The Creeds Explained — Part 2

In response to my indecision over whether to give an exposition of The Nicene Creed or The Apostles’ Creed, Becky Dobbins* made the rather astute suggestion that I cover both creeds rather than choosing one over the other. The reason this is a rather astute suggestion is, in part, because I have never been able to settle on one or the other as my favorite.

Before we turn to consider the two creeds clause by clause, a few words of prologue. The Apostles’ Creed begins each clause with “I believe” while The Nicene Creed begins each clause with “We believe.” The “I believe” of the Apostles’ Creed is probably rooted in its ancient use in the baptismal liturgy when the person to be baptized professed their faith before the gathered congregation (in the current liturgy of the United Methodist Church, the gathered congregation says it in unison with the person to be baptized). In contrast, The Nicene Creed begins each of its three clauses with “We believe.” I like that beginning for a reason Barbara Brown Taylor taught me to like it in one of her books. She wrote:

“… the creed is said in the plural, not the singular. When we say, ‘We believe…’ I count on that to cover what I cannot believe on my own right now. When my faith limps, I lean on the faith of the church, letting ‘our’ faith suffice until ‘mine’ returns. Later, when I am able to say, ‘We believe….” with renewed confidence, I know that I am filling in for others who are indisposed for the time being, as they filled in for me.”

I like The Nicene Creed for the “We believe” and I like The Apostles’ Creed for providing the possibility of a weekly reminder of our baptisms. The difficulties inherent for me in deciding which creed to favor continue in that I like The Nicene Creed for its overt, unmistakable Trinitarianism that dispels any thought that there might be three gods, while I favor The Apostles’ Creed for the way it avoids the filioque controversy (more on that later … maybe).

The final note for today is that what we know as The Nicene Creed as we find it in The United Methodist Hymnal is probably more accurately referred to as The Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed because it reflects many of the revisions that were made at the Second Ecumenical Council held in the city of Constantinople in 381 AD.

*Jared Dobbins provided a somewhat less helpful, but still agreeable, link to a song by The Four Lads.