I grew up going to Elim Covenant Church, a tiny church in Stockholm, SD. Honestly, I do not even know how to describe their main beliefs, even though I was confirmed in the Covenant tradition. For my confirmation, I had to recite their version of the Apostles’ Creed. (I didn’t even have to memorize it. To this day, I still forget some of the lines. Sorry, Pastor Mark.)
One of our assignments for Word to the Wise is to write a reflection on a faith tradition’s creed of Statement of Faith, so I choose the Apostles’ Creed. Many Christian denominations use the Apostles’ Creed with slightly different wording, but get at the same concepts. In this short blog post, I will explore and reflect on the Covenant Church’s version of the Apostles’ Creed.
The Covenant version starts off very similar to other versions of the creed. The first difference is the phrase, “died, and was buried.” Most versions say, “dead and buried.” This difference intrigues me. Died is a verb, whereas dead is an adjective. What does this difference imply? Does it mean that one Jesus was a more active Jesus? Does it mean that one Jesus can relate more to human nature?
The next difference is “Jesus descended into Hades.” Most other versions say, “Jesus descended into Hell.” Why is this difference important? Why does it matter if it is Hell or Hades? Aren’t they pretty much the same place? Hades comes from a background of Greek mythology, so the use of Hades in this version also intrigues me.
The last difference is between “the living and the dead” versus “the quick and the dead.” Personally, I like living more. The quick doesn’t really make sense to me. Like, I see how people who are living are quicker than the dead, but I am not sure why quick gets used in other versions.
While this texts seems up front, many nuances shine through in different versions. I realize that I did not explore the nuances much, but honestly, I am not really sure how to do it other than to ask questions. So how do the nuances change the way I think about my faith? And in turn, how does that change how I live out my faith? Do subtle nuances in language change the way in which we think about a topic? Does it really change the way we think about the divine?
As I am reflecting on this significant text in my Christian background, I am ashamed to admit that I don’t have much to say on it which is honestly quite concerning to me. I can normally talk for days on most topics. What scares me most is that I have blindly followed and recited this creed without truly and fully exploring the meanings behind it.
In many ways, I feel like I am grasping at words and thoughts that are not fully fleshed yet. How have I (someone who questions literally everything) not questioned or explored the meanings behind something so significant to the Christian tradition? How did the memorization of the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other significant texts in the Christian tradition at a young age inhibit my ability to question what it means?
Today, when I read my Bible, I am able to look for the deeper meanings within the text and how we can interpret the texts in many different ways. (Shout out to Dr. Creech who has helped me so much with this!) Why do I feel like I cannot do this with the Apostles’ Creed? What is hindering me from fully exploring this text? What can I do to engage this text more fully?
What I can say is that the Apostles’ Creed does express my beliefs as a Christian. However, I feel as though some of the major tenants that I find important in Christianity are left out—compassion, love, working for justice, understanding, and working together with people of all backgrounds. Why is it that some of the major core teachings of how Christians should act are not included in this creed?
For me, this raises the questions: Is it better just to believe and be a bad person? Or does one really need to live out the major teachings of Christianity such as helping and loving one another to truly believe? Does belief in Christ mean that someone is actually going to be a good person? So really, does that mean that if someone believes but isn’t a good person, they are accepted as well? Is it truly enough just to believe in Christ and what he did for humankind? There is that whole notion of grace being available for all, so what does that mean for living a “good” life?
In the last paragraph, I bring up questions that I have had for much of my life. The answers I get when I ask these questions have never been satisfactory to me. So if you have thoughts or a perspective to offer on this, I would be glad to hear them.
This reflection has surly been an interesting one for me; mostly, leaving me feel like I haven’t done a good enough job exploring my tradition. But from here, I can more forward and explore more. Maybe this was an opportune time to reflect on the Apostles’ Creed.