Here’s an interesting proposal, and something we’re going to begin incorporating into Sunday worship.
For quite a while now, theologians have noted that a basic problem presented in the historic creeds (Athanasian, Nicene, Apostles’) is the absence of any content related either to a) God’s life with Israel, and b) the life of Jesus between birth and crucifixion.
One of the most concise and lovely proposals for what to insert into the creed comes from Jürgen Moltmann. He suggests adding the following to the creeds:
“Baptized by John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit: to preach the kingdom of God to the poor, to heal the sick, to receive those who have been cast out, to revive Israel for the salvation of the nations, and to have mercy upon all people”
I appreciate this proposal on many levels, not least of which because it strives to maintain the delicate balance Paul works out in Romans about the continuing covenant of God with Israel, a covenant Christians see enlivened in Christ but not exclusively so, and it also gets the life of Christ into the creeds.
I honestly fear one of the most damaging things in the history of the church has been a lack of focus on the life of Christ, and this has been accentuated, and perpetuated, by the lack of mention of it in the creeds.
This proposal has ecumenical resonances as well. Roman Catholics will remember that Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002), recommended an additional set called the Luminous Mysteries (or the “Mysteries of Light”). They are luminous because they invite those who pray the Rosary to meditate on the light from Christ’s own earthly life. Like the creed, prior to the luminous mysteries the mysteries of the rosary were focused on incarnation, death, and resurrection, basically eliding over Christ’s life.
We are going to include this new section in our creed beginning Sunday, so the entire creed will read:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary,
Baptized by John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit: to preach the kingdom of God to the poor, to heal the sick, to receive those who have been cast out, to revive Israel for the salvation of the nations, and to have mercy upon all people.
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day, he rose again; he ascended into heaven;
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living 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.”
One thing I love about this proposal: it adds but doesn’t change. Of course there are and have been ongoing debates about all kinds of content in the creeds. With our modern cosmology, we might wonder where heaven is, or we might discuss whether “lord” and “almighty” language comports with our current understanding of Scripture and faith.
But we can leave the full text of the creed as it stands, therefore continuing to participate in the confession with the majority of the Christian world, while also adding something that clearly articulates what already stands in Scripture as so very central: God’s life with Israel, and Christ’s life here for us, and in particular for the poor.
Happy Friday y’all.