Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nicene Creed: beneficial or counter productive?

           The Nicene Creed as the declarative summation of what Christians believe is helpful but only in that definition. When one starts deciding to define a religion, it necessarily means excluding things that do not fit within that definition. The Creed was successful in affirming Christianity in many different theological topics, such as Christianity as a Trinitarian religion, by claiming that Jesus Christ was the “true God of true God” and then claiming to believe in the Holy Spirit. While this was good in giving the early church something to hold on to while culture pulled at them in different religious directions, it effectively shut out anyone that might have a different idea of what God is like such as those conceding to Arian beliefs. Arianism claims that Christ was a subordinate god to the true God who is uncreated and thus was created as the superior God’s tool to create. Furthermore, it holds that the Holy Spirit is another, even more subordinate god to Christ and the Father-God. This tier of god’s is definitely outside of the Nicene Creed; therefore, those who believed this easy-to-swallow version of what God(s) is/are like were in effect excommunicated from the greater Christian body. It is my opinion that this was useful in the sense of saying “we are our own religion with an exacting God-story that we believe is applicable to our lives and includes us”; this is what all religions essentially claim, so to the effect of better establishing Christianity, the Nicene Creed was beneficial. On the other hand, the exclusiveness of such a document is actually working against what Christ was doing and, indeed, commissioned all his followers to do; that is, love all and spread his message of divine love to the world. Jesus never said “make sure you’re more right than everyone else”, he simply lived into what he believed and taught those that were willing to learn what he is really like. Not that it is a bad thing to hold beliefs as a community; instead, I think it more important that we functionally live out the great commission of Christ and spread his love regardless of the detailed diversity of opinions of the nature of God which we can never fully know anyway.
            For Christians today, this means gracefully accepting that not everyone will have the same opinions and beliefs as us. But beyond that understanding, Christians must be ok with this a priori truth to the extent that they can still love and accept those with differing beliefs. I am reminded of an Aristotle quote: “it is the mark of a learned mind to entertain a thought without accepting it”. I would like to believe that most of humanity has evolved enough in thought processes to be able to consider other people’s beliefs without letting them affect our own until we have decided that it is a sound belief to hold. Honestly, I don’t think that any version of Christianity is 100% correct because we are all prone to fault. I do believe, however that being graceful in dealing with disagreement will be more progress forward in expanding the Kingdom of God than trying our best to make sure that we are more right than everyone else. At a very basic level, we’re all going to place all our chips on one theory or another, so I think it is our responsibility to make the best bet we can and inform those who will listen why we think it’s the best bet, but ultimately, let others cast their own lot.
 please feel free to comment.
The Dread