Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flawed Creed

Recently, in a service of Morning Prayer, the following "Affirmation of Faith" was used in place of the Apostles' Creed:

We believe in God,
the creator of all life and beauty,
who blesses our journey.

We believe in Jesus Christ,
who lived as a friend and savior to all he met
as he traveled the countryside,
who ate and laughed,
wept and celebrated with people in all walks of life.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who rides on the breeze in the country
touching all with gentleness and love,
who strengthens our commitment,
who offers us eternal hope.

We believe in the church,
which stands open to all travelers
and bears witness to the everlasting love of God.

I don't know who actually wrote this "creed," but it comes from Kate Wyles' book From Shore to Shore: Liturgies, Litanies and Prayers from Around the World. I find it deeply flawed. I'll touch on just a few of the reasons why.

Affirming belief in a God "who blesses our journey" makes God sound more like a life coach than the God revealed in scripture. And this creed also assumes that our journey is, in fact, worth blessing. The Church cannot and should not affirm all viewpoints and interests, and God does not bless everybody's journey.

The section about Jesus reveals the most about this "Affirmation of Faith" precisely by what it does not affirm. For starters, it speaks of Jesus only in the past tense. That makes sense, because there's nothing here about the Resurrection (not even in a watered-down, "spiritual" sense). Also missing are any affirmations of the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, the Ascension, the Second Coming, and the Final Judgment. All of which begs the question: why Jesus and not some other prophetic figure from the past?

The Jesus of this "Affirmation of Faith" sounds like a really great guy. But he is not affirmed as a living Lord. Luke Timothy Johnson gets it right: "To consider Jesus simply as a figure of the past means to consider Jesus not from the perspective of a Christian but from that of one who stands outside Christian conviction."

I also note that in this "Affirmation of Faith" the Holy Spirit has been "niceified," allowed only to be gentle and loving without convicting anyone of sin. But since there's no affirmation of the forgiveness of sins here (and thus an acknowledgment of a serious problem with human nature for which we need forgiveness and healing), that omission makes perfect sense. We're okay just as we are.

It's good to state that the Church is "open to all travelers." We certainly want to be inviting and welcoming. But as with the opening part about a God who indiscriminately "blesses our journey," this "Affirmation of Faith" embraces a half-truth. Yes, it's true that everyone is accepted in Christ. But it's also true that no one is affirmed as they are.

I think this "Affirmation of Faith" goes well beyond what H. Richard Niebuhr described as liberal Protestantism's devotion to "a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom with judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." Indeed, it strikes me as post-Christian. So why would anybody want to use it in Christian worship?

9 comments:

Robin G. Jordan said...

Bryan,

While I may disagree with you in regards to other matters, I must agree with your assessment of this so-called "affirmation of faith."

The faith of the "Reformed Anglican Church" is not some new religious system that the English Reformers concocted during the reign of Edward Sixth and Elizabeth the First. It is not something that changes with each generation. It is the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church and freed at the Reformation from those innovations in doctrine and worship by which it had become defaced and overlaid in post-apostolic times. It is the faith of the three catholic Creeds.

We are called to maintain a constant witness against not only the doctrinal and worship innovations of the past but also those of our own generation. We are free to compose new hymns, new prayers, and new thanksgiving provided they are Scriptural and theologically-sound but we are not free to compose new creeds.

The Thirty-Nine Articles do not supercede the catholic Creeds but supplements them. Article VIII states, "The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture." "Symbola tria, Nicaenum, Athanasii, et quod vulgo Apostolorum appellatur omnino recipienda sunt et credenda; Scripturarum testimoniis probari possunt."

Kelso said...

More badly written "touchy-feely" tripe that says nothing. See what happens when you replace the 1928 BCP with Rod McKuen?

Joe Rawls said...

This thing is even worse than what replaced the Nicene Creed in my parish during Eastertide. "The Holy Spirit who rides on a breeze in the country"? Where? Esalen?

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Robin. Thanks for offering your comments in response to my take on this "Affirmation of Faith." I'm pleased to see that we are in complete agreement!

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for commenting, Kelso. I don't think the 1979 BCP and Rod McKuen's "poetry" have anything in common, but this "Affirmation of Faith" sure does! Except that McKuen might be preferable ...

Bryan Owen said...

Yet again, Joe, you've made me laugh out loud!

C. Wingate said...

And of course it participates in that modernists Father-free non-Trinitarianism.

Apis Melliflora said...

Bryan, I always enjoy your insights. I agree with your close reading of this shooting-the-breeze creed.

Strangely it tries to be inoffensive, but deeply offends Christians by denying their core beliefs.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks, Apis Melliflora, for the comments. I think you're dead on about the irony of this "Affirmation of Faith." In it's attempt to not offend anybody, it ends up offending the very people who purportedly might want to use this statement of faith in worship: Christians. Or at least it offends those Christians who aren't persuaded that core beliefs can be sacrificed on the altar of politically correct expediency.