the American church's anti-creedal creed

When I read this statement of faith, I felt I stumbled upon the "creed" my more liberal Christian siblings seem to believe in deed if not in creed,
Historically, ******** has always taught that deeds matter more than creeds; that the quality of our lives counts for more than the “correctness” of our beliefs. In keeping with these principles the ***** states that “integrity of life” and “free thought” shall be the Society’s first aim, as together we seek to promote “truth, righteousness, reverence and charity among all.” Although ******** in general and First ******* in particular have changed a great deal since the late 19th century, these principles still are central to our identity. We are a freedom loving, justice seeking people with wide-ranging interests and universal sympathies. We draw from many sources -- ancient and modern, East and West – for inspiration, and we trust that inner harmony will lead to ethical action.
There is so much that is nice in this church's statement of faith. I left their name out so that no conservative's alarm bells go off while reading it. What's missing? What is there to criticize? In John's gospel, Jesus dialogs, out of the cultural norm, with a woman whose creed was lacking, which influenced her practices, in chapter 4. When Jesus catches her off guard with his knowledge of her serial marriages and current live-in boyfriend, she acknowledges his prophetic ability and switches the conversation off herself and onto religious hot topics, the dispute between her people, the Samaritans, and his, the Jews. Jesus responds they worship what they don't know, but the Jews worship what they know, but their knowledge is lifeless. Jesus then says God is looking for worshippers who know what they worship and are enlivened by it,
John 4:23-24 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. 
"Must" is a critical word here, dei in Greek, roughly translates, "it is necessary." Jesus rightly criticizes his own people, who have the correct knowledge, of not doing anything with that knowledge. The priests and scribes were the bad guys in the story of the good "Samaritan" because they didn't do anything to help the injured guy, but the Samaritan with the poor knowledge did the right thing. "Deeds over creeds" which this church quoted above, and a frequent ethos I encounter in the liberal Christian blogosphere, does not take Jesus serious enough. My favorite verse in the Bible, is from Jesus' prayer for his followers, the night before he dies, in John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Eternal life is not a "know-nothing" experience, but a "know someone" experience, but that someone is so immense and wonderful and amazing that we need  eternity to do it. But our eternal life begins now. God has revealed himself to the world in Jesus. Earlier in the night Jesus told his disciples, John 14:7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. Again, the "know" word. Which comes back around to those divisive words, creed and doctrine. The creeds come from challenges in the church's history to what is true about God. If anything is true, nothing is true. So, as Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, "what is truth?" (John 18:38)

Jesus says there are two commandments that everything boils down to. Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-39) Deeds without creeds focuses on the 2nd commandment and diminishes the 1st, contrary to Jesus' emphasis. How can we love anyone if we refuse to know them? That's infatuation, not love. The creeds tell us what is true about God, so that we can rightly worship Him. He wants worshipers in spirit and truth. We worship with our hearts, our minds, and our hands.

The Bible is his love letter to us, why would we avoid it, diminish it, or overwrite it? He conforms us to His image, not Him to our image. So we learn his image by reading what he left for us and act on what we've learned. Creeds and deeds.

By the way, the only reason I used that church's statement of belief was because I was learning about their award winning green addition to their Frank Lloyd Wright structure.


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