Today, we started a new Sunday School series studying the Apostles' Creed. It is interesting, because, growing up in a Baptist church, I had never heard of such a thing. When John and I got married and became United Methodists, I would hear it recited, and I would sort of mumble through it. I heard Rich Mullins, and later Third Day, sing it on the radio, and I started to learn it and think a little more about what it says and what it means.
Here's the "traditional" version, found in The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 881:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit ,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen."
There are other variations of the creed, but all of them contain at least this much.
When I began to try to learn it and understand what it meant, my first point of confusion was that it said, "the holy catholic church." What? I thought I was a Methodist! A footnote in the hymnal indicated that catholic meant "universal," and in the song, they say, "one holy church." So, it just meant that all of us who believe these things are one body of believers. I was okay with that.
I am more than okay with all of it, actually. There is nothing in the creed that opposes what I had been taught all my life in Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian, and Methodist churches, and I really truly believe all of it.
But doesn't it leave some things out? Hmm...
What about all those things that people have argued over for centuries? The rules? You know...can women be preachers, do we sprinkle or dunk, and what on earth does the Book of Revelation mean anyway??? All those things that have divided believers for years and driven people away from God's love.
Now, I know, I know...the creed is a man-made thing. Early believers in the second century recited it as a confession at baptism, and it has evolved over time. It doesn't come from the Bible, chapter and verse. BUT, doesn't it describe everything a Christian is commanded to believe? Isn't it scripturally sound? Maybe, in its simplicity, it is enough.
I guess what I'm saying is this: It is important to know the essentials of what you believe. Know what is absolutely fundamental. Learn it and live it. Cling to it. Everything else? I'll stick with the words of Augustine that John Wesley liked to quote "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love."