Over the last few months I have received a few comments related to the importance of the Apostles’ Creed as the foundation for our Biblical Christian worldview. Some readers went so far as to say that they do not “stray too far” from the Apostle’s Creed in establishing their systematic theology. Below, I would like to weigh in on that approach to our faith.
What Is the Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
A Brief History of the Apostles’ Creed
The implication is that the Apostles’ Creed was written by the Apostles. However, it was actually written more than 150 years after their death. The first mention of the words Apostles’ Creed was in AD 390 when it was incorrectly assumed that each of the Apostles contributed a section of its initial content. It was not until the 5th-century that it was finalized in its present form.
Is the Apostles’ Creed Theologically Correct
In my view, the Apostles’ Creed is theologically sound. However, it is not without its controversies. First, there is a reference to the “holy catholic church”. In this case, the word “catholic’ means “universal” and not Roman Catholic. Second, the Creed states that Jesus “descended into Hell” between the time of His death and resurrection. Some believe that, beyond the torture Jesus endured prior to His death on the cross, Christ continued to be punished for our sins by spending time in Hell. Others believe that Jesus went to Hell in order to communicate with the lost souls there. However, most likely Jesus went from His death on the cross to Hades or Sheol which is a temporary place that holds both blessings and judgment (Luke 16:19-31). Hell is the “Lake of Fire” or the final place for those who do not enter Heaven.
I see both of these points as more of an interpretive challenge, rather than theological misstep.
What is the Weakness of the Apostles’ Creed
To summarize, I agree with everything in the Apostles’ Creed. However, it was written as a completion of what MAN saw as the primary tenants of our Biblical Christian faith. This creates two issues when limiting our theology in this way.
First, God did not write the Apostles’ Creed, as He did the original autographs of the Bible (written by God and penned by man). Once we start placing something equal to or above the Bible, we risk diluting the primary source of our knowledge of who God is and what He expects of us. Further, the words “holy catholic church” within the Apostles’ Creed would confuse many Protestants and perhaps Catholics, weak in their theology, into considering it applies only to the Roman Catholic faithful.
Second, the Apostle’s Creed represents only a tiny portion of what is contained in God’s Word. To focus too much on those 110 words is to miss much of the theology and practices of the Bible’s 750k+ words. With controversies surrounding topics like complementarianism, abortion, and sexual preferences, to name a few, a narrowed systematic theology based on a short creed is tempting, yet not what God intends.
Focus on the Bible as Your Source of Truth
God calls us to read His love letter to mankind. Commentaries, YouTube videos, Christian books and social media posts (like this one) are no substitute for the inerrant source, the Bible.
2 Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
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