We Do Not Believe in the Nicene Creed

“One night the Master led his disciples into the open fields and a star-studded sky. Then, pointing toward the stars, he looked at the disciples and said, ‘Now concentrate on my finger, everyone.’ They got the point.” (Anthony DeMello, One Minute Nonsense, 135)


In another story DeMello is less subtle about his meaning: “When the sage points to the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger” (Ibid., 132).

In some sense these two little stories put in context all the previous articles of this series about the Nicene Creed. They also offer us a warning. We must be careful that we do not mistake the Creed for the Reality to which it points, directs, and guides us. The Creed is a symbol of our faith, pointing beyond itself to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As we hear and say the Creed over and over we discover that seeing is not believing. Rather, believing becomes a new way of seeing. For most of the world what you see is what you get. That way is simply too limited, narrow, and small. It cannot understand or reveal the fullness of God’s life and presence in and among us. It is unwilling to trust the Mystery that is beyond human thoughts and ways. It does not know “the Father,” the one who acts “for us and for our salvation,” or “the giver of life.” It offers no hope for “the forgiveness of sins,” “the resurrection of the dead,” or “the life of the world to come.” Neither God nor the Creed offer us a what you see is what you get world.

The Creed is the pointing finger. It always points to more than we can ask or imagine. Some will spend their time intellectualizing and studying the finger. Others will use it to gouge out eyes, their own or another’s. Still others will use it draw lines in the sand. (Ibid., 134.) All three options arise from believing in the Creed. We must, therefore, be “sufficiently detached from the finger to see what it is indicating” (Ibid.).

Creedal Christians do not believe in the Nicene Creed. Instead,

“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty…. 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God….

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life….”

Having declared what we believe and, through believing, what we now see, there is only one thing left to say: “Amen.” Our “amen” makes the Creed a prayer that what we believe and see may be realized in our own lives, personally and corporately.

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This is the final post in a series of articles on the Nicene Creed originally written for Reflections Online and published by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Previous articles in this series are as follows:
Part 1 – Repetitious Believing
Part 2 – Who Believes?
Part 3 – Communal Believing
Part 4 – Five Things We Believe About God
Part 5 – The Scandal of Being Human

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11 thoughts on “We Do Not Believe in the Nicene Creed

  1. THE BEST CREED IS STILL THE OLD, MUCH LOVED, CHILDREN’S CREED. ” I BELIEVE IN GOD ABOVE. I BELIEVE IN JESUS’ LOVE. I BELIEVE GOD’S SPIRIT TOO COMES TO TEACH ME WHAT TO DO.”

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  2. This is a great reminder Mike. Coming from a background that rejected all forms of the Creed, I understand what you are talking about. It is not the Creed that is important, that we revere and honor, but that which the Creed points to. There is danger in reciting the Creed, but there is also great danger in rejecting it as well, because then the finger is not pointing at anything and we may miss the beautiful stars entirely.

    Jon Mark

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    • I agree both dangers are real. Both dangers, I think, underlie anything that has power to change our lives or to point us in the direction of transformation. We must not confuse the means and the end.

      Peace be with you,
      Mike+

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  3. As I read your blog, Mike, I thought of when I learned of the Cappadocians, etc. who finally developed the creeds, and how they struggled to put into words what really cannot be put into words. What they did was so very essential – we have, through their words, been spared the efforts that they expended. However, I thank you so much for what you have said in this entry, since, it seems to me that we can get so lost in the words and miss the true meaning. Thank you, thank you.

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    • Yes, we must hold the words and their meaning in tension, neither separating nor confusing them. The Creed is symbol and symbolic. We might even think of it as “sacramental.” It is the outward and visible (audible) expression of an inward and invisible reality and meaning.

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      • Good point Padre. No creedal statement can contain, define or explain the “infinite”. I seriously doubt that the average twenty-first century Christian is all that worried about “procession” from the Holy Spirit and/or “begotten, not made.” Your point of the “symbol” is well taken.

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