So, I happened upon what seems to me to be a rather strange Christian creed recently. It’s actually the creed of an institute of higher learning (I did not know institutes for learning – even those with religious affiliations – had such creeds), and the full text of it can be found here.
I don’t mean at all to comment on the particular institution this creed is from, but rather just on the creed itself. I imagine that similar creeds must be found in a number of Christian circles, so the specific source is not all that relevant.
Here’s the creed:
I believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.
And here’s my question: Is this creed idolatrous?
Here are the (condensed) points of the creed, in order:
[They] believe in…
- A book.
- A particular explanation of the origins of a particular part of all existence.
- A particularly rare, but apparently natural, generation of a particular man (namely parthenogenesis) – though that’s not even clear, it could just mean that the man was born a virgin.
- The identification of said man as God’s Son.
- Their own salvation – or at least the idea of how it works.
- That said man’s body was raised physically from the dead.
- That said man has the power to save men from sin.
- A born-again concept.
- Eternal life.
I find a few things interesting, and they lead me to think that this creed is idolatrous. Let’s review…
First, nowhere is there a specific mention of belief in God (though the creed does indicate an acknowledgement of God’s existence and action). The main subject of the creed is not even identified as God. It seems to me that a creed that does not speak of God must be idolatrous.
Second, the entire creed has to do with parts of creation. It seems to me reasonable to assume that the primary thrust or focus of a creed would come at the beginning. In the case of this creed, the beginning is about belief in the status of a book. Any book is a part of creation and therefore not God. So it appears the primary thrust of this creed is not God. Wouldn’t that make it idolatrous? The second point is similarly not God. There we find a belief in a theorized action of God, but not a belief in God Godself. The third point is also not God; indeed it’s not even something that is necessarily supernatural. In any case belief in a process of generation, whether natural or supernatural, is not a belief in God Godself. The fourth and sixth points are about the identity and physicality of a man. God is not physical, so point six is clearly not God. Furthermore, point six seems to have little or nothing directly to do with the rest of the creed importat ideas about this man. Though one might have expected it, the fifth point does not identify the special man as God, but rather just the “Son of God.” Of course, that’s not God either. Furthermore, the creed does not indicate belief or faith in the special man as God’s Son, but rather just that the belief in that particular identification of the man. It’s almost as if the creed reads, “I believe in not-God; not-God; not-God;…; not-God;…; not-God…” How can that be anything other than idolatry?
The creed does add some level of belief structure to its wunderkind. There is a belief about how his actions and abilities affect the confessors of the creed. Of course, none of those things are God either. Thus, the creed is not centered on God or even really on God’s Son, but rather on people – those who say accept this creed. In my understanding, a creed that is focused on people and their status rather than on God is idolatrous. Points eight and nine of the creed are similarly focused on the status of people. Point seven of the creed also raises questions as to whether or not men and women are to be considered equal in that it is unclear whether the special man has the power to save women from sin.
God is clearly not the ultimate concern of this creed. Man is. As long as man remains an ultimate concern, the weeds of idolatry will continue to bear their fruit of de-humanization and destruction, both internal and external. Idolatry eats away at the soul as it seduces people away from placing their ultimate concern in that which is truly ultimate.
This creed makes an idol of the bible, it makes an idol of anti-science, it makes an idol of a few details about a man, it makes an idol of salvation, and it makes an idol of the concept of eternal life. Not one of those things is itself Ultimate, the Ground of Being, God. That such idols have become the ultimate concern of many should be a concern for us all.