Dear Father Peter,
Thank you very much for offering this study as you have. I have never studied the Creed in any way shape or form before. I don't even have the Creed memorized. I appreciate very much how you have initiated this and are allowing for participation here. With your permission, I will leave all books on the shelf and do no research on this as we progress and only contribute in an open and transparent way (possibly at times being brutally honest). From your pastor's heart, I am grateful for the pointing out that based on our own personal experiences and backgrounds (viz. the circumstances and events that have shaped us), we really do all have our own starting points as well as leanings. And, in addition we do all have a place where we abide whether we feel our feet are well grounded or whether we feel we are kind of up in the air more than not.
So with that said, what strikes me first and most in this first proposition is the pronoun:
In this first word of the first sentence, my mind goes as it usually does to the question of what is the antecedent for this pronoun? In this sense, I am 'struck first and foremost' by the matter of ecclesiology as well as the matter of union/communion, koinonia of the Spirit. I am also struck initially by both the particularity and the universality of the "We."
This "We" is 'a part of my Christian life and experience' in just about the same way as when I prune or transplant a certain cactus that I have. It seems like no matter what I do, I always end up with one of its needles (that are so small that you cannot see them) stuck in the same spot in the same finger each time I prune it or move it. The needle always seems to go in the tip of my right index finger and below the surface. So I cannot see it to pull it out. I can dig around with a needle or very sharp tweezers, but it is a blind grouping that usually causes more damage and results in the needle remaining intact. So it usually has to work its way out on its own over the course of time. It is not an issue until I touch something just right at which time I am reminded that there is a problem by way of some significant pain.
So this "We" is a part of my Christian life and experience as a source of grief more than not each time it becomes an issue. Somewhat ironically, what is meant to both unite and distinguish has the opposite of the intended effect. From this first word in the Creed, I seem to ask myself, what is the reality of the "We?" Or, possibly on a more concrete plane, what is the reality of the local visible church?
And, as you have said Fr. Peter, this first proposition can be viewed positively or negatively. Honestly, I see this as being presented primarily as a negative proposition (we believe in one God) . . . drawing a line or throwing down the gauntlet more than not, or as Marc has said in his excellent post:
marc hanna Wrote:. . . thereby eliminating, first, all those who say otherwise.
But, as we consider this first proposition we do know that there are non-Christian, polytheistic groups of the time that the Creed was written as well as in our own day, who would have no problem with anything said in this first sentence.
But, again, I agree with Marc that the intent of this first clause is to 'eliminate all those who say otherwise.' And, I think this is presented negatively.
And, I'm a little worried that I'm starting to sound a little negative here, but as it relates to a closing of the ranks in order to provide a good defense against attack. I am struck with the thought reading this opening statement of the Creed, that it seems like much of Orthodoxy is a reaction to something, a defense against the heresy of the day, the flavor of the day, more so than it is a positive laying of precept-on-precept.
We have had discussions about the development of doctrine before, but really what faith group does not develop doctrine over time? The only question is what was the causality for the development of a doctrine or a statement of belief? It seems to me that even in the initial wording of the Creed we see somewhat of a defensiveness right out of the gate.
I wonder if it is fair to say that while the intent is to unite and draw distinction at the same time, this is all being done in the context of division?
So, in conclusion I have shared where my mind goes, what I am struck with initially as well as how it is part of my Christian life and experience; but, when this is not at the forefront of my attention, or when I consciously choose to transcend the whole matter . . . then I am struck, just as Marc has written, with the opportunity to contemplate the remainder of this first proposition which speaks of the "all and all." Possibly, in the end, we see here that what is meant to unite and inspire can at times just take the mick out of one, lest one decides to transcend the matter (or do the ostrich thing, like the denial involved with the cactus needle in my finger). But, as you say we do all read and see things differently Father Peter. So from my perspective I am struck primarily by a seeming choice between 'a theology of love' or 'a theology of rose colored glasses' as it relates to the "We" who wrote this Creed and the "We" who recite it each Sunday in our local visible churches.