How refreshing it is to hear the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion strongly affirm "we need the creeds and we need to have a place to stand" and, with reference to the Nicene Creed, state that "we can say, yes, this is how God has shown Himself and not be embarrassed about that." And how heartening it is to hear him clearly and unequivocally state "when I say that the Savior is of one substance with the Father, I mean exactly what I say, and I believe it to be true and I believe my life depends on it." Amen!
Listen to the Archbishop's response and read a transcript of his answer below.
"Can finite human beings say true things about an infinite God?"
It’s a really interesting question. And I find it fascinating that in the early church in exactly the same era when people are beginning to shape creeds and formulae, they’re also beginning to say quite extravagant things about how little we know about God. So it’s not entirely a new tension. But I would say it’s a tension not a contradiction. When I say the Creed, when I say the Nicene Creed – and I say “of one one substance with the Father,” “the Holy Ghost who proceeds from the Father” or “from the Father and Son” and so on – I believe I’m speaking the truth. I believe I’m telling the truth about God, that what God has shown us of Himself is best, is truthfully, expressed in those words.
And at the same time I know that whatever has been said is not adequate, it’s not the whole story. So I think in very simple terms true as far as it goes is what I’d have to say. Which doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to be shown to be untrue, you need to revise it or say, “Well, I’m not so sure about that.” On the contrary, when I say that the Savior is of one substance with the Father, I mean exactly what I say, and I believe it to be true and I believe my life depends on it. And if you press me and say “So what exactly does that mean?”, I say, well, God knows exactly what it means. But, to use a formula I’ve sometimes found helpful here, that’s the least silly thing I can think of saying about this, it’s the least inadequate way of talking about it. It will take me a huge step forward in understanding the truth and it will project me further on that journey into the fullness of the truth.
So I think we need the creeds and we need to have a place to stand. And we can say, yes, this is how God has shown Himself and not be embarrassed about that. But the worst thing is when we think that the creeds or any other formulation just lot got up and say, done that, we’ve understood that, and now we move on.
It’s a bit like saying well, you see the footprint of a large animal in the forest. It’s a real mark, it’s made a real difference, you can tell a great deal of truth from that, there it is when you’ve said that you’ve said something true and accurate. But you haven’t seen the whole animal. We at least have an advantage there, we have seen the face of God in Jesus Christ.
All our Christian language is an attempt to say something quite new, quite unexpected, gratuitous has happened. We couldn’t have predicted it, it didn’t come from us. And we’re feeling our way around that great mystery that’s been put down in the middle of us.
~ Rowan Williams