About Those Creeds…..

Most Christians today only know of two creeds: The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. In reality there were hundreds if not thousands of creeds generated during the 4th through the 10th centuries. It seemed that every time a bishop felt his power threatened he claimed to have another creed dictated by God.  Here is what Harvey Fox said about that in his book the Future of  Faith about the times after Constantine nationalized Christianity:

Meanwhile the Christian bishops went on debating the fine points of theology. Now they argued over what homoousios really meant and the nature of Mary’s relationship to God and Christ. They composed more creeds and excommunicated more people. After the fall of Rome in 476 CE, the ensuing centuries told a dismal story of the repeated failure of using creeds and excommunications to achieve any result, except for further rancor. If, as some psychologists claim, at least one form of mental illness can be defined as doggedly repeating the same tactic over and over again even when it has always failed, creeds could be thought of as symptoms of a long psychological disorder…

The history of Christianity during the decades after Constantine makes for dreary reading. The subversion of the church into a religious empire widened. The bishops continued to bicker among themselves and deployed the power of the state against their theological enemies. Corruption increased.

When I started my serious study of various religious denominations one came almost immediately to my attention and that was The American Society of Friends, better known as Quakers. Quakers are strongly against all of the various creeds that have existed in the church. Little did I know that after years of studying this issue I would fully fall in line with their beliefs that creeds do more damage to the church of Jesus than they ever could hope to accomplish.

As indicated by the above quote creeds have been primarily used to exclude people who are deemed to believe the wrong things.  They are used to exclude rather than include as Jesus clearly did.  To me the ironic thing about almost all of the creeds I have studied is that they are primarily about things that Jesus never taught or said. They are instead about what various leaders thought many years after Christ.

I really don’t think it matters much to Jesus that some believe that his mother was a virgin before and even after he was born. I don’t think Jesus cares if we think of him and God, and the Spirit as three in one or just as three dimensions of the same god.  If  you are interested pull out the catechism from your version of  Christianity and study just what it is you are supposed to believe. You just might be surprised if you really look at the words.

Jesus did not come to earth so that men, some many years after he left, could put together a group of mandated beliefs about God in order to exclude people from their ranks.  Jesus was all about inclusion; much of his current church is about exclusion and creeds are one of their primary weapons. I’m sure this saddens Jesus greatly. ..

2 thoughts on “About Those Creeds…..

  1. Many social organizations exist to create feelings of exclusivity and belonging among members. Status and power can come from such arrangements. As you so clearly show, at some point churches became social organizations designed to grant “members” rights and privileges that were not available to all.

    Jesus is surely shaking his head in wonderment that his simple, straightforward message could be twisted in this manner to serve the ego needs of the few.

  2. Bob, thanks for the thoughtful words. Yes, the church has never been exempt from the power struggles of men and empires. I am convinced that it goes on as much today as it did in the past. I am an example of that in that since I said I don’t believe everything in the bible is without error or literally true I was shown the door after almost ten years in a large denominational congregation.

    Most church denominations today are in the “bunker mentality” and are holed up against all the heretics out there! That is clearly not what Jesus told us to do. But I am somewhat heartened by the emergent movements that have been taking place for the last couple of decades. They seem to be getting back to the true messages of Jesus Christ.
    I will be mentioning much more about that in future posts.

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