Friday, December 11, 2009

Hey! I Thought You Said....

I was not blessed with immaculate perception. I read and understand the Bible through a set of lenses that color its pages and ideas.

Between me and the text are personal experiences, customs, sectarian biases, and the era of history in which I was born and raised.

You are in the same boat! Even if you claim to read it just like it’s written!

No; especially if you claim that!

My mind restructures the word of God as I read it.

Reading is never a passive exercise. To some extent, we all shape the ideas of a book as we read them.

When I realized that I was doing that to the Bible, I decided to weigh my personal perception against the teachings held in common by God’s people through the ages.

If the church is indeed the “pillar and ground of truth,” as St. Paul claimed, I can trust the teachings that had endured age after age and culture after culture. I can trust those teachings more than I can trust my own limited viewpoint.

Keeping this in mind is easier said than done! As time has passed though, I have discovered that this way of reading the Bible is a place where all believers can meet.

A church like mine, where people come from all parts of the body of Christ, can build doctrinal unity on this common deposit of faith.

This conviction – that we should evaluate our private, sectarian, and cultural views of the faith by a common core of beliefs – has become deeply head conviction. That is why I make a big ado about the Apostles Creed. I believe the doctrines of this creed to be the steady beat of the apostles – the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints.”

The creeds have a history of their own and I enjoy talking about it. However, for our purposes here, it is enough to say that they arose from pastoral concerns. A believer coming from paganism, for example, needed to know that One God created the world, that sin had entered that world and that Jesus Christ had come to reconcile us to God.

There would be no bibles for centuries. Scrolls of various biblical books were scattered here and there with no known way to bind them together – much less to make them available for everyone.

Beginning with the Bishop of Antioch, in about AD 98, church leaders began to find ways to teach the people statements of faith that would help them retain the basic beliefs of Christianity. They formed these statements in poetic ways so they could be memorized, sung, and prayed. These “poems” were soon used in public worship. We call those doctrinal poems "creeds" because the first word is the Latin word "credo," which means, "I believe."

The first and most important of these creeds is called the Apostles’ Creed. Christians were quoting it extensively by the second century. A couple of centuries later, the church fathers added the Nicene Creed to the Christian arsenal of faith. Christians everywhere, with all our differences, still accept the doctrines contained in these creeds.

Therefore, we can say that the creeds express the common doctrinal heritage of all followers of Christ. They teach what C. S. Lewis called, “Mere Christianity.”

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