Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Believe Therefore I Am

This week, I’ll begin series of sermons examining the Apostle’s Creed. My intention was to reflect each week on one of the phrases of the creed, what it means and what difference it makes to our daily lives. But as I started putting the series together, I realized that I needed to start at the very basic level of the creed: what does it mean to say, “I believe.” What’s more, what does it mean to stand with a group of people and say “I believe” a long list of somewhat unbelievable things that I sometimes doubt and often struggle to understand? For that matter, what difference does it make that I believe in a virgin birth or a holy catholic church?

Furthermore, we live in a culture that is skeptical of creeds. It is not uncommon to hear people dismiss the idea of creeds as outdated, rote, and boring. Most contemporary services skip them entirely and I currently serve a church that doesn’t use the creed in the traditional service let alone the contemporary!
Descartes famously said, “I think therefore I am.” But to merely think is to go no where. Thinking requires belief and belief requires content. I am who I am. I live a particular lifestyle. I hold particular values. I spend my time in particular ways not simply because I believe but because I believe in something.

What we believe impacts how we live and who we choose to be.

The word creed comes from the Latin “credo” which means I believe. We all have a creed perhaps not written or recited but we all have one. And I am continually amazed by the power those creeds have on our lives.
The church has long held that Christians need a shared creed to remind us of the story we believe, the God we believe in and the life we are called to live. And almost all of the history of the church, the Apostle’s Creed has served this purpose. Even Christian traditions that consider themselves non-creedal believe the claims of the Apostle’s Creed.

Interestingly, during the past week several things have come to my attention dealing with the importance of belief. One is the weekly segment on NPR called “This I believe.” This week’s segment featured a young Hispanic woman discussing her belief that equality can be found in logic. Rather than believing “dogmatic religion,” she believes that “logic makes equals of us all.” She is obviously an extremely intelligent young lady, but I think a bit naïve because doesn’t logic favor the intellectual? And isn’t logic highly dependent on sources within ourselves? And if so, how can we logically assume that our logic is not somehow biased by our own prejudices, fears, and experiences.

Then there was an article in Salon magazine about Science as religion which brought up some concerns of the author that some are created a theology based on science that is just as dogmatic and judgmental as some claim the church to be!

And if that wasn’t enough to stimulate thoughts on what it means to believe, there is a new book out by an NPR journalist called, “Why We Hate Us,” in which he claims that the major problem in America today is an enslavement (my word not his) to the idea of personal choice. In fact, he points out that is somehow considered weak and foolish to follow a traditional route whether one is talking about religion, marriage, career choices etc. To the extent that he says "We accepted, naively, a bill of goods about how one forges an identity and happiness in life. And it doesn't come in a vacuum — it comes in a community with the help of others."

"We accepted, naively, a bill of goods about how one forges an identity and happiness in life. And it doesn't come in a vacuum — it comes in a community with the help of others."
Increasingly it seems to me that it is extremely important for all of us to examine our beliefs and to pass on our beliefs and our traditions to a new generation. We must do this not only for the sake of the kingdom of God but also quite simply for the society in which we live. I believe that what we believe drives how we live and how we live makes a difference in this world.

This is what I believe!

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