Posted by: smstrouse | May 14, 2015

Creeds: The Frayed Furniture of the Church?

Presiding bishop Elizabeth Eaton had an article in The Lutheran magazine this month. It started out kind of interesting, talking about how to make church the same kind of  “third place” as our local coffeehouse (“first place” being home and “second place” work).

dscn4276She had a good insight that what we offer at church can be like a lived-in room, that’s become so familiar that we don’t notice the frayed furniture. Good metaphor, I thought.

But then she lost me. “And please, please do not rewrite the creeds. It took the church a couple of centuries to come up with the Nicene Creed. Why do we think we can do better knocking it out on our laptop?”

Ironic, I’d say, given that she’d just invited us to look at our “frayed furniture.” Actually I think that’s a very apt metaphor for the creeds. I am not a proponent of simply tossing them away. I consider them important historical documents, which give us knowledge of what the church of that time was thinking and how they were making sense of the Jesus story. They had a philosophic, theological and scientific worldview which was relevant for their time.

But not for today.

I’ve heard a lot of rationales for keeping the creeds in the liturgy, some from my greatest progressive heroes. But I’m just not buying it. Not only do the ancient creeds use outdated biblical knowledge (e.g. the virgin Mary) and old concepts like ‘substance’ and ‘begotten,’ they completely ignore the life, teachings and example of Jesus of Nazareth.


So what many have done is to ditch the Christ of faith and go solely with the Jesus of history. They say “I’m a follower of Jesus.” And that’s OK; I say that, too. But to jettison the Christ of faith because all we know is what we read in the creeds is to miss the experience of the reality of the Christ, which is bigger than the man Jesus, bigger even than Christianity. It’s to miss the Christ of the mystics, the Cosmic Christ of Teilhard de Chardin, the inclusivity of Christ-Sophia.

And I need both. In response to the question, “Which is more important, the historical Jesus or the Cosmic Christ?” theological John Cobb responded: “. . . the primacy of the Logos is not in competition with the importance of Jesus. When we identify the Logos with the Cosmic Christ we are recognizing how intimately the importance of these two very different kinds of realities is bound together. This unity is at the heart of the Christian faith.”

I think this is a better way for us to even hope to become a “third place” for spiritual seekers today. So no, I’m not going to use the creeds in worship. But I’m also not going to try to knock out something better on my laptop. We’ll be about following Jesus and abiding in Christ, not about ‘believing in’ a collection of frayed furniture that needs to be moved out of the living room.

images                                                 “The Cosmic Christ” by Sister Rebecca Shinas

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