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‘No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible’

The Apostles' Creed — which President Trump chose not to recite at George H.W. Bush's state funeral — is not a part of worship for Churches of Christ.

The Apostles’ what?

America’s roughly 1.4 million adherents of Churches of Christ generally proclaim “no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.”

Related: Remembering Bush: A charge for 2019

As a result, many are unfamiliar with the Apostles’ Creed. Some may wonder about the fuss over President Donald Trump choosing not to recite it at this week’s state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush, an Episcopalian.

The Christian Chronicle asked a few experts to weigh in on the Creed, this version of which was read at Wednesday’s service at the Washington National Cathedral:

In the assurance of eternal life given at baptism, let us proclaim our faith and say: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.

What is the Apostles’ Creed?

John Mark Hicks

John Mark Hicks

“It is an ancient baptismal confession that originated in the second century though it did not take final form until much later.” — John Mark Hicks, Restoration Movement scholar and theology professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. 

“The basic tenets of the Christian faith.” — Charles Rix, dean of the College of Biblical Studies at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City

“The Apostles’ Creed is a short summary of the Christian story and beliefs.” — Sara Gaston Barton, university chaplain at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

“The Apostles’ Creed is a very ancient statement of the Christian faith. It states succinctly the content of what all Christians believe.” — Bobby Valentine, Stone-Campbell Movement scholar and minister of Eastside Church of Christ in Antioch, Calif.

Is the Apostles Creed something with which most members of Churches of Christ are familiar? Why or why not?

“Most members of Churches of Christ are unfamiliar with it, though they believe its affirmations. This is due to our distance from creeds; we don’t find them necessary or helpful. Consequently, we don’t know the creeds or what they say.” — Hicks

Charles Rix

Charles Rix

“Most members know it exists, but because we are ‘non-creedal,’ many would not be able to recite it.” — Rix

“Because Churches of Christ do not recite creeds in worship, most members are not intimately familiar with them. But if they attend worship, weddings or funerals with friends in other traditions, or if they read books about Christianity, they have likely heard it and pondered its words at some point.” — Barton

“In my experience, most members of Churches of Christ are not familiar with the Apostles’ Creed. The most basic reason for our unfamiliarity is our sense of historylessness. We tend to assume that nothing after the New Testament matters in the slightest while never realizing that the New Testament itself is a product of events after the first century. Early Christians learned this Creed because they did not have a pocket New Testament.” — Valentine

What would Churches of Christ in general believe concerning the Apostles Creed? Has this belief changed over time?

“I think most would affirm it, though the ‘descent into hell’ would be misunderstood by most. It only means that Jesus descended into Hades and not into “hell” (as in Gehenna or torment or fire).” — Hicks (Editor’s note: Some versions of the Creed use this language, although the one read at Wednesday’s funeral did not.)

Sara Gaston Barton

Sara Gaston Barton

“Most Churches of Christ would agree with the basics of the Apostles’ Creed.” — Rix

“For some in Churches of Christ, creeds were historically viewed with suspicion because they were formed apart from exact words of Scripture. In my experience, those suspicions have decreased over time among many in Churches of Christ and other free church traditions.” — Barton

“Alexander Campbell certainly believed that the Apostles’ Creed was an accurate description of the essential truths of the Christian faith. He even confessed it could be the basis of unity. Most Churches of Christ today would likely object to the Creed because it is a creed and possibly because of the wording ‘the holy catholic church.'” — Valentine 

What else would be helpful for a member of a Church of Christ reading a story on this topic?

“Alexander Campbell affirmed the value of the Creed and believed its tenets. He thought it was a useful statement of the narrative facts of the Christian story, though it was incomplete to his mind. He would not, however, use it as a kind of formal constitution to the church. At the same time, he believed its tenets were necessary to the confession of the Christian faith.” — Hicks

Bobby Valentine

Bobby Valentine

“To recite the Apostles’ Creed is to (essentially) publicly affirm one’s Christian faith.” — Rix

“Many Christian traditions value creeds because they contribute to communal identity and offer teaching points for young people or those unfamiliar with the faith. When loving our neighbors of other traditions, we can love them by learning why they value creeds.” — Barton

“I think it would be helpful to understand the difference between a creed like the Apostles’ Creed and a confession of faith such as the Westminster Confession of Faith. The word creed comes from the Latin ‘credo’ and simply means ‘I believe.’ So in the Latin version of the Apostles’ Creed, it opens with ‘Credo in Deum’ (‘I believe in God’). In the ancient church, the statements were likely made in a baptismal context as the person made his or her confession regarding the faith. Thus creeds are short statements of faith. Confessions like Westminster are often complex commentaries, not merely statements of essential belief.” — Valentine


President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump view a White House portrait of former President George H.W. Bush.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump view a White House portrait of former President George H.W. Bush.

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Trump’s choice not to recite the Apostles’ Creed has sparked a variety of serious — and not-so-serious — attention:

Filed under: Apostles' Creed National President George H.W. Bush President Trump Top Stories

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