1. What are Creeds?

Creeds are brief formulas of faith that make it possible for all believers to make a common profession.

  1. Contents of faith– the creed is a compendium of truths about the faith. These truths are all found in the Sacred Scripture and the pattern or style of having these kinds of formulas are found in the Letters of St. Paul. The contents of the creed are directly linked to the confession of faith of the Apostles and the detailed revelation about Jesus’ words and actions were based from what they saw and heard from Christ. In other words, the Apostles were reliable sources of the tenets of the faith. The stories and revelation of God were written down that form the Sacred Scriptures became also the articles of faith.
  2. Tradition– The articles of faith also forms the Tradition of the Church because they directly reveal the oral and written truths God revealed to man and to the entire People of God. The revelation of God forms the Tradition of the Church because revelation speaks also of man’s response to God divine self-communication. Faith is presented as a “deposit.” (paratheke) to be handed on, to be safeguarded by a living teaching authority like the Apostles, then the “apostolic men” like Timothy and Titus, the Fathers of the Church (students of the Apostles to whom the faith and teachings of Christ were handed on), the presbyters and the bishops. In the New Testamnet, the guardians of tradition and the deposit of the faith were the bishops. The task of the bishops was to secure the deposit against attempts to corrupt it and to protect orthodoxy, the integrity of the Gospel against what would later be called heresy. The creed is the summary of the entire Catholic faith and it was used to catechize people that would contain the important elements of the faith.
  3. Human experience– God uses human experiences as the gateway towards faith. He makes use of experiences to make Him tangible to all human beings. Human experience as means to know God has five meanings according to Gerald O’collins, SJ: a) All experience has meaning. An event or an experience has significance in human life. Sometimes these experences have meaning immediately to the person and sometimes the meaning comes late. An experience may retain in one’s memory or it may be left into oblivion. Experience and meaning are interrelated and they cannot just be separated from each other; b) all experience bears with it a certain purpose and finality. Usually an experience has a purpose because things do not happen by chance. Experience points us some direction in life because man learns from an experience. The experience of genuine love turns out to be other-enriching and personally liberating. Sometimes a common struggle for justice brings a group together and creates a surprising bond of friendship- “Birds of the same feather flock together.” A common experience of God and the Church brings people together in a common goal and purpose in life; c) Experience is nothing if not concrete. Experiences do not exist in general. The experience of faith comes from a particular experience of God in prayer which occurs in particular times, in particular places and to particular persons. A nation cannot be liberated in general. It is delivered from this or that oppressing power. A girl does not fall in love in general but with this particular boy; d) Experiences suggest something new. There might be a repeated experience but every experience is unique and it always point to something new. Experience readily suggests something new and unexpected which leaves its mark on the subject and opens him for other new experiences in the future. We normally take a person of “wide experience” to be one who can easily face the new and cope with the unexpected; e) experiences can be described as positive, negative, or seemingly ambiguous. Experiences exercise our sense of judgment and discernment. Experiences are subjective or objective depending on the purpose of judging experiences. Man experiences good and evil. Pleasurable experiences can turn out to be destructive. Painful experiences can be fruitful sources of meaning and have obviously positive consequences.
  4. Formulas have history– The Nicene Creed was the result of the Council of Nicaea which was convened by Constantinople to address a heresy (wrong teaching or half truth) called Arianism. Arianism was a Christological heresy or wrong teaching which asserts that Jesus was not God. He was a created human being by God. He was purely human with only perfect human nature. It was a heresy propagated by the priest Arius who existed in 256-336AD. He taught that Jesus was subordinate to the Father. It rejected the existence of a Trinity because the Son is not equal to the Father. The Council studied, reflected, and answered the heresy of Arianism coming up with the formula of the Nicaean Creed which affirms that Jesus is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Nicaean Creed says of Jesus Christ as “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.” This body of truths is contained in the creed which is placed in formulas for teaching, reflecting and rectifying wrong pedagogy.