As we continue our look at the Apostles’ Creed, I felt it appropriate to analyze the Creed, and Christian belief in general, within the framework of 21st century society and culture. We live in day with numerous questions regarding religious faith and conviction. Scholars, writers and newscasters alike have weighed in and the vote is clear: religious conviction is a cute idea at best and a dangerous pox in humanity at the worst. Certainly not indicative of the WHOLE of culture there exists a pervasive anti-religious, specifically anti-Christian, mentality among us. Should we take an “us vs. them” approach or is there a more, namely Christian, attitude which we should take?
The “Intolerance” of Belief – To take a stand on exlusive belief statements is highly unpopular in American culture. When one claims exclusivity to a truth statement, today’s postmodern mentality answers with the charge of intolerance. Another answer could be the “multiple truths” argument. One might say, “Well that may be true for you, but it is certainly not true for me.” Unfortunately that statement is logically impossible. A thing is either true or not true, it cannot be both at the same time. When a Christian affirms their beliefs in a way that the Creed does, that person will almost certainly be met with resistance. To claim something to be true is not intolerance towards other beliefs. Intolerance is not allowing for other views to exist, and crosses the boundary into slander and acts of abuse and violence. Those actions are bot becoming of a Christ-follower who wishes to be faithful witness.
We are called to proclaim the truth of Christ and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We become intolerant when we deny the mandate of Christ and attempt to take matters into our own hands. You see this today with churches who picket gay parades, send hate mail to abortion clinics, and demonstate against political groups. Imagine what the outcome might be if that energy could be redirected towards acts of love and service that carry the banner of Christ and the truth of his gospel. The Creed affirms belief in this, not in an “us versus them” mentality.
Chronological Snobbery – C.S. Lewis coined this term when he wrote in Surprised by Joy regarding regarding his feelings towards religion being outdated. This was before his coming to faith. The premise of the argument goes that since modern man, with science and technology, has discovered so much about the world in the past century the intellect and beliefs of previous centuries are outdated and simply wrong based on their lack of scientific knowledge. This fallacy of thinking continues to exist to this day. Since the saints of old were not ‘enlightened’ with the knowledge of astrophysics and biochemistry then their thoughts, ideas and expressions must be false. This is like me saying that your faith is invalid because you don’t know calculus. If that’s true, then I’m in big trouble. So this thought continues to exist today, and undoubtedly Christians will be called simple and even ignorant based solely on affirmation of Christian beliefs, such as those found in the Creed.
This also appears in the form of New-Age religion. The en vogue mentality is to piece together a spirituality that fits well within your own lifestyle and draws from all sorts of different religions. We see this with the overspiritualization of Jesus, making him just another Buddha-like teacher, or with universalism that says that all faiths have something to offer towards the greater expression of human spirituality. These practices imply orthodox Christian beliefs to be outdated and ultimately uninformed.
With these factors in mind, culture has taken an overall stance against the practice of traditional Christian beliefs. We are seen as intolerant and uniformed, and perhaps there are Christian groups in the world that give reason for culture to accuse the broader expression of Christian faith in this way. We must combat this with love and an insistence on the Gospel as the only real transformative power in the lives of man. We do this through encouraging one another in the context of our local church community. By doing this, we are empowered to go out and proclaim the truth of Christ through word and deed. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4.19). We come together in order to be sent out again. We are to model the kingdom of heaven through our worship, service (missions and charity), and character of life. We are saved in order to do the works that God has set us apart to do (Eph. 2.8-10). I pray that this will be reason to think and pray and ultimately that you will be encouraged to trust in the power of the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1.16). Though trials may persist, we have a mighty and wonderful God who desires all to come to know him and has set us apart to proclaim the Good News of his Son (1 Tim. 2.4; 2 Tim. 2.20-21).