Becoming Orthodox – The Apostle’s Creed

The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest and most popular creed of the church, and has greatly influenced the other creeds and confessions written throughout church history. The Apostles’ Creed is not a direct production of the apostles themselves, but is meant to be understood as a summary of apostolic teaching.

The Apostles’ Creed we have today is not the Creed in its original form. The shorter and older form was known as the Old Roman Creed. It was constructed in Greek around 140 AD and in Latin around 390 AD. The present form of the Apostles’ Creed, which is both longer and more recent, was probably not compiled until the middle of the 5th century, but the message of the two Creeds is basically the same. Initially, the Old Roman Creed was a baptismal confession made by converts at their baptism. In that regard, the Creed served an important need in the early church.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. 

Becoming Orthodox – The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed is the most widely accepted statement of faith among Christian churches. It is used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and most Protestant churches. The Nicene Creed was established to identify conformity of beliefs among Christians, as a means of recognizing heresy or deviations from orthodox biblical doctrines, and as a public profession of faith.
The original Nicene Creed was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

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

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,

By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered, died and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father (and the Son)
Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
Who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Becoming Orthodox?

What does it mean to be orthodox?
I must confess that when I think of becoming orthodox I think of the Russian Orthodox Churches I visited while in Russia. I also think about sitting in Church History classes and discussing the first church split in 1054 — enough of that history stuff.

The thing is that orthodoxy isn’t a bad thing. Orthodoxy is simply a standard. Something that everyone agrees to in principle. What could be wrong with that?

Apparently the problem is we don’t agree or at least we think we don’t …

We exist in a culture that wants to believe everything is up for debate and can be changed if you want. BUT, there are some truths that won’t be changed. From the beginning of the church there have been disagreements and controversies. Paul spent most of his letters writing to dispel false teachings and settle arguments. Ecumenical Councils met in the early church to write some Creeds that will put down in writing the truth (or orthodoxy) of what we believe. Not everyone always agreed with what was determined as Truth and as a result people leave.

Jesus had people leave Him. Paul had people leave. Peter had people leave. The history of the church is a history of drawing a line in the sand and forcing people to choose. When did tolerance of all things become the story of the Gospel? When did tolerance replace standards? When did God’s love trump God’s holiness?

Jesus said, Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53

The church today needs to rediscover it’s orthodoxy. And as we rediscover it, may we hold onto our Orthodoxy as a standard of faith using it to draw lines rather than as a club to harm and destroy.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting some of the Orthodox Creeds of the church.

Take time to consider what is it that you believe?

Does it match up with the standards of the faith that have been handed down to us?

And in those moments of disagreement amongst Christians can we heed these words of wisdom: In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; and in all things charity.

May your orthodoxy bring you closer to God.

Still unpacking Sunday – Tacit Knowledge

Michael Polanyi

Budapest, Hungary

March 11, 1891 – February 22, 1976

Originator of the theory of knowledge.

Polanyi also developed the concept of tacit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge (as opposed to formal or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it. It is based on the assertion that “we can know more than we can tell.” According to Polyani, not only is there knowledge that cannot be adequately articulated by verbal means, but that all knowledge is rooted in tacit knowledge in the strong sense of that term.

With tacit knowledge, people are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction and trust.

Thanks for sharing, but what is the point?

What does this matter in relationships to creeds and orthodox statements of faith?

The point is that much of our orthodoxy or beliefs are tacit knowledge.

It is at our core. It is what we believe.
It is how we live our faith, but are not always able to articulate.
So how do we convey what we believe to others?

Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction and trust.

That would just be a fancy way of saying: how you live your faith matters!

And now you know …

Buzz Words: Orthodox

By simple definition orthodox means: following traditional doctrine: following the established or traditional rules of a political or religious belief
Synonyms include: conventional, accepted, traditional, conformist, approved, established, mainstream, standard

Now for most people orthodoxy means right thinking or right opinions, or in other words, “What we think” as opposed to “what they think.”

And that is one of our problems: Orthodoxy seems to have become a stick we use to beat people with rather than a standard by which we measure one another.

I believe that orthodoxy, creeds, and doctrine are foundational to who are as God’s children.

So how should orthodoxy come in to practice in our lives of faith and in our churches?
So, as Christians, where do orthodox beliefs come from?
What is the “right” thing to believe? Which church has it right?
Although the term orthodox or orthodoxy does not occur in the Scriptures, its meaning is repeatedly insisted on throughout scripture.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 NASB.

This statement by Paul is considered by most Biblical scholars to be an early creed of the Christian church. As Methodists, we are not a creedal church. But remember that a creed is simply a statement of belief. A creed is simply a means to write down an orthodox set of beliefs. The difficulty we have with creeds is that too often creeds have been used to cram “right thinking” down our throats in a “it’s my way of thinking or no way” method of indoctrination. Creedal Orthodoxy has been viewed then by many as a way to have you “check your brain at the door” and we will tell you what you believe.

Paul’s statement of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ seems simple enough to us and yet it was not so simple an idea when Paul was writing it to the church in Corinth.

There was a controversy brewing in Corinth about the reality of a bodily resurrection. Paul was setting a standard so that the false teachings about resurrection and Christ might be recognized as false or unorthodox.

Orthodoxy and the creeds were developed so that we might recognize that which was false. We need an orthodoxy so that we might not be deceived into a following a false gospel. The standard doctrine of the church is discovered in most of Paul’s writings in the New Testament and most of Paul’s writings are addressing false doctrines that were circulating in the day.

Paul, the other Apostles and the early church leaders all wrote, studied, and refuted that which was unorthodox, false, or heresy. And by the year 400, there had developed what we would call “classic Christian orthodoxy.” This Orthodoxy represented mainstream Christianity in the world until to the Protestant Reformation. Orthodoxy not only defined its beliefs in terms of standard creeds, such as the “Apostles’ Creed” and the “Nicene Creed,” but it judged the conduct of its adherents in terms of certain prescribed rules and practices for worship and for private life.

Our classical Christian orthodoxy is being challenged by a movement within Christianity. This movement is coming from within our church walls. This movement pushes back against the idea of orthodoxy. This idea pushes back against the idea that there is any absolute truth.

How then do we live as orthodox Christians amidst all of this?

First a word of caution, when we choose to live like Christ we are not living orthodox. Truth is we would be living most unorthodox as compared to the world if we chose to live like Christ. I think that is part of the point that Christ makes in all of His teaching. When we live our faith we are not doing so in order to be doctrinally sound, if that were so we would seek to become the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. We become orthodox Christians when our beliefs are so a part of who we are that we act on them without having to think about them.

Orthodoxy is then all of the core beliefs and practices that allow us to live as God intended us to live – joyous and free! We need orthodoxy to guide our beliefs as a church, as a people, as individuals. But I propose to you today that our orthodoxy needs to be generous. We need an orthodoxy that upholds the early church creeds, but doesn’t use them to beat people into submission or elevates our orthodoxy by demonizing another. We need new creeds for our day that help us understand our faith. We need a generous orthodoxy guided by:

Humility that allows us to admit our past and current thoughts may have been limited or distorted;  Charity towards those of other traditions who may understand some things better than us; Courage to be faithful to the path we have been given; Diligence to seek again the path of faith especially in the areas we seem to have lost our way

(Brian D. McLaren, a Generous Or+thodoxy, Zondervan, 2004. P 37-38).

As we seek out our orthodoxy we need to remember the often quoted line by John Wesley, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

The United Methodist Church is not a creedal church and yet the United Methodist Hymnal contains nine creeds or affirmations. This include the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creed as well as affirmations of faith taken from Paul’s letters (Corinthians, Colossians, Romans and Timothy) and affirmations from the United Church of Canada and the Korean Methodist Church. As a United Methodist, you are not required to believe every word of the affirmations in order to become a member of the United Methodist Church. To that extent we are generous in a “y’all come” kind of way. But, we must hold on to these affirmations and creeds as they help us come to our own understanding of the Christian faith. They affirm our unity in Christ with those followers who first wrote them, the many generations who have recited them before us and those who will recite them after we have gone. Therefore while we do not use them to divide, we must remember to use them to unite.

Let us unite our voices in declaring our faith – our orthodoxy – remembering: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

A Modern Affirmation of Faith, United Methodist Hymnal #885 :

We Believe In God, the Father, infinite in wisdom, power and love,
whose mercy is over all his works,
and whose will is ever directed to his children’s good.

We Believe In Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man,
the gift of the Father’s unfailing grace,
the ground of our hope,
and the promise of our deliverance from sin and death.

We Believe In the Holy Spirit as the divine presence in our lives,
whereby we are kept in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ,
and find strength and help in time of need.

We Believe that this faith should manifest itself in the service of love,
as set forth in the example of our blessed Lord,
that the kingdom of God may come upon the earth.


On the way to Sunday . . . Keeping the Faith

Get your clothes clean by using Barf for that smells fresh every time kinda smell!

I think I’ll pass.

When the Iranian company Paxam began marketing the laundry detergent they translated the word Snow into Farsi and got Barf. Imagine this Barf is one of the tops selling detergents in the Middle East. You can actually wash your hair in Barf for that fresh as daisy smell.

It’s not uncommon to lose meaning when translating words into a different culture. Thanks to Stacey at The Translation Blog for these other great blunders in word translations and meanings:

A Different Kind of Milk

Years ago, the American Dairy Association ran a famous advertising campaign that included the slogan, ‘Got Milk’. When they attempted to expand this campaign into Mexico, the resulting translation became, ‘Are You Lactating?’ Now I don’t know about you, but I have to wonder if the Mexican’s who saw that ad were scratching their heads in disbelief at the American company who wanted them to line up and donate milk.

Lose A Finger

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s slogan of ‘finger lickin good’ is well known all over the world. However, in China apparently the majority of their patrons took it to mean that KFC was suggesting that they wanted to ‘eat their fingers off.’

Be Careful Of The Drinking Water

The Coors beer slogan ‘turn it loose’ was an instant hit in America. But in Spanish speaking countries, it inadvertently became ‘get loose bowels’. I wonder how many Hispanics recognized the irony that American’s are told not to drink the water in many Hispanic nations for just the same reason.

Unfortunately in the church we too often use words that just don’t translate to the same meaning when we use them in our cultural context.

Words like Faith, God, Grace, Mercy, Sin, Salvation just don’t have the same meaning in culture that they do within the walls of the church.

Do you know what the words mean that you use everyday as you talk about your faith?

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. I Peter 3:15 NIV

Are you prepared to give an answer?

The world is searching for answers and meaning.

Break open your words, let the light shine out, 
let ordinary people see the meaning. 
Psalm 119:130 The Message

If we continue to remain silent, who knows what meaning will be ascribed to the words you use.

See you Sunday …

Liberal or Conservative?

Buzz Word.jpg

Buzz Words.  Everyone is using them, but what do they mean and what should they mean to followers of Christ.

The words, liberal and conservative, have become charged with far more meaning than that which is contained in the dictionary.

Liberal  1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.  2. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.  3. favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.  Synonyms: progressive, broad-minded, unprejudiced, charitable

So if you like having the freedom to choose … you are liberal

Conservative  1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.  2. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness.  Synonyms: conventional, orthodox, traditional, unchangeable

So when you say things like … I like the way things you used to be … you are conservative.

These words carry political meaning by those that use them and they carry theological meaning as well within the ranks of Christianity and religion as a whole.  These words – liberal and conservative – they no longer describe people – they divide them.

And in the division, we are somehow forced to pick a side.

Maybe you can relate … you feel forced to choose one or the other.

Perhaps you have been labeled one way or the other.

Or perhaps like me you are trapped in an either/or world and want a third alternative.

You see, I don’t “fit” in the conservative church:

  • I believe there is merit in science.
  • I have voted for democrats.
  • I have doubts.
  • I enjoy dialog about the meaning of scripture
  • I want to become a better advocate for social justice.
  • I believe in gender equality
  • I want my gay and lesbian friends to feel welcome and accepted in church.
  • I’m convinced the Gospel is about more than “getting saved” from hell. 

But I don’t “fit” in the liberal church either.

  • I believe the Bible is more than a good book.
  • I have voted for republicans.
  • I believe that there are absolute truths.
  • I think doctrine and theology are important enough to teach and debate.
  • I think it’s vital that we talk about, and address, sin.
  • I believe in the sacrificial death and physical resurrection of Jesus.
  • I want to participate in interfaith dialog while still maintaining a strong        Christian identity.
  • I’m convinced that the Gospel is about more than being a good person. 

Admittedly, I know that these statements are all generalizations, but it is these types of  generalizations that divide us.

I want you to know that there are things I really love about the conservative evangelical movement and that there are things I really love about liberal Protestantism, but because these two groups tend to forge their identities in reaction to the generalizations about one another I feel caught in between. 

And I believe the reason many people struggle with the idea of church in today’s world is because the churches of today have made people feel like they have to choose between two over-generalized sides: liberal or conservative. 

As a result, Sunday morning becomes more about picking a side – both political and theological …. and far less about worshiping God and having faith in a risen Savior – Jesus.

As a result church-goers are left sitting in a sanctuary waiting to hear from a pastor who at some point in the service, either subtly or overtly, will feel compelled to talk about the “other side” as the enemy.

So what do we do?

What if, instead of conforming to the mold the world is giving us, we refused to accept it?  What if we stopped using “us vs. them” language and began to realize that the characteristics we typically associate with “them” exist in some of “us.”

Surely we can allow our differences to exist without questioning one another’s commitment to the faith.

Conservative, liberal, or in-between, we should continue to debate the doctrines and practices closest to our hearts because unity is not the same as uniformity and following a loving God does not mean we must always agree.  But when we disagree – and we will – we should do it assuming the best about one another and honoring our shared commitment to Christ.

We don’t have to be on the same page on every issue in order to love one another and work together for peace and justice.

The early church survived and thrived amidst disagreement and persecution. The early church included both Jews and Gentiles, zealots and tax collectors, slaves and slave owners, men and women, those in support of circumcision and those against it.

I believe Christianity today can survive and thrive when it includes democrats and republicans, biblical literalists and biblical non-literalists, liberals and conservatives.

Perhaps if we were better able to adapt Wesley’s concept of Holy Conferencing we would discover more that brings us together than that which divides.

Perhaps discovering an alternative to liberal/conservative is a good idea.

Maybe learning to be “in-betweeners” can put those who find themselves torn between the words conservative and liberal can instead find a place to become peacemakers and bridge-builders.

Maybe discovering an alternative can enable each of us to break down the walls that divide us and provide living examples that you don’t have to choose one side or the other.

We need to be more than just liberal or conservative.

We need to be more than liberal and conservative.

We need to discover what it means to have the mind of Christ – liberal and conservative and all of us caught in between.  We need to become more like Christ. 

You remember Jesus right? The Jesus …

Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor and dwelt among us.

Who was content to be subject to His parents, the child of a poor couple’s home.

Who lived for thirty years the common life, earning His living with His own hands and declining no humble tasks.

Whom the people heard gladly, for He understood their ways.

May this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.

Let us remember Jesus:

Who was mighty in deed, healing the sick and the disordered,

using for others the powers He would not invoke for Himself.

Who refused to force people’s allegiance.

Who was Master and Lord to His disciples, yet was among them as their companion and as one who served.

Whose desire was to do the will of God who sent Him.

May this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.

Let us remember Jesus:

Who loved people, yet retired from them to pray, rose a great while before day, watched through the night, Stayed in the wilderness, went up a mountain, sought a garden.

Who, when He would help a tempted a disciple, prayed for him.

Who prayed for the forgiveness of those who rejected Him, and for the perfecting of those who received Him.

Who observed the traditions, but defied convention that did not serve the purposes of God.

Who hated the sins of pride and selfishness, of cruelty and impurity.

May this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.

Let us remember Jesus:

Who believed in people and never despaired of them.

Who through all disappointment never lost heart.

Who disregarded His own comfort and convenience, and thought first of other’s needs,

And though He suffered long, was always kind.

Who when He was reviled, uttered no harsh word in return,

And when He suffered, dis not threaten retaliation.

Who humbled Himself and carried obedience to the point of death, even death on the cross, Wherefore God has highly exalted Him.

May this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.

Let us unite in prayer that Christ may dwell in our hearts.

 O Christ, our only Savior, so come to dwell in us that we may go forth with the light of your hope in our eyes, And with Your faith and love in our hearts. Amen

– Book of Worship “For the Mind of Christ” Prayer #514


May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.                   Romans 15:5-7 NIV