The Apostles' Creed

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What is the Apostles’ Creed? What is its historical context? Why does it matter to the Church? Dr. Charles Gutenson shares with us today.

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Check out Dr. Timothy Tennent’s resources on catechism and the creeds.

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Dr. Charles (Chuck) Gutenson is a church consultant and former Chief Operating Officer of Sojourners. He previously served 10 years at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, most recently as the professor of Theology and Philosophy. He received an M.Div. from Asbury in 1995 and a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Southern Methodist University. Chuck is the author of numerous books and articles on a variety of theological and philosophical topics.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “He descended into hell (Hades, the place of the dead)” ought not to have been skipped over in this exposition of the Creed. It’s a point crucially important in the Church’s understanding of Christ’s Lordship over all things, especially humanity’s greatest enemy: death.

    In view of the resurgence of Gnosticism today, the history behind this creed is of extreme relevance. Some scholars believe it was designed to keep Gnostics out of the church. During the days when an outdoor, three-fold, nude baptism was officially prescribed by the early church (see Chapter 21 of The Apostolic Tradition by Hippolytus of Rome [c. 215 AD] at http://www.pastordavidrn.com/files/HippolytusNudeBaptism.pdf or the complete work at http://www.bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html), portions from its three Trinitarian divisions were required as a spoken baptismal confession by all catechumens. No Gnostic believer could honestly pronounce The Apostle’s Creed, because it clearly contradicted their beliefs about the body and the material world.

    Gnosticism taught that God created the world of spirits, but that an evil demigod had created the material world, attaching human spirits to it in corrupted bodies of flesh. Salvation was defined as detachment of the spiritual from the physical via progressive steps of learning revelations of secret “knowledge” (gnosis) from a variety of “mystery cult” teachers. Because Gnostics were infiltrating churches, the nature of these baptismal affirmations put a stop to it. They could not say, that God the Father was “Maker of heaven and earth” nor that Jesus was physically a real human “born of the Virgin Mary” nor that there would be a “resurrection of the body.” To them, fleshly embodiment was a curse to escape, not a blessing to affirm.

    Christians desperately need the orthodoxy this Creed provides. Unfortunately, church tradition often took a rather “Gnostic” stance toward the body and the material world. The Creed kept the Gnostics out, but poor theological thinking allowed some of Gnosticism’s attitudes about flesh and matter to persist. Gnostic-friendly elements in our popular preaching, our worship songs, our evangelistic message, and our hope for the afterlife, need reformation. Paying closer attention to what we are affirming in the Creed will expose any double standards or double-mindedness that requires correction.

    Every Christian on earth should know this Creed by heart. IT BEARS REPEATING! Shame on all Wesleyans pastors who are not making it a part of the spiritual heritage embedded in the memory of the next generation of believers!

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