Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Creed in Worship—a great idea!

Are you aware that In both Morning and Evening Prayer, the Creed, normally The Apostles’ Creed, is always used and is sung or said, and, further, it is grammatically always in the first person singular—“I believe”?

People ask: Why is the Creed included within the daily round of praise and prayer offered by the Church to the Father through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? And they often add: Is not its presence as a kind of statement of faith a little odd in a prayer service?

Here are three good reasons why it is and should be included:

(a) Since the Church of God the Father is the Bride of Christ, the Creed is the word of the Bride responding to the revelation of Love made to her in the Gospel by the Bridegroom himself. She tells him in brief summary what she believes and in whom she trusts on the basis of what he has said to her. Therefore, the Creed is often sung, a love song to the Bridegroom. And the “I” of “I believe” is a “corporate I,” the “I” of the one Bride, who is the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. It is the elect people of God, the disciples of Jesus, the Body of Christ, speaking with one voice and in one heart as one person.
(b) Since the Church is composed of many baptized believers, united in Christ to one another by the Spirit in koinonia, the Creed is a word of each baptized believer (it is in fact the Creed of Baptism) to all other baptized believers. It is a communal word, a word of fellowship, and word of togetherness in belief. It is an affirmation of the saving Faith into which all have been brought by the Word and in the Spirit through Baptism. So the “I” here is personal in that it is the “I” of many persons speaking together as brothers and sisters sharing in the one and the same Faith. (Therefore, it is not to be equated in any way at all with modern expressive individualism, for which there is no genuine place in Christianity.)
(c) Since the Church is placed by God the Father in the world with a commission from Christ Jesus to proclaim the Gospel and to make converts, the Creed is also a clear word from the Church to the seeker, the outsider, and even the enemy. By it the assembled people of God say: “This is what we all together, and each alone, believe, teach and confess; and so to know our Faith listen to our Creed.”

Because of these noble purposes, it is most important that the Apostles’ Creed be faithfully translated into the vernacular from the Latin. Regrettably this cannot be said of the translation in use ecumenically in the English-speaking world. There is one obvious mistake in it.

Jesus “was conceived by the Holy Spirit” and “born of the Virgin Mary.” This is very different from “was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” in the modern rendering. There is nothing in the Latin original to provide the basis for “the power of;” and, theologically, we say that all procreation is by the power of the Spirit; but in the case of the eternal Son, we say that his taking to himself of human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin (= her conception) was truly supernatural. It was achieved by the Holy Spirit personally and miraculously, not simply power via the laws of nature as with both our pets and ourselves. What the modern rendering teaches is strictly speaking heresy, for it seeks to make the conception at best like that of Isaac or John the Baptist, where God acted through the laws of nature in a providential way. The Son of God already existed with his divine nature and what he received by the personal activity of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a human nature, so that he became [miracle of miracles] “One Person made known in two natures.”


Let our musicians compose suitable new music by which the local church can sing her creedal love song to her Bridegroom; let the whole congregation recover the edifying and joyful experience of singing the Creed with understanding; and let the Creed, rightly translated, serve as a powerful summary statement of the Christian Faith in church and world. March 5, 2008

1 comment:

Mark Carroll said...

Dr Toon,

Another good reason to keep the creed in MP and EP is tradition of the Early Church. Augustine said "Take the Rule of Faith, which is called the Symbol or Creed, say it daily, in the Morning before you go forth; at Night before you sleep." [Aug. l. 1. de Symb. ad Catech. cap. 1.]

and in another place

"Say your Creed daily, morning and evening, to God. Say not, I said it yesterday, I have said it today already; say it again, say it everyday: guard yourself with your faith"

Were it so that I could consistently exercise this discipline without miss.


Mark Carroll of Kentucky