Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Need For The Creed

Our Lord Jesus Christ founded His Church upon the confession of faith of St. Peter. That confession made him the first rock, the first stone in the building of the Church. Peter attained that place because he was first to confess. "Flesh and blood did not reveal this, but My Father in heaven." God birthed faith in Peter and he confessed. "For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved," (Ro. 10:10 RSVCE).

Since then, many more have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and, in confessing, so have been made part of Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Over time, it has become necessary to clarify exactly what this saving faith is. Many have come along adding their own perspective and diluting that "one faith once for all delivered to the saints". The clarification that the Church has produced is known as the Creed.

In the very early days of the Church it was loosely known as the Rule of Faith. But by about 200 A.D. it took a form forever after known as the Apostle's Creed. This is still the baptismal Creed of the Church today. It is a succinct rendering of the essentials of the faith. To say that one believes in Jesus is to say he believes in the Creed. This is what Christians for centuries meant when they proclaimed faith in Jesus Christ. This is what was stated when they were baptized.

So what is this Creed? It reads as follows:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried
He descended into hell
The third day he arose again from the dead
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty
From thence He shall come 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 life everlasting

Now, I am no theologian. But I would like to break this down as best as I understand it. I welcome any input along the way. I will be posting in the next several days on the Creed.

Why the need for the Creed? Because, as it was in centuries past, so it remains today that, we need clarification as to what the Faith truly is. The Church has been the pillar and ground of truth from her inception (1 Tim. 3:15). She remains so to this day and ever shall be. The Creed is her succinct statement of truth. It's truth that we need in our day. We need to hear the concrete word of God spoken through the Church to bring clarity and perspective to the relativism of our modern era. I hope you will join me as we explore together what truth God has revealed through the Creed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Still Hanging Around

No, I didn't drop off the face of the earth. Like many of you, life gets busy and blogging is one of the things that needs to be let go. Having said that, I must also say that some of this has been intentional. That is, I am actually trying to limit my computer time to make more time for prayer, family, and silence. Sometimes I find that I suffer from the tyranny of all of the things surrounding us, screaming for our attention. It's nice to get away from it all to listen, think, and marvel. I don't think we as a society do nearly enough of that. I know I don't. But I am really enjoying the time that I am taking for it. So while this post is very short, I hope it gives some food for thought.

I'm still hanging around, and I'm sure I'll have more to say at a later time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Holy Love

For years I have had the misguided notion that love and holiness are polar opposites, and that in God both exist, although in a mystery that can't quite be grasped. But it occurs to me that is wholly other. Love and holiness are two sides of the same coin, and one cannot truly exist without the other.

God is love, and God is holy. Therefore they must really be the same. True love and true holiness strive towards the same goal. They look for the perfection of character necessary to experience unlimited communion with God. Because God loves us, He works to make us holy. If we respond in love as He desires, then we will strive to be holy. Because God is holy, we will also want to be holy.

The problem with this concept arises in our own perceptions. We redefine both love and holiness. We think love means to feel nice things, say nice things, or do nice things. We think holiness is a warped adherence to archaic rules which have become irrelevant to modern living. Therefore we find love and holiness to be opposites. The truth is that both love and holiness are first, a desire for communion with God, and secondly, a desire to help our fellow brothers and sisters in attaining that same goal.

This brings us naturally to thinking about how God, in His love and holiness, deals with sin. God hates sin for the same reason that parents hate cancer in their children; because it is killing them. Again, we have a misconception about sin. We think it's about actions. It's not. Sin is about what is inside of us. The actions are merely the symptoms to indicate this dread "disease" is still at work within us. We think, "Why can't God just overlook the sin and go on with life like we do?". It's because it's much deeper than that, and God knows it even though we want to deny it.

Sin must be wholly eradicated. God has done all the work necessary for that through Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension. He further strengthens us through the Sacraments. But that still leaves us needing to apprehend these things in faith and obedience. As we do, the Holy Spirit is continually working to destroy sin and establish holy love within us.

So how is it then that some go to hell? Is God not able to save them? Or is He unwilling to save them? No. He can, and wants to. But in His holy love, He has chosen to allow us to choose whether or not we will serve Him. If we choose sin, He must separate us from the rest of His people or sin will destroy the whole lot. Think of it in the same terms as when doctors must quarantine someone. It is for the good of the whole.

Because God is holy love, He will have a people of holy love. We all have the opportunity to be part of that people. If we will choose holy love over selfish sin will have what everyone truly craves- eternal life, which is to know God and commune with Him intimately now, and forever.

Monday, August 4, 2008


In today's Gospel we hear that Jesus saw the crowds and He was moved with compassion towards them because they were like sheep scattered without a shepherd, (Mt. 9:36). This is what moved God to send His Son in the first place. He looked at a world lost and wandering in the ravages of sin. He could not remain indifferent to the plight of those whom He loved. So He sent us a Savior. In fact, He came Himself to save us.

This is the Gospel: that God was in Christ Jesus not counting our sins against us, but reaching out to us with divine mercy to grant life where there had been death (2 Co. 5:19). It is the greatest love story ever told. So why is it that so many are so adverse to hearing it.

It is because the story does not stop there. It calls for conversion. What is conversion? It is to be transformed by God's Grace from sinners into saints. It is a process, not an event. This process is difficult- very difficult. In fact, apart from God's Grace, it is impossible.

In fairy tales, the hero dashes in to rescue the damsel in distress and win her love. They marry and live happily ever after. This is why they are fairy tales. Real life doesn't work like that. Marriages that last a lifetime require lots of effort. They require the growth and stretching of both husband and wife. No marriage is trouble-free. There are always issues to be faced.

Our relationship with God is no different. Jesus has come and rescued us and seeks to win our love that we would choose to love Him forever. But this requires effort- lots of effort. Along the way we will be tempted to go astray and re-imprison ourselves in the mesh of sin. We will be seduced to seek other lovers. To resist is difficult. To pursue holiness is a hard path.

This is why so many are so adverse to this wonderful message of the Gospel. They don't think it's worth all the "hassle". They couldn't be any more wrong!

Conversion, as I said, is a process. It begins with the Grace of God in our hearts long before we realize God is at work within us. He is wooing us. He is seeking to draw us to Himself. Then we begin to seek Him. We have questions. We investigate. Finally, we make a decision to follow Jesus. But that is really just the beginning.

From there, we are in need of instruction about the Faith. Then we must be baptized. Then we must continue to receive instruction, learning how to develop a life of prayer and good works in Christ. This lasts a lifetime.

It is obvious to see why so many are so adverse to conversion. Instead, they look to take the easy way out. They ignore God, or they remake Him in their image. Or, perhaps they just choose the "easy-believism" of those who preach that to be a Christian is just a matter of faith and a moment of decision to receive Jesus. This is terribly over simplified, and, consequently, it is terribly deceptive. Real conversion, as I have said, requires effort- lots of effort. It requires this effort for a lifetime, and, we believe, requires some sort of effort even after death as one undergoes the final purgation of all effects of sin.

Does this mean that Christ's sacrifice was insufficient, or He is unable to indeed save us to the uttermost? By no means. It is just the reality that to know God- to be saved from sin- is a joint effort between God and man. He has a part, and so do we. His part is to provide salvation through the work of Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension. Our part is to respond in faith, love, and obedience. We cannot do His part, and He will not do ours. This relationship is what is called conversion. It is something we are all in need of daily.