St. Peter's Blog 'Alternative Creed' from St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – North Wales, PA's Blog

Alternative Creed

Saturday, Oct 8, 2016
Author: Pastor Andreas Wagner

As many of you know, I engaged in a study project about alternative creeds this summer. I mean by that Christian creeds other than  the Apostle's Creed or the Nicene Creed.  I will post a few of the most interesting ones along with my analysis. The following creed was written by Lisa Frenz, a former Lutheran Music Director from Oregon.

   We believe in God the Creator, who created and is creating everything: the universe, the world, the plants and animals, and us; each of us, unique, individual and beloved of God.

   We believe in God the Christ, who saved and is saving everything: the universe, the world, the plants and animals, and us: each of us; unique, individual and beloved of the Christ.

   We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who guided and is guiding everything: the universe, the world, the plants and animals, and us; each of us, unique, individual and beloved of the Spirit.

   We believe that this one God in three persons, is present among us, working directly in our lives and the lives of all who are born into this world, striving to bring us back into harmony with all creation and with God: forgiving, healing, touching everyone, never rejecting any who willingly receive this freely offered gift of love and grace and eternal life. Amen.

 

Analysis and Critique:

There is a lot to love about this creed. It uses gender neutral language when referring to God but keeps the Trinitarian structure of the traditional creeds fully intact. It appeals to all those who care about the environment or are drawn to creation spirituality. It formulates a faith that goes beyond the human domination narrative of past Christian creation theologies. In this creed, not only has everything been created by God; in addition, all of creation has been saved by Christ; all of creation is guided by the spirit of God. Paul's beautiful inclusion of creation in the act of salvation in Romans 8 immediately comes to mind: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8: 22-23, NIV) 

The consistency of this creed is appealing.  It consistently describes God's action in the past tense and in the continued present tense. The repeated, litany-like mentioning of the entire created world as object of God's loving action brings emphasis to the inclusive vision of this creed.

In a fourth paragraph, humanity enters the focus of this creed, explaining how this triune God works salvation into the lives of individuals and communities. Although it states that God is working directly in the lives "of all who are born into this world,'' thus including animals and micro-organisms, I presume that this closing part of the creed is mostly about the descendants of Adam and Eve. God is the one who brings us back into harmony with creation and creator through God's forgiving, healing and touching presence. In an elegant way it also allows us to read these parts participatory: as God works in us, we become the forgiving, healing, touching presence in the lives of others and in the life of creation.     

All in all, I love this creed and think it is a satisfying alternative, unless you are looking for a traditional creed with all the familiar elements. Many parts of the Apostle’s Creed and many important aspects of traditional Christian teachings are not found in this alternative creed. Here is a brief list of major statements that are missing:

-      No mentioning of Jesus' birth, life, suffering death and resurrection.

-      No reference to the after-life or other developed forms of eschatology

-      No mentioning of or belief in the Church

 

So, there is quite a bit of substance missing in this creed: no Christology, no Eschatology, no Ecclesiology. In addition, it appears that the creed is more about the cosmic Christ than the historical Jesus. And God’s activity is entirely focused on the created world. That's where it begins and that's also where it ends. (Although, it has to be said, it doesn't really end...)   

It surprises me that these omissions do not bother me much. In my view this creed is a wonderful example of a contemporary Statement of Faith that does not replace the more theologically complete creeds of old, but rather complements them. I look at this work not as a great summary of the Christian faith but rather a summary of what Christians may need to focus on in the 21st century. It beautifully explores and celebrates an aspect of our faith which is missing in our traditional creeds, incorporating increasing awareness about the interconnectedness of all life. This creed would fit particularly well into a creation themed worship service or could serve as a signature creed of Christian communities that have chosen to work deliberately on inclusiveness. I would not hesitate to use this creed myself in certain worship contexts and I think it benefits from the fact that it doesn't even try to incorporate the entire weight of Christian theology in these few paragraphs. It is this courage to be particular and selective, which, I believe, benefits most alternative creeds. 


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