Tag Archives: creed

To creed or not to creed?

Cover of

Luke Timothy Johnson, in his book The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (Doubleday, 2003), deals concisely with objections to the “novelties” presented by the Nicene Council and its creed, and answers anti-creedalists on the importance of creeds:

The creed formulated at Nicea was an innovation in at least three ways

  1. “It clearly brought the church into a position of cooperation—it could even be argued cooptation—with the state”
  2. “It imposed a universal creed to take precedence over treasured local versions” (though note this creed was not actually made universal until the later Council of Constantinople)
  3. “It used philosophical language within a profession of faith that was supposed to articulate the Christian story in the language of Scripture.” Continue reading

Dorothy L. Sayers: Reclaiming the “integrated medieval worldview” for today

I’ve been at the Marion Wade Center at Wheaton College, IL for a couple of days now, looking through a slew of sources on C S Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton, who will be the key modern “guides” in my forthcoming book Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants. Below are notes from one fruitful source I ran into today, on Sayers.

The words in block capitals at the beginnings of some paragraphs relate to my chapter topics (search on the book’s title on this blog, or look back to early posts via the calendar, and you’ll find summary descriptions of each chapter). I’ve short-handed the thematic chapters Creation, Tradition, Theology, Ethics, Monks, Emotions, Incarnation, and Death. Here are the notes from my new-found source:

Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way: Voices of Anglicanism
(Cincinnati, OH: Forward Movement Publications, 1991)

[The “voices” are Richard Hooker, John Donne, Jeremy Taylor, Joseph Butler, F. D. Maurice, C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and William Temple]

From the Sayers chapter:

THEOLOGY          “Dorothy learned to play the piano and the violin, and even as a child she liked to sing hymns—especially those that were about ‘Prowl and prowl around, good swinging thick stuff, with a grand line or two about heresies and schisms, with all the sinners deeply wailing, the Father on His sapphire throne and the lowly pomp, and all the Good Friday hymns, wallowing in a voluptuous gloom.’” (95)

THEOLOGY          “It was also very early on that she was exposed to modest catechetical training. She found the doctrine of the Trinity intriguing and the language of the creeds overwhelming: ‘I know I should never have dared to confess to any of my grown-ups the over-mastering fascination exercised on me by the Athanasian Creed . . . So I hugged it as a secret delight.’” (95) Continue reading

Creeds and fundamentalists: nourishing or poisoning the church?

Over at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog, a 4-part series has just wrapped up on Harvey Cox’s new book The Future of the Faith. In a summary of the book, “RJS” outlines this former liberal’s not-surprising attitude toward the development of creeds in Christian history. Essentially, for Cox, the Council of Nicea marked the end of true Jesus-religion and the beginning of heirarchical, coercive religion.

While I understand the issue here and agree that the institutionalization of the church was unfortunate in some respects, I think Cox, and many others, miss the point of the creeds.

RJS writes that Cox extends his critique of creedal Christianity into the 20th and 21st century by having a go at that tired old whipping post, “the fundamentalists.” If you want a vivid example of this from within the evangelical fold, check out Roger Olson’s acid rendering of that movement in his Story of Theology. Although Olson captures much that is correct about the movement, I think his critique, and Cox’s less-informed critique, is overdone and in some senses downright wrong. It assumes that fundamentalism is about nothing more than mental assent to propositional formulae. I just don’t buy that.

Thus I responded with a couple of comments on the review of Cox’s book. You’ll find them here, in the comments section, #25 and #27. I’d be interested to hear your perspectives: feel free to weigh in, either there or here.