As of late, everything that I pick up to read or study seems to lead me to one ancient creed or another. What do I mean by “creed”? A creed is a formal Christian statement of faith or beliefs. It more specifically refers to those formulas set forth in the early centuries of Christianity. For example, there is the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Reading through the history behind these creeds and the conflicts that provoked their development is revealing.
It becomes obvious that they were all devised to quell some form of opposition to the majority’s “idea” of proper doctrinal interpretation: who Yeshua is and is not, what day is the ‘real’ Sabbath, what ‘feasts’ are and are not celebrated, what books should be considered ‘scripture’, and who holds the seat of ‘authority’ over believers. There are a myriad of other smaller issues that are also brought up. The creeds formed from these majority rulings are basically “judgments” imposed upon all those who claimed to be an adherent of Christianity. Those that rose up against these “rulings” were considered heretics and “anathema”. Harsh treatment, exile, and even death sentences were deemed as righteous punishments for any dissenters.
These creeds were developed at various “councils” and came to define Christian orthodoxy or “right beliefs”. Today, most main stream Christian denominations (including Catholicism) hold to one or all of these ancient creeds as a litmus test for proper beliefs or faith. Many even make potential members verbally attest to a set creed in order to be considered “one of the flock”.
What has struck me so profoundly is that many of the council’s rulings and subsequent creeds are in direct opposition to the Bible itself! As a matter of fact, according to these dogmas, my way of life is heretical. Since I keep the biblical standards for living and walking out my faith, I am anathema to “Christ”. At least according to these MANMADE decrees. For example, I keep the 7th day Sabbath, the dietary laws of Leviticus 11, and the feast days of Leviticus 23. All these commandments that God gave to His household, Israel, are supposedly against Christ and His Church. Which is rather crazy if one actually reads the Bible, including the New Testament. The disciples and apostles themselves would be considered “anathema”! For they also kept all these customs.
To understand how all this confusion and twisting of scripture came about, takes patience and a critical look at history in the early centuries of Christianity. But that isn’t the point of this article. If creeds are so vital to our faith, why don’t we see the Jewish people formulating statements of faith, position papers, and the like? Is this another contradistinction between the Hebraic and Greek mindsets?
Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that “By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought“. History shows that Judaism didn’t start formulating “creeds” until the 12th century with Maimonides who wrote the Jewish Thirteen Principles of Faith. He seems to have deemed this necessary because of direct pressure from Christians and Muslims. But the idea of a creed comes from a purely Western and Greek mindset, not from the Bible. This is why writing centuries later, Rabbi Steinberg could absolutely affirm that creeds are adverse to Judaism.
Even more convincingly, history proves that after Christianity began to adhere firmly to these councils (of men) that a deep schism developed between Christianity and Judaism. Where equality and dialogue used to exist between these sisters, grew an evil root of anti-Semitism. This root caused Christians to feel righteous in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people. All because they really believed in the rulings of the councils and the subsequent creeds. Is this godly? Is this biblical? I urge you to search through the history of the early centuries. You too, will find that the spark that ignited the crusades, pogroms, and the like were seeded in these “Christian Councils” of men.
But, they mostly affirm right Christian doctrine you say? It can’t all be bad, right? Perhaps, it’s time that we stop trying to enclose God in a box or framework of our making. Why is it so important to us to have “right thinking” when Hebrew is all about “right action”? Did these creeds produce the latter? SADLY, NO. So, although it may seem right in our eyes that these “proper thinking formulas” found in the Creeds are a “good” thing, history proves otherwise.
Having a “proper” statement of faith is vitally important to most of us. Being able to verbally express my beliefs is most often paramount to what “I do”. Why? We even make excuses for those that have attested to the right formula of belief, yet have acted completely contrary to it. This is ludicrous to Hebraic thought. It is my actions, what I do, that shows the world who I serve. It’s never been about what I say or think. This is because we ACT OUT WHAT WE REALLY BELIEVE. Period. This is how we will know them by their “fruit”. We are never told that we will know them by what they say (attest to believe) or think.
Contrary to Christian thinking, God is not really concerned whether or not our theology is perfect. What He declares again and again and again is that our ACTIONS line up with His Word. His standards are given to us in the Torah, the Law of Moses. Those are our instructions. The life example of the Living Torah, Yeshua, is our model. The model is obedience to the commandments of God. It’s what we do, not what we say or think.
This is why Jews today can still come together in unity even when they have diverse differences of opinions on Scripture interpretation and doctrine. They understand that YHWH’s thoughts are not our thoughts. He is Sovereign. We are never going to be able to “figure Him out” or “know everything perfectly”. The proper action to take in this mixture of opinion is to exercise mercy, grace, and “love thy neighbor”. Now, I know Jews aren’t perfect; they still have some schisms between their denominations. But when compared to Christianity, those differences in doctrine and denominations are insignificant. While Judaism may have a handful of “denominations”, Christianity has thousands! And many believe they are the only ones that have the “whole” truth and the way of life! It would be funny if it weren’t so very sad.
What does all this mean for me? It means that I need to question the motives behind why I believe what I believe. Do I adhere to manmade formulas because they make me feel safe? Does thinking the right thing really matter or should my focus be on doing the right thing? What about “salvation”? If someone doesn’t follow “my thinking” on the proper formula, are they really “saved”? Or am I setting myself in the place of God? Do I have to have a creed or formula in order to separate myself from the wicked or from the wolves? Or is there a better way? What “Way” did the Messiah use? What is the plumb-line?
It is the Torah. Why do we continually think we can improve upon what God has already done?