The Creed Means Freedom

 on June 13, 2024

Denise had been involved in church for many years before she finally gave up. One of the many things that frustrated her was the creed. “It’s simply ridiculous,” she complained: “just a lot of meaningless propositions strung together. How can anyone be expected to believe that stuff?” Her friend Jane thought for a moment and then said, “That’s interesting. I feel so different! For me, the creed means freedom.”

“Creeds” and “freedom”? Not two words you often see in close proximity. It made me think. How could those two things possibly be connected? The creed does indeed list a lot of strange sounding ideas. But for a start they are not random, and they are not meaningless. They are actually a summary of the whole Bible story, the whole Christian story. The first thing worth noticing is that the ideas in the creed appear in logical order.

  • It begins by describing a meaningful world created by a loving God.
  • Then it speaks of God’s intervention in the world in the person of Jesus Christ, to deal with all the sinful and foolish things we have done to mess up and even destroy that beautiful world.
  • It also speaks of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, still at work in the world today, working in and through all those who will cooperate in continuing Jesus’s work of putting things right.
  • And finally it speaks of God’s intervention at the end of time, to complete that work of redemption and renewal.

What’s the connection?

But what, we may ask, could that possibly have to do with freedom? Well, I understand freedom to be the conditions under which we can grow into the people we are meant to be, and under which life on this planet can be lived to the fullest. So here’s the surprise: the creed creates just such conditions. What’s the connection?

As we seek to live our lives and to find freedom for ourselves and for others, those ideas listed in the creed actually suggest a way that those things are possible:

  • The idea of a Creator explains for me why there is beauty, why there is love, why there is the yearning for something beyond—even why meaning is possible in the first place.
  • The idea which the creed implies but does not state— perhaps it’s too obvious—is that we have damaged this beautiful world by not observing the Creator’s norms. That too is freeing because it helps explain the paradox that the world is not only beautiful but also hurting and broken in many respects.
  • And the idea that God in love is at work in this world through Jesus in history, and now through the Spirit of Jesus, gives me hope that in the end “all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
  • So the creed tells me I am a beloved creation—a beloved child—of God. The creed tells me God has pity on my sinfulness and my brokenness, and that the Spirit of Jesus is at work to make me whole. If all this is true, then as I make my way in the world, seeking to follow Jesus, I can be sure that in the loving hands of this God I am indeed becoming all that my Creator designed for me to be. Even better: it means I can contribute my own small part to enabling the freedom of others, helping them to enjoy the fullness of life too. And that is a deeply freeing and joyful experience.

Competing creeds

When you think about it, everybody lives by a creed. They may not articulate it or state it—certainly not once a week, or in point form, or in public. But everyone has a theory about the world, about the problems of the world, about who the human race should become. Not only does everyone believe some kind of creed, everybody lives out of some kind of creed. And, if we are Christians, every day as we live our lives in a secular, post-Christian culture, we are exposed to those alternative creeds, which make their own seductive claims about the meaning of life and the way to experience freedom—and implicitly pressuring us to switch creeds.

But personally I have never found a creed which sheds light on the world and on the human condition in the way the beautiful story of God made human in Jesus does. So I will gladly continue to say the Christian creed week by week. Apart from anything else, it reminds me that “for freedom Christ has set us free!”

  • John Bowen

    John Bowen is Professor Emeritus of Evangelism at Wycliffe College in Toronto, where he was also the Director of the Institute of Evangelism. Before that, he worked a campus evangelist for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. For over thirty years, John has been a popular speaker, teacher, and preacher, on university campuses, in churches and in classrooms, and at conferences, across Canada and the USA. His most recent book is The Unfolding Gospel: How the Good News Makes Sense of Discipleship, Church, Mission, and Everything Else (Fortress 2021).

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