lethal pros­e­cu­tion of those that fol­lowed them. Thus a tight sum­ma­ry of scrip­ture had to be mem­o­rized before baptism. … 

The creed in all its clas­sic forms is the short word” sum­ma­riz­ing bib­li­cal faith, approved by the apos­tles as stan­dard teach­ing to con­verts,” a badge for dis­tin­guish­ing” those who preach Christ accord­ing to apos­tolic rule, con­struct­ed out of liv­ing stones and pearls sup­plied by the Lord” (Rufi­nus, Comm. on Apos­tles’ Creed, Intro.). Rufi­nus (345410 AD), among the ear­li­est of many com­men­ta­tors on the Creed, taught that the Holy Spir­it had super­in­tend­ed its trans­mis­sion in order that it con­tain noth­ing ambigu­ous, obscure, or incon­sis­tent.” Poignant­ly, he explained why it must be com­mit­ted to mem­o­ry: The rea­son why the creed is not writ­ten down on paper or parch­ment, but is retained in the believ­ers’ hearts, is to ensure that it has been learned from the tra­di­tion hand­ed down from the Apos­tles, and not from writ­ten texts, which occa­sion­al­ly fall into the hands of unbe­liev­ers.” That sen­tence echoes direct­ly from the trag­ic hor­rors of the Dio­clet­ian per­se­cu­tion. Rufi­nus based his com­men­tary on the per­son­al­ly remem­bered text to which I pledged myself when I was bap­tized into the church of Aquileia.”

The ancient creeds all begin with I believe” (cre­do) or We believe” (cred­imus). What does it mean to believe? And what is faith?” the Let­ter to the Hebrews asked. Faith gives sub­stance to our hopes, and makes us cer­tain of real­i­ties we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). With­out faith it is impos­si­ble to please God, because any­one who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those that earnest­ly seek him” (Heb. 11:6; Chrysos­tom, Comm. On Hebrews, 22.67). Just as no farmer sweats to plant a field with­out some faith that the seeds will grow, and no one sets out to sea with­out some con­fi­dence of being able to sur­vive, so: In fact, there is noth­ing in life that can be trans­act­ed with­out a pre­lim­i­nary readi­ness to believe” (Rufi­nus, Comm. ACW 20:32). In enter­ing the path­way of belief, the inquir­er must first lis­ten with empa­thy to what the wor­ship­ing com­mu­ni­ty is say­ing about the One who makes belief possible. 

Oden, Thomas. 1992. Clas­sic Chris­tian­i­ty: A Sys­tem­at­ic The­ol­o­gy. New York: Harper­One, pp. 10 – 11.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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