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Nicene Creed

Discussion in 'United Church Of Christ' started by everbecoming2007, May 30, 2013.

  1. everbecoming2007

    everbecoming2007 Well-Known Member

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    What role does the Nicene Creed have in the United Church of Christ?
     
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  2. camethodactor

    camethodactor Newbie

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    The Nicene Creed is one of our affirmations of faith but is viewed as a testimony of faith rather than a test of faith. Individual members may believe in it or not according to the dictates of their God given reason and conscience.
     
  3. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    If it is an "affirmation of faith", doesn't it mean that the UCC "affirms" or agrees with the Nicene Creed?

    The 1957 UCC Constitution says that the UCC "claims... the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds... It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God..."
     
  4. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Remember, the UCC is a congregational church. No national body is in a position to enforce a creed, nor would congregations want to do so either. Saying you're part of the faith that was expressed by the Nicene Creed is not a statement that no development in the faith has occurred since that time.
     
  5. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    Hello, Hedrick!

    Are you saying that if a development might have occurred in the Creed's Faith, then "Individual members may believe in it (the Creed) or not", or that the UCC doesn't necessarily agree with the Creed itself while still agreeing with the Creed's "Faith"?

    If it is one of the UCC's "affirmation of faith", doesn't that mean that it affirms or agrees with their faith and that consequently the UCC affirms and agrees with the Nicene Creed?

    If the UCC were to reject the Nicene Creed (a faith statement), wouldn't it not have the same "faith" as that "Creed" or "faith statement"?
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  6. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    I didn't write the UCC statement. But my church also has historical creeds, which we also don't take literally. We cite the creeds because they identify the tradition that we are part of. Our model is that specifics of our beliefs change over time, but as part of development within a continuing community. It makes sense to identify ourselves as part of the Reformed community represented by the historical Reformed confessions, rather than, say, Lutheran or Catholic. But that doesn't mean that we hold every 16th Cent belief that Calvin did, even though our theologians look to Calvin for insight and quote him.

    This issue was a major part of the early 20th Cent fundamentalist controversy. Many of the beliefs involved in that controversy weren't part of the Nicene Creed, but some were. The Virgin Birth was one of the 5 key points of fundamentalism. It's in the Nicene Creed. No mainline church, including both UCC and PCUSA, considers belief in it necessary, though many of our members do believe it. (Note the CF doesn't really permit discussion of it, so if you say something substantial about it in response I won't be able to reply.)

    Both UCC and PCUSA also have recent statements of faith. For the UCC, see What We Believe

    The Presbyterian Church of Canada has a rather nice treatment of the role of confessions in the Reformed tradition, http://presbyterian.ca/wp-content/uploads/pcc_confessing_the_faith_today_2003.pdf. This treatment speaks of two approaches to confessions, which they refer to as "fixed," vs "open." Both tendencies have been visible in our tradition, with churches typically following approaches somewhere in the middle. The UCC (and the PCUSA) is currently more at the "open" end of the spectrum.
     
  7. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    This is helpful, thanks Hedrick.
    I can see how a Creed can be part of one's tradition and yet not accept everything in a Creed,
    like the Virgin Birth. The Westminster Confession could teach something on a topic and the Presbyterian Church could have accepted that Confession, and yet later on, people in the Church could change their mind on the particular topic, even though the Creed and its position on that topic are part of their tradition.

    In my message #3, I didn't make it clear, but I wanted to address what Camethodactor wrote: that it's their "affirmation of faith" and "testimony of faith" and yet "Individual members may believe in it or not". Plus, the UCC Constitution says that it's the Church's responsibility "to make this faith its own." Without getting into the substance of the Creed, it seems to me that it's a contradiction for someone to both consider it their faith affirmation and yet not believe it. Do you see what I mean? (Let me know if we can't discuss that here, please Hedrick.)

    The only way I can make sense of the contradiction
    is to think that the UCC members who don't believe it consider it to express their faith in a main part of the Creed literally and take the rest non-literally. For example, they think that the story of the Great Flood or of the Virgin Birth expresses their faith in the literally-existing God, but that those events did not literally occur. Maybe you suggested this explanation when you said "my church also has historical creeds, which we also don't take literally"?
     
  8. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Sort of. A creed expresses the faith of the body that issues it at that time. There are at least two reasons why someone might not agree with all of it:
    * The community as a whole may have changed some aspects of its belief.
    * The individual may not agree with everything that his community currently believes.

    Even in conservative churches such as the PCA, it is understood that some items of the confessions may not be essential. Even the PCA wouldn't eject a member who agrees with most of Westminster because they disagree with one or two items that aren't essential to the faith. I'm not aware of any Reformed body that expects 100% conformity. The liberal churches tend to expect less conformity than the conservative ones, of course.

    If either the community has changed or an individual disagrees, do we take those items of the creed non-literally? Not necessarily. In some cases we may simply no longer agree. In other cases we may agree with the intent, but think the way they expressed it is no longer the best way. E.g. consider Chalcedon. Modern theologians agree that Scripture refers to Christ as human being, but also God's presence. Theology must do justice to both, and can't adopt a compromise such as Arianism. However they may not find language using hypostasis and ousia a very useful way to talk about it. I'm not sure I'd say that this takes Chalcedon non-literally, exactly, but they think there are other ways to accomplish the same goals.

    It's sometimes hard to draw the line. E.g. the Reformed tradition considers it very important to emphasize the primacy of God's grace, to maintain that he comes after us before we're in any position to respond, and thus that our salvation is entirely due to God. In explaining these points, Calvin felt it necessary to say that God had a specific set of people he chose to be damned. Most modern Reformed (at least the ones I know) wouldn't agree with that, but would still want to maintain that our salvation is entirely from God. I'm not sue we're taking anything non-literally here.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  9. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    I understand this better. The UCC has the Creed as an affirmation and testimony of faith for itself as an organization, but members don't have to believe the organization's faith testimony in order to remain a member.

    I think that other than maybe some very conservative Reformed churches, a person is allowed to be in a state of disbelief and yet remain a member. For example, a person could take a philosophy class from an atheist and come away thinking that God doesn't exist and yet the church wont expel the member for it.
     
  10. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    My sense is that the UCC is the church that is the loosest when it comes to the Nicene Creed or to the basics of NT belief. I visited a well attended UCC church in a major city and I got a strong sense that the clergy did not think that the supernatural basics of Jesus' story were literal, even though the hymns and gospel readings were IMO intended literally by their authors.
     
  11. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    The UCC comes from the broad Regormed tradition like the PCUSA. I sympathize with how they are both academic and forward thinking. But I think that the conservative Reformed better represent Calvin's thinking and the Reformed Tradition as their founders intended and practiced it themselves- with repression, judgmentalism, an emphasis on the restrictiveness of their concept of the limits of who could be saved, the Elect, their idea of how the Elect cant fail and destiny cant change, etc.

    Hedrick, I like you and a lot about the PCUSA and have a hard time seeing what real advantages the Reformed tradition offers over the Lutherans and Methodists/Arminians, such that either in the early Reformation or today PCUSA-type Reformed wouldn't have joined the Lutherans or would have persecuted the Arminians. How would you answer this?

    One answer could be that sectarianism or the idea of having many church divisions don't bother protestants like it bothers Catholics and Orthodox, so PCUSA doesn't feel a need to unite as one church with Lutherans or Methodists. But besides that, I think that when someone with a forward thinking, merciful standpoint understands Calvin's thinking and the distinctiveness of the non-methodist Reformed, it's hard to see how it is better or preferable to basic Lutheran or Methodist thinking. Luther and Calvin both shared what you said in your last message about grace and salvation coming from God to Man, not from Man. Some basic ideas of God's chosen and Destiny and Plan are also shared by Lutheran, Reformed, and Orthodox churches. But Calvin seemed to make his own theology distinct by empgasizing an unchangeability of Destiny and the limit if God's offer of salvation or of who could get saved, such that the Lutheran system or other Christian systems seem much preferable, and no less convincing or realistic.
     
  12. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Several issues here:

    The distinction among mainline denominations is primarily historical. Remember that the Reformation occurred by territory. There was no international Reformed or Lutheran denomination. There were cities or countries that were Reformed or Lutheran. They become separate denominations when people from those areas moved to the US, bringing their churches with them. That led to competing churches in the same area, all of which became national.

    Calvin himself wanted to maintain communion with the Lutherans. He was careful not to criticize Luther in public. However the negotiators were unable to deal with differences in the theology of communion, where the Lutheran tradition takes "this is my body" more literally than the Reformed. That difference continues, but is no longer considered a barrier to communion. It was actually communion, not predestination, that was the barrier that they couldn't overcome. This is, in part, because predestination in the Reformed tradition isn't quite as fatalist as you seem to think. Nor are modern Reformed, conservative or liberal, any more judgmental than their Lutheran equivalents.

    Currently the PCUSA and ELCA are in full communion. Full communion in this context means that not just joint communion but that pastors of both denominations can serve at churches of the other.

    Why not just unite? I'm not sure. Basically I don't think most denominations think it's all that useful. We have enough issues with the central body not being responsive that a lot of people are afraid of what one big, merged church would look like. There are also differences in organization.

    The Reformed tradition emphasizes leadership by elders. Technically a pastor is just a special kind of elder. We don't have bishops. Instead we have elected bodies at the state, regional, and national level that function much like bishops in churches that have them. We're reluctant to give that up. But non-Reformed bodies mostly have bishops. That includes the Lutheran, Methodist, and Anglican traditions. The Lutherans aren't bothered by the difference, so we have full communion with them. The Episcopal Church maintains the idea of the apostolic succession, which operates through bishops. So far they have only made full communion agreements with bodies that have at least titular bishops. Our full communion agreements so far are Korean Presbyterians, ELCA, Moravians, RCA, and UCC. The barriers are almost entirely differences in organizational structure.

    I think we'll end up with bilateral full communion agreements among most of the mainline churches, except maybe Episcopal. Perhaps if mainline churches continue to shrink we'll get to the point where it doesn't make sense to keep separate organizations, but that looks like it's a while off.

    I should note that we've got the start of bilateral agreements with the Catholic Church. We have one now on mutual recognition of baptism. There are discussions about communion, but that will require more flexibility than I think currently exists.
     
  13. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

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    Thanks, Hedrick.
     
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