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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creeds: The Beginning

Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

Nicene Creed: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

It seems that all theology begins with… well… the beginning.  We believe in God.  We believe in one God.  We believe in one, particular God who is Father, and who is Almighty, and who is Creator.

Being “Father” designates God as parent.  Surely as we dig deeper into the first few verses of Scripture, we also begin to notice that both male and female were created Imago Dei, so God as Father might also be God as Mother…  Both paternal and maternal instincts and attributes abound in the character of God, and both are important. 

Being “Almighty” indicates a structure of complete omnipotence… unbridled power… and less than a dozen words into the orthodox, foundational essentials of Christian faith; I cringed.  Do we have to believe in the omni-god to be fully Christian?  As a vocational theologian, I am afraid to say no, but I am also afraid to say yes.  This was supposed to be “an easy one.”  I have no doubt that God is very powerful.  I have no doubt that God is most powerful.  I have no doubt that God is capable of doing even things that are impossible.  But I do have doubts about whether or not God can do anything.  I think I am safe in saying so, because Scripture precedes the Creeds (much as I do love them), and Scripture is certainly clear that there are things God cannot do (sin, be tempted by evil, tempt anyone), but I guess we have to ask ourselves whether it is powerful, at all, to do these things.  I’m fairly certain, for example, that no one who professes to be a Christian wants to argue that God has the power to sin.  This argument doesn’t fit the ethos of Christianity.  Admittedly, it gets trickier when we see terrible things happening in the world and wonder why God does not prevent them.  Theodicy can be unbearably difficult to navigate.  I do not, however, want to get so stuck here, today, that we can’t move on.  It is a conversation for another time… or many times… perhaps forever…

Being “Creator” is, rather interestingly, the lynchpin of many current lines of theological thought.  Of course, to proclaim, “God created,” is a universal deal breaker for Christianity, but to attempt to decipher exactly how… and when… and with what tools… leaves much room for interpretation.  Like so many other issues in theology, I wonder if we could agree to a big tent here, allowing for multiple understandings of the creation story so long as we agree that God creates. 

One of the beautiful things about the creeds is that they seem to hammer out essentials while leaving a great deal of room for non-essentials.  How very Wesleyan…


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