I've just had the chance today to open Michael Bird's new book What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostle's Creed. I'm considering adopting it for a course in history of Christianity and also using it for a church small group this fall. As an evangelical Baptist influenced by Anglicanism and also the church fathers, I resonated with much of the rationale for the book and some of the claims in the first chapter: that Scripture contains many creedal statements (e.g. Deut 6:4-5; Phil 2:5-11) ; that the Apostle's Creed summarizes what Christians ought to believe while defending against unhealthy, heretical teaching (e.g. Docetism); and that all Christians, whether they realize it or not, read Scripture within some framework of tradition. To this last point, Bird wonderfully articulates the relationship of tradition and Scripture:
Inasmuch as we all have a "tradition," the creeds arguably provide the best tradition within which to read Scripture. This is because the creeds should be regarded as a biblically generated tradition that meets with the consensus of the universal church about what the main teachings of the Christian faith are. The creeds constitute an attempt to guide our reading of Scripture by setting out in advance the contents and concerns of Scripture itself. The creeds provide a kind of "Idiot's Guide to Christianity" by briefly laying out the story, unity, coherence, and major themes of the Christian faith. In that sense, a creedal faith is crucial for biblical faith and vice versa!
In an age of confusion about spiritual truth--within society as well as within the church--an idiot's guide to the faith is a welcomed thing. Why not take a few minutes and reflect on the words and meaning of the Apostle's Creed?
I BELIEVE in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.