A few weeks ago, I blogged about an immensely enjoyable and edifying paper we enjoyed at the Hashivenu Forum in Los Angeles, by Mark Kinzer. You can see that post here.
Yesterday, on Scot McKnight’s blog (Jesus Creed), he posted a discussion about the Nicene and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds. In the comments section, a number of people express their problem with the creeds more so that their affirmation.
If you want to understand the issues about the creeds, a good place to start is wikipedia.
Messianic Jewish synagogues do not, as a rule, recite these creeds. Yet, many of us in MJ, myself included, would affirm what these creeds affirm and negate what these creeds negate. As Mark Kinzer discusses in his paper, we cannot think about Yeshua apart from the creeds, because none of us can or even should isolate ourselves from the traditions that inform our thought.
Yet a great deal of ignorance abounds. I hate to use the word ignorance, because it sounds so negative, but we are all ignorant about many things. I, for example, am largely ignorant about string theory, maintenance procedures for nuclear subs, and Polynesian cooking (just to randomly pick some examples).
How about you? Are you well informed about the creeds, church history, Jewish thought regarding differentiation in the nature of God, and mediators of the divine presence?
Scot McKnight is a theologian from whom I have learned a great deal. His blog is a good source for mind-food. He regularly features guest bloggers who write about topics like science and faith. He has let me guest blog a few times (imagine that). He has gathered a remarkable community of people who read and comment.
I find it interesting that Professor McKnight got some resistance about the creeds.
I find it interesting because so few people in free churches and Messianic Judaism think these summaries of faith are important.
Would you work on a Volkswagen without reading the manual? Would you attempt to design your own electric motor ignoring the methods of the past and starting from scratch? Would any company manufacture a product without building on existing knowledge first?
If every generation thinks the best way to understand the faith is to start from scratch with “just the Bible,” we will always have a lot of confusion.
The “just the Bible” approach is ultimately dishonest because none of us comes to the Bible with an open mind or a blank slate.
Mainstream Judaism has a creed, known as the Yigdal. It is not without problems. I cannot say, “In Israel, none like Moses arose again.” I cannot describe God as yachid, when the text says he is echad. I recognize that the Yigdal is a reaction to Christianity and not an objective statement of faith.
I also recognize (and if you read the earlier post on “The Nicene Creed and MJ,” you will see this is a major point) that the councils that devised the creeds were anti-Judaic and that the creeds themselves lack reference to much of the biblical story (you know, Israel’s history and role), so that the creeds are missing a major portion of the biblical message.
I also recognize that the creeds need some alternative language or to be summarized for our MJ community in alternative language.
But the creeds are like the traditional Siddur. Many people look at the Jewish prayer book and say, “These prayers are man-made.” In ignorance, they fail to realize the Siddur beautifully and masterfully combines truths, verses, and phrases from all over the Bible into a consistent theology of prayer.
Likewise, the Christian creeds distill the essence of many scriptures, putting them at times into abstract, philosophical language. Nonetheless, they masterfully avoid errors which will demean the glory of God and Jesus and positively express the mysteries of the faith.
Many in MJ have problems with the creeds and even with ideas like the divinity of Messiah. Many misunderstand and think the creeds say Jesus is the totality of God (as if the Son and Father are singularly identical).
Many also would like to find better ways of expressing what is affirmed in the creeds. Would you care to weigh in with some thoughts? Don’t hesitate to create an anonymous username and comment under it if you’d rather not have your name attached to your comment (I’ll see your email address, but others won’t). I know it is dangerous to discuss such matters. Also, I am likely to take the side of the creeds in the discussion. But I think we can civilly discuss this.
What are problems you have with the creeds? What are positives you see in the creeds? Should MJ make an expanded and revised Yigdal?