Say what you do, do what you say. There is a relationship between the two. “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”, the Bible says. I have noted in my life that there are some words people should never say. “I hate you.” “I’m going to divorce you.” “I’ll kill you.” Chances are better than average that when people voice such words, they will come true someday. Words carry the power of intent - they are a progenitor of things to come.
You have a creed, whether or not you say it out loud. It comes straight out of the Latin word for ‘I believe’. You believe something, it is the inevitable trajectory of opening your eyes in the morning and looking out on the world. Wise men have sifted through the choices to discern what is better and what is worse. Those things people believe together, are sometimes codified into a pledge, a statement of belief.
Words mean something, even words repeated over by rote. That is why the Church has developed liturgy - well-worn words that have come down to us through apostolic tradition. The Nicene Creed, penned in the year 325 AD in the city of Nicaea, (modern day Iznik, Turkey) might be among the most famous. The creed was in response to an ill-defined hodge-podge of ideas that was threatening to drown Christianity in its infancy. There were a lot of ism’s the Church called heresies, misbegotten beliefs, and false assumptions cobbled together. They had to clarify matters in response to this.
I like to break down belief into two questions. What is your cosmology? (how is the universe constructed) What is your Christology? (what is going to save you) Answer those and you will tell me a lot about how you are going to live. Specifically what you believe about Jesus Christ is what makes you a Christian or not.
The Church worldwide seems to be yet again awash with ism’s, as inevitably comes about in a global village. Same as in the ancient world, ideas mix. In the church we call it syncretism, the creep of other beliefs into Christian doctrine.
Such ideas are popular because they seem new, and yet they are very old. Usually these beliefs can be labelled as gnostic. They assume that our spiritual fortunes are based upon esoteric knowledge and practises that set us up on a hierarchy of our own making. I would include things like centering prayer that are supposed to lead us to God by technique. Its assumptions are basically Hindu - a repeated mantra that acts as a kind of self-hypnosis. Jesus however, told us to pray to God in plain words, as to a father, not to babble repetitions. Christianity sees God as a person - wholly other, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), not as some kind of spiritual god-essence to be tapped from the centre of our being.
Gnosticism was rampant in the early Church, and it was in response to this that Paul stated, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” It puts the onus of saving, on the person of Jesus Christ and his death on the Cross. Christianity makes bold claims that are intended to be exclusive. If you believe everything is true, then no one thing can be true, by definition. Christianity is defined by the scandal of particularity, what we believe to be true about Christ. We are reminded of what those things are when we recite the Creed in church.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
G.K. Chesterton described his journey of faith in his book “Orthodoxy” as rediscovering for himself, a desert island that he had already known about. And so it is with truth. Surprisingly, it can be old truths, made new again. Do you believe it? I do. It took me a long road to get there. A lot of personal sifting of what was found not to be true. But don’t say so because someone else gave you the words. Make them your own, and then say them from the heart.