Monday, December 28, 2015

Looking at the older creeds

When a member of our church moved to the west coast a few years ago, she donated a lot of her books to the library, which then put most of them out for “free” to anyone who wanted them. Some were rather difficult or scholarly, but just perfect to sit on my shelves, unread. So I’ve been looking at “Creeds of the Churches; a reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present,” ed. John H. Leith, Anchor Books, 1963.

At our Lutheran church, generally we say the Apostle's Creed every Sunday at the liturgical service, and on special times, like Christmas, we brush off the Nicene Creed; and occasionally the Athanasian Creed. The history of the creeds is really fascinating, and so far superior to some of the current, trendy “home made” statements of faith, or mission statements churches sometimes say today. Non-denominational, or "spiritual but not religious" Christians just have no ideas what they owe to these leaders of a thousand years ago who battled heresies, Muslims, and bad Popes.  Particularly impressive is the Fourth Lateran Council. Also it’s interesting that it took 1200 years to sanction the word transubstantiation even though the idea is clearly stated in Jesus’ words in John 6:53-58 and had been the practice for over a century.

“The fourth Lateran Council, the 12th ecumenical council (1215), generally considered the greatest council before Trent, was years in preparation. Pope Innocent III desired the widest possible representation, and more than 400 bishops, 800 abbots and priors, envoys of many European kings, and personal representatives of Frederick II (confirmed by the council as emperor of the West) took part. The purpose of the council was twofold: reform of the church and the recovery of the Holy Land. Many of the conciliar decrees touching on church reform and organization remained in effect for centuries. The council ruled on such vexing problems as the use of church property, tithes, judicial procedures, and patriarchal precedence. It ordered Jews and Saracens to wear distinctive dress and obliged Catholics to make a yearly confession and to receive Communion during the Easter season. The council sanctioned the word transubstantiation as a correct expression of eucharistic doctrine. The teachings of the Cathari and Waldenses were condemned. Innocent also ordered a four-year truce among Christian rulers so that a new crusade could be launched.”
There were some excellent rules for the church/clergy in 1215--could be used today, like providing for the education of the poor, especially future priests, modest dress and behavior for clerics, priests couldn't be judges (separation of church and state), all Christians had to confess their sins at least once a year and take communion at least once, if a priest revealed a confession he would be banished to a monastery,  incompetent people couldn't be appointed, a cathedral or church couldn't be without a pastor for more than 3 months, (compared to a widow and ravenous wolves attacking the people), and for some reason were not to hunt or fowl or keep dogs for that purpose.

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