A group of friends of mine have agreed to walk down this path with me on studying the Creeds of the Christian faith. I have a hope of what it will turn into; we will see what really happens though. The essentials of the faith, creeds, doctrinal statements, clear cohesive thinking through what we believe (about anything really) has seemed to be a lost art. We tend to lose ourselves in personal experience devoid of a datum or context. Right here, right now, is what matters…how we got to this moment is really a distant last place.
I think it is quite ironic that we reach back to hold on to the fathers of the civil rights movements, to our ancestors who got us here (whether by mayflower, slave ship, or walking.) Yet in the Christedome we tend to lose site of the pilgrimage of the women and men who paved the way for us today. I have heard since childhood of the pastors in the churches I have attended. In Topeka I recall hearing about Rev. Ransom and etc. in the over 130 years of history of the church and especially his influence in the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision (and the Brown family for that matter who attended St. John. And in my baptist tradition now how the Brooks, Allens, etc. have been instrumental in carrying Christedom through the 20th century. “We’re standing on their shoulders” we say in humility.
I tend to wonder quite often ‘Whose shoulders are they standing on.’
When you trace back far enough past the John Jaspers, Elias Camp Morris, Alexander Crummells of antebellum slavery period, past the Jonathan Edwards, and John Bunyans and find they were all standing on others shoulders also. Eventually you will reach back to the early church fathers and their families who devoted everything to making sure what is believed is accurate. It was not enough to have a personal relationship with Christ. Which they certainly did. You can tell that from the writings. But the writings, the creeds, these documents reach through time to remind us that all the essentials of the faith are here because they were very intentional about making sure that they were marching on.
To arrive at some sort of inspiration of truth, some enlightenment of God today is almost in a vacuum. But the more you come to understand that if your profession is true, it must be true for the 2000 years of Christendom that came before you. Whose shoulders are those we are standing on from 50 years, 500 years 1500 years ago? It is beneficial to study the church fathers, the creeds, the history of our Church (both the facility you attend and the Church universal.) They are ones who thought hard about the Faith(the Gospel) and many of which suffered extreme persecution (perhaps from other believers) so that you could say ‘I believe in God the Father, maker of Heaven and Earth and in Jesus Christ His only son OUR Lord.’
The beauty of seeing the Bunyan’s on shoulders is to know that when you make the profession of all the essentials of the faith you are in agreement with people who make the same profession well before you came along. And that kind of unity is only brought about by the Spirit.
Do you reach back to know better how we know what we know? How are you reaching forward to contribute to securing that the essentials are held on to?