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The Apostles' Creed


On at least two occasions of which I am aware, C. S. Lewis referred in his published writings to The Apostles' Creed. One of those occasions was in his sermon entitled, "On Forgiveness," reprinted in The Weight of Glory. At the beginning of the sermon Lewis states,
We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. "If one is a Christian," I thought, "of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying." But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not nearly so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that very easily slips away if we don't keep on polishing it up.
The second place where Lewis mentions the Creed is in his essay entitled "The World's Last Night". At the beginning of that essay he writes,
There are many reasons why the modern Christian and even the modern theologian may hesitate to give to the doctrine of Christ's Second Coming that emphasis which was usually laid on it by our ancestors. Yet it seems to me impossible to retain in any recognisable form our belief in the Divinity of Christ and the truth of the Christian revelation while abandoning, or even persistently neglecting, the promised, and threatened, Return. "He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead," says the Apostles' Creed.
I think both of these statements indicate that when Lewis thought of what were the essential doctrines of Christianity, he thought of the Apostles' Creed. Lewis realized that there would inevitably be certain objections to his approach. In the Preface to Mere Christianity he writes,
Far deeper objections may be felt--and have been expressed--against my use of the word Christian to mean one who accepts the common doctrines of Christianity. People ask: "Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?" or "May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?" Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every amiable quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it....
Now if once we allow people to start spiritualising and refining, or as they might say "deepening," the sense of the word Christian, it too will speedily become a useless word. In the first place. Christians themselves will never be able to apply it to anyone. It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never apply is not going to be a very useful word....
We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to "the disciples," to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were "far closer to the spirit of Christ" than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological, or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian.
Thus, I think it is clear that Lewis defined Christianity in terms of doctrine, and he was not alone in doing so. The faith has been so defined for centuries. And one statement of doctrine that has united Christians of various denominations for centuries is The Apostles' Creed. It is, so far as I know, a creed that Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and many Protestant Christians hold in common. Therefore, I think it is a creed very worthy of our careful attention. It is something to be studied and discussed as well as confessed in services of worship.

Therefore, I propose to offer here a study of The Apostles' Creed over the course of this year. Along the way we will examine certain Scriptures that form the source for the teaching contained in the Creed. And where Lewis comments on these doctrines, we will take a look at what he has to say too. 

Depending upon how you count, there are approximately twelve doctrinal statements in the Creed. Therefore, I propose to spend a month looking at each statement.

Some have suggested that there is one statement in the Creed for each of the Twelve Apostles. But as we shall see in the next post, the Creed does not date to the time of the Apostles at all. Some may wonder why, therefore, we should study this Creed if it does not go back to the very foundation of the Church. I will try to address that question as well....
 
 
 

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