Creed

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Icon depicting Emperor Constantine (center) and the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea (325) as holding the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381

A creed is a statement of belief, in particular a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community. Religious creeds are not intended to be comprehensive, but to be a summary of core beliefs. The term "creed" can also refer to a person's political or social beliefs, or is sometimes used to mean religious affiliation.

One of the most widely used creeds in Christianity is the Nicene Creed, first formulated in AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. It was based on Christian understanding of the Canonical Gospels, the letters of the New Testament and to a lesser extent the Old Testament. Affirmation of this creed, which describes the Trinity, is generally taken as a fundamental test of orthodoxy for most Christian denominations.[1] The Apostles' Creed is also broadly accepted. Some Christian denominations and other groups have rejected the authority of those creeds.

Muslims declare the shahada, or testimony: "I bear witness that there is no god but (the One) God (Allah), and I bear witness that Muhammad is God's messenger."[2]

Whether Judaism is creedal has been a point of some controversy. Although some say Judaism is noncreedal in nature, others say it recognizes a single creed, the Shema Yisrael, which begins: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."[3]

Contents

Etymology

The word derives from the Latin credo, which means "I believe" (because the Latin translation of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed both begin with this word) so a creed may also be called a credo. A creed is sometimes referred to as a symbol signifying a "token" by which persons of like beliefs might recognize each other.[citation needed]

Terminology

The word creed is particularly used for a concise statement which is recited as part of a religious service.

Some longer statements of faith in the Protestant tradition are instead called confessions of faith.

Within Evangelicalism, the terms doctrinal statement or doctrinal basis tend to be preferred. Doctrinal statements may include positions on lectionary and translations of the Bible, particularly in fundamentalist churches of the King James Only movement.

Christian creeds

Several creeds have originated in Christianity.

Christian confessions of faith

Protestant denominations are usually associated with confessions of faith, which are similar to creeds but usually longer.

Christians without creeds

Some Christian denominations, and particularly those descending from the Radical Reformation, do not profess a creed. The Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, believe that they have no need for creedal formulations of faith. The Church of the Brethren also espouses no creed, referring to the New Testament, as their "rule of faith and practice."[10] Jehovah's Witnesses contrast "memorizing or repeating creeds" with acting to "do what Jesus said".[11] Unitarian Universalists, who practice probably the most liberal of all religions, do not share a creed.[12]

Many evangelical Protestants similarly reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists have been non-creedal "in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another".[13]:p.111 While many Baptists are not opposed to the ancient creeds, they regard them as "not so final that they cannot be revised and re-expressed. At best, creeds have a penultimacy about them and, of themselves, could never be the basis of Christian fellowship".[13]:p.112 Moreover, Baptist "confessions of faith" have often had a clause such as this from the First London (Particular) Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646):

Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.

Similar reservations about the use of creeds can be found in the Restoration Movement and its descendants, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Christian churches and churches of Christ.

Some religious leaders in traditional creedal Churches have also come to question the utility of creeds. Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has written that dogmas and creeds were merely "a stage in our development" and "part of our religious childhood." In his book, Sins of the Scripture, Spong claims that "Jesus seemed to understand that no one can finally fit the holy God into his or her creeds or doctrines. That is idolatry."[14]

Many people said (the Apostles Creed), but they understood what it was saying and what they meant by that quite differently. No matter how hard they tried, they could not close out this perennial debate. They cannot establish a consensus and they could not agree on the meaning of that phrase which had been once "delivered to the saints." It did not occur to these people that the task they were trying to accomplish was not a human possibility, that the mystery of God, including the God they believed they had met in Jesus, could not be reduced to human words and human concepts or captured inside human creeds. Nor did they understand that the tighter and more specific their words became, the less they would achieve the task of unifying the church. All creeds have ever done is to define those who are outside, who were not true believers; and thus their primarily achievement has been to set up eternal conflict between the "ins" and the "outs," a conflict that has repeatedly degenerated into the darkest sort of Christian behavior, including imperialism, torture, persecution, death and war.[15]

Jewish creed

Whether Judaism is creedal in character has generated some controversy. Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that "By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought" and asserted in his book Basic Judaism (1947) that "Judaism has never arrived at a creed." The 1976 Centenary Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of Reform rabbis, agrees that "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life."

Others,[who?] however, characterize the Shema Yisrael[Deut. 6:4] as a creedal statement in strict monotheism embodied in a single prayer: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Hebrew: שמע ישראל אדני אלהינו אדני אחד‎; transliterated Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad). It is recited twice daily by all observant Jews, once when waking up, and once when going to bed.

A notable statement of Jewish principles of faith was drawn up by Maimonides as his 13 Principles of Faith.[16]

Islamic creed

The Islamic creed is the Shahadah, the proclamation لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله (lā ʾilāha ʾillà-llāh, muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh) – “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is Allah's messenger.” Taking this creed is one of the five pillars of Islam.

See also

References

  1. ^ Johnson, Phillip R. "The Nicene Creed." Accessed 17 May 2009
  2. ^ "Proclaiming the Shahada is the First Step Into Islam."[dead link] Islamic Learning Materials. Accessed: 17 May 2009. See also "The Shahada, or Shahāda / kalimatu-sh-shahādah / kelime-i şehadet." A. Ismail Mohr. Accessed: 28 May 2012
  3. ^ Deut 6:4
  4. ^ see Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus—God and Man translated Lewis Wilkins and Duane Pribe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) p. 90; Oscar Cullmann, The Early church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966) p. 66–66; R. E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973) pp. 81; Thomas Sheehan, First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986) pp. 110, 118; Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection translated A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1977) p. 2; Hans Grass, Ostergeschen und Osterberichte, Second Edition (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1962) p. 96; Grass favors the origin in Damascus.
  5. ^ Kiefer, James E. "The Nicene Creed." Accessed 17 May 2009
  6. ^ "The Belgic Confession". Reformed.org. http://www.reformed.org/documents/BelgicConfession.html. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  7. ^ "Guido de Bres". Prca.org. 2000-04-20. http://www.prca.org/books/portraits/debres.htm. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  8. ^ "The Savoy Declaration 1658 - Contents". Reformed.org. http://www.reformed.org/documents/Savoy_Declaration/. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Martin, Harold S.: "Forward", "Basic Beliefs Within the Church of the Brethren".
  11. ^ "Creeds—Any Place in True Worship?", Awake!, October 8, 1985, ©Watch Tower, page 23, "The opening words of a creed invariably are, “I believe” or, “We believe.” This expression is translated from the Latin word “credo,” from which comes the word “creed.” ...What do we learn from Jesus’ words? That it is valueless in God’s eyes for one merely to repeat what one claims to believe. ...Thus, rather than memorizing or repeating creeds, we must do what Jesus said"
  12. ^ Maxwell, Bill. "Leading the Unitarian Universalist Association, a faith without a creed." St. Petersburg Times. Apr 11, 2008
  13. ^ a b Avis, Paul (2002) The Christian Church: An Introduction to the Major Traditions, SPCK, London, ISBN 0-281-05246-8 paperback
  14. ^ p. 227
  15. ^ Spong, John S. The sins of Scripture. HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 978-0-06-076205-6, p.226
  16. ^ "Maimonides' Principles: The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith", in The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology, Volume I, Mesorah Publications, 1994

Further reading

External links