Sunday, December 27, 2009


So, I have this feeling that at this point anybody reading is thinking, my God, enough with the creed already. I get it, it's interesting (although it still doesn't really seem that way when I say it). If that's your take, bear with me just one more day. I have just one more little nugget to share, and I promise to be short(ish).

You know when you go on Wikipedia (or any website for that matter) and you see that every sentence has parts that are actually links to other things? Totally random example, which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my vision of heaven involves flying an X-Wing fighter, this page.

Well, the Creed is actually just like those hyperlink pages. Every single phrase of the Creed, every single one, has a whole hyperlink-style history behind it. That is to say, every phrase is actually a conclusion to a debate that had taken place sometime during the first 340 years of the church about what exactly it is we believe.

Three examples: 1) Some people believed that the God who created earth was totally different from (and, based on things like death and mean people, far lamer than) the God who saved us. The first God, they said, was Yahweh, the guy we meet in the Old Testament; he throws temper tantrums and creates people who park in handicapped spots.

Also, scary-looking mimes.

And the other God is the Heavenly Father that Jesus talks about. Him, we like.

The results of that debate are all over that first line: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. "CAN YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM SAYING TO YOU?"

2) Some people said, if Jesus is God's son, then he can't be coeternal with God -- that is to say, he can't have existed as long as God the Father, but rather is God's creation. Which sounds logical, but ends up causing a lot of trouble. Either Jesus is therefore NOT god (he's created and not eternal, how can he be God?), or we have more than one.

So in the Creed we find the very repetitive "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."

Now ask me what "eternally begotten" or "begotten, not made" mean concretely, and I'll point one way and run away the other. I googled the term "eternally begotten"; here's what came up:

The Crucifixion.

The staff of Microsoft in 1978. (I kid you not.)

And a weird endless circle (which is what conversations on the topic generally feel like).

But still, from the term you get the generally idea. Jesus and God, somehow the same as well as different.

3) I could go with the Holy Spirit. Just the phrase "who proceeds from the Father and the Son" caused the final separation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. (For more info, click here.) But instead, let me take just one more phrase from the section: "he suffered, died and was buried." Some people, intent on Jesus' divinity, insisted that he couldn't really suffer or die. Gods don't do those things. But even as the church insisted that Jesus was one with GTF (God the Father for a texting generation; I want it to catch on like LOL), it refused to give up his humanity. Hence that phrase, which ends with the burial just to make it clear, he's really, really dead. It's not like the Black Plague:

So, when we read the Creed, we're giving not only the Cliffs Notes story of our salvation, but the shorthand story of our early church history.

Maybe it's just me, but I find that oh so cool.

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