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What's in a creed?

"Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16.16

So says Jesus. This means that making up our minds about the salvation he offers is a matter of urgency. Putting off our response and sitting on the fence is risky because no one knows when they will be called to account: on their death or at the Lord's return? No one knows which will come first, nor when either will happen.

But what about those who make a commitment and are then plagued with doubts? Or those who claim allegiance to Christ but whose lives do not match up with their profession of faith? Of course, we all fall short and none of us walks with total integrity. But what guides us back on track?

From time to time during its history, various branches of the Church have produced statements of faith we call "creeds" to guide those aspiring to be faithful. Originally these were produced in response to heresy, in order to re-affirm orthodox belief. Examples include the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, which insist on the full humanity and divinity of Jesus and the co-equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, respectively. The Barmen Declaration bravely asserted the convictions of confessing Christians against pressure to conform to Nazi-ism in the early 20th century, followed by a similar refuting of apartheid in South Africa.

More recently, and perhaps more positively, creeds have been used to express what groups of believers want to express publicly about their faith: a sort of rallying cry or raising of a standard around which others might gather. I missed the presentation of the Church of Scotland's own Panel on Doctrine at the General Assembly last night. The panel has been asked to review the place of the Westminster Confession of Faith in the context of other creeds of the Church. I wonder what will come of it?

If you were to write your own creed, what tack would you take: refuting what you consider to be heresy, or asserting the convictions you hold dear? Would you define your beliefs against their historical context, or would you aim for something more enduring?



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