I Believe: brief thoughts on the creed

Two plus two

The creed as relationship

Two plus two is four. We don’t say, “I believe it’s four,” we know it equals four. We sometimes say things like “I believe he told me thus and so,” in which case the word stands for “I think this is true, but I’m not sure.” We also say things like “I believe in my team,” which is an expression of hopeful confidence (or bravado) that the team you root for will succeed. Or we might say to a child, “I believe in you” which generally means “I think you can do it.”

But what we are saying in the creed is not what we think is true but don’t know for sure, or what we hope to be true, or want to be true. The word ‘faith’ in the Biblical world is about allegiance. We see it in the word faithful. To say, “I believe in God,” means, “I put my faith, hope and trust in God.”

So the statement, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,” is not a statement about doctrine or ideas; it is a statement about a relationship.

There is a world of difference between saying “God is love,” and hearing God say, “I love you.” The one is doctrine; the other is a relationship. The creed, at its heart, says “This is the one I love: the one who has loved me.”

“This is most certainly true”

The creed as true

Luther says at the conclusion of the explanation to each article of the creed: “This is most certainly true.” But that doesn’t mean we are talking about facts – at least not “dry” facts.

Like the word ‘faithful’, we use the word ‘true’ to talk about relationships. “He’s always been true,” means he (or she) has always been faithful to the other. It is a relationship that is not filled with doubt and uncertainty, deception and omission. It is just ‘true’.

When Luther says, “This is most certainly true,” he is not talking about the realm of scientific inquiry. He is talking the talk of fidelity. God has been faithful, creating the world in love. God has been faithful, coming to redeem the world in Christ. God continues to be faithful, calling us to himself by his word, drawing into the reality of his grace, and sustaining us in lives that are turned toward God and neighbor in love.

God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The creed as identification

So having said that the creed is not about doctrine but about relationship, this is not just any relationship. It is a relationship with a particular ‘person’. I have a relationship with my daughter, but she is not just any one of the million-plus young women in New York City; I have a relationship with one specific young woman who has a strong moral compass, a keen mind, loves music and theater and friends, and is very, very good and precise with objective facts and data.

To whom are we faithful? The one who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not the one who is the god of the wine. Not the one who is god of the rains. Not the one who is the god of wealth or power or success or beauty, but the one who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The one who created, redeemed and sanctifies me. The one who created the heavens and the earth. The one born of Mary, dead under Pilate, and risen to God’s right hand. The one who calls me through the word of grace. The one who gathers me into the community where Christ is preached and sins are forgiven. The one who enlightens me by his word and spirit.

“He has created me” / “He has redeemed me” “That I may be his own”

The creed as preaching

Lastly we need to understand that the creed does not just describe a relationship with a God of a particular name/identity. The creed proclaims what this God has done and continues to do. The creed preaches. It declares to me that God is for me. It proclaims all that God has done. And as it declares to me God’s grace and love, it draws me to God. It captures my heart. It fills me with wonder. It fills me with gratefulness and praise. It fills me with God’s Spirit.