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Divine Thoughts? The Apostles' Creed: 'I believe'

Updated on July 19, 2017

What does "I believe" mean?

"I believe in God..." are the first words of the Apostles' Creed. Christians have used this simple statement of core Christian doctrines for many hundreds of years, particularly as an individual statement of faith at baptisms, or when renewing the promises that Christians make in baptism. It may seem a really basic question, but in a pluralistic and scientifically-informed society like our own, what does it mean to "believe"?

Looking at a document like the Creed, the answer seems obvious; "I believe" means "I agree with the following bullet list of propositions." In such a view of belief, the Creed provides the bare bones of orthodoxy, "right thinking or worship." Such "right thinking" is helpful in many circumstances, because it helps Christians make sure they are talking about the same basic realities. This definition of belief is called assensus, from which we get our word "assent" - agreement with a series of facts. This kind of belief is important in scientific disciplines, too; after all, one could hardly have a productive conversation with someone who stubbornly insisted that 2+2=3! Assensus alone is not the kind of faith of which the Creed speaks, though it is an important part of Christians' experience.

To illustrate, I invite you to think of a conversation with your best friend, or someone for whom you care deeply. If my friend said to me, "Two and two are four," my response (should one be required) would be, "I believe you." This is because I mentally assent to the truth of the proposition.

But imagine if my friend said to me, "I love you." Would mental assent be enough? Probably not. Something as powerful as real love goes beyond mental agreement; after all, I may not believe my friend, at least at first. Why not? Because belief in that kind of situation requires trust and vulnerability, honour and sacrifice. If I answer my friend with a shocked expression, "I believe you!" I am making a comment about his character. I am making a choice to receive something emotional and probably life-changing--something that changes who I am as a person.

There is one more aspect that may help us think more deeply about "I believe" in the Creed. Imagine if our friend came to us and said, "You know what? I think I've found what I want to do with my life, and the kind of person I want to be. What do you think?" The story comes pouring out, and then, trembling and silent, our friend waits to hear what we think. We can see the fear in her eyes. Thoughtfully and almost automatically, because we care about her and her story so much, we wrap our arms around her and say: "I believe in you." This goes beyond even the belief in the second example, because we are choosing to shore her up, invest ourselves in her well-being, and defend her against all the people who think she's crazy, has her head in the clouds, and should get a real job. This might be the riskiest belief of all, but don't we give it because it's actually possible, that our friend's dream is worth the risk?

Not only assent, but trust and deep investment and love, are what we strive to live when we say the "I believe" of the Creed. The propositions are important, certainly, but they go deeper than a checklist to our innermost thoughts and commitments. When Christians say, "I believe," we are investing ourselves in the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the story we tell and live as the Church. In our belief, we trust that we are loved far more deeply than we could ever know by the God who believes in us. We respond by investing our lives in this amazing, risky, but completely possible story--possible because of the God who is the centre of our lives, and of the Creed.

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      Craig M. Hinch 7 years ago

      Amazing stuff, as usual. I thank God for you and for being able to communicate what might not otherwise be known through you. :)

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I am so deeply impressed by your words , it is refreshing to see it is a creed which I have been telling people all along. It is our life, our story, our belief as we see it. You should be a preacher as your words are so simplified for many to understand. :)

    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      A great synopsis Rob, of the meaning of the Apostles Creed. It is our statement of faith and embraces the truth of the triune God. It virtually tells our Christian life story.

      Love and peace dear son in Christ Jesus our Lord,

      Forever His,

    • profile image

      Ed Doerksen 7 years ago

      Rob: your posting is great. I enjoyed reading it and thinking about what you have written.

      To believe - the rub of most people where belief is only present in the safety of experience with in the confines of the box I call "self safety".

      I believe in God who has brought me through transforming experiences in life. I believe in Christ Jesus, Lord of my very being for His presence is in whom I trust without question. I believe in the Holy Spirit, Who has assured my trust is not invain.

      Your proposition is correct - I believe in God is the beginning of my life, I believe in Christ Jesus is the hope that I have both now and in the future. I believe in the Holy Spirit as my guide both now and for ever.

      Thanks be go God.

    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 7 years ago from carthage ill

      excellent hub God is the power the birth the truth life Jesus the holy spirit