The Nicene Creed begins with We believe which points us at the truth that what Jesus left to us we hold together. It’s like a national park a treasure held in common. We are all raised to think for ourselves although what that really means is that we should think like the one who is telling us that.
There is no such thing as an individual because human beings are relational. Our first parents tried to go it their own way and with just the two of them they ran amok following each other’s desires. Today humanity is doing the same thing on a grand scale by trying to live without the Holy Spirit and as if we don’t need each other. That is yet another one of satan’s tricks to make us think that we can do it by ourselves. I am not the body of Christ, we are the body of Christ. Where two or three are gathered is the place Jesus said he would be present not out alone by ourselves.
“We” needs to be reconsidered. “We” is an invitation rather than a boundary. There would be no we if it were not for Jesus work on the cross. It is a different kind of “we”. We are not the “we” of the mob who screamed for Jesus to be crucified. We are those who have known the pain of separation, loneliness, anxiety, fear, heartache and loss and who confess that our God also knows these realities (“he was crucified under Pontius Pilate”). “We” are those who hope beyond history, and yet who hope in space and time. “We” are those who recognize that faith is not knowledge; knowledge doesn’t save. “We” are those who “believe”, that is, who trust a God who has shown clearly in the life of Jesus and demonstrated even more clearly in his forgiving death that we are worth an infinite amount to God. “We” in the meantime must learn to let go of the lie of individual autonomy and recover the joy of relationships, and for me, this also means relating to those who have gone before, from the first disciples to you. “I” am grateful for this “We who together hold the faith because we believe.”
The Creed is a statement of faith; it is about what we believe. It does not begin with the words “We Think about” or “We Know.” This is a crucial beginning particularly in our contemporary culture where many who say “We believe” are really saying “We think about” or “we know.” Faith is not knowledge or about thought processes. It is all about trust. The creed then is an answer to the question “Whom do you trust?”
In the early church there was a way of being “Christian” which would be deemed heretical. This was known as Gnosticism. For the early Christian Gnostic, salvation was given by special knowledge or revealed truth. The ‘saved’ possessed this true knowledge while the ‘unsaved’ were divided into two camps, those who might eventually possess that knowledge and those who were unable to possess it, and thus doomed. For the Gnostic it was all about ‘special revelation, truth or knowledge.
Gnosticism is alive and well in the modern world. The mark of Gnosticism is salvation by secret knowledge, which can be found all over. Watch out when anyone preaches “the secret to or the key to” You can fill in the blank after but the promise is of an experience or technique that you can’t get on your own that will enable you to rise above the rest. This is all Gnosticism.
If there is one truth about the gospel it is this: it is public and it is free. The gospel is about God, a God who has revealed God’s self in the person of Jesus and who comes to us in the Spirit, sent by the Father through Jesus. Jesus is the face of the Living God who is present with us. It is Jesus in whom we put our trust. We do not need anyone to give us the secrets of the reign of God; they are ours free of charge in the message of God’s grace and love in the gospel.
Faith is not about secret knowledge. Nor is it about certainty. Some Christians think that it is adherence to a complete system of formulated doctrine which is equated with the ‘Truth’ that will save them. However, the creed does not invite us to believe in our theology but in God! Theology is our best attempt to explore and linguistically explain our encounter with this God, but theology is not God.
Having your ‘faith all worked out in a rational, systematic fashion’ is a Platonic ideal, but it is not the gospel. The gospel is a story about struggling, about ups and downs and ins and outs. It is about cross carrying, weeping, and dying as much as it is about resurrection and joy and celebration. You cannot have one without the other. If this was true for Jesus, is it also not true for us? Christian Gnostics seek certainty in many ways, one way is to try and prove that the Bible is perfect and we as its interpreters can fit all of the verses in scripture with every other verse and so come up with a perfect doctrinal system that we can call “The Truth” (which we then demand that others believe if they are to be saved). We know where this kind of system leads: straight to the hell of judgmentalism, legalism, discrimination and fractured relationships.
Our faith is in a God who loved us so much that he sent his only son to become one of us. Our god is not a moody alcoholic who is nice when sober and mean when drunk. Our god raised Jesus from the dead. He is there for all to see through the eyes of the first witnesses. So there is no need for special experiences or certainty, because that is divine and not human.
“We believe in one God the Father Almighty…” Our Father has no competition from ‘other gods.’ Nor does our Father have a dark side. There is nothing in the Creed (or in Jesus’ view of God) that God is Two-faced or has a ‘shadow of darkness. Our Father does not make threats. The authority of our God is a nurturing authority; God uses all his power to say to the universe, “These are my children, my beloved children, whom I love.”
We believe is a God who is about life, not death, about restoring joy and honor, not about bringing misery and denigration. The very first thing we say about God is a good thing, it reflects Jesus’ view of God and it reflects the view of the God of ‘evangel’ of Gospel. Our Father God is beautiful.