Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A new Nicene for 21st Century Pagan Britain

Father’s Day was well celebrated last Sunday. What slipped by unnoticed, unless you conform to a more traditional denomination, was the fact that it was also Trinity Sunday.

The language we use to describe who God is & how He works in the world is up for grabs again. During the first 400 years of Christianity, believers went to great lengths to load their language with rich theological meaning that would resonate with their culture, & most importantly, be understood by the ordinary man on the street. Creeds like the Nicene which now most Christians find dusty & dry were bright with colourful revelation about the God of the bible to a world which thought & spoke from a different cultural language. These mighty creeds crossed the bridge into pagan cultures & allowed the gospel to take root.

In the 1600 years or so since the Nicene Creed, we have come full circle. What commentators call post-christendom is really nothing new. It is simply a return to a challenging age of opportunity for Christian thought & language in a multi cultural, pagan 21st Century.

Our culture contaminated 21st Century Christian has even lost contact with some of the deep truths which previous generations treasured. And whilst the churches have moved away from creeds & systematic bible teaching, pagan cultures have flooded in & filled the thinking gap.

When the average Christian hears or reads the word ‘God’ on Trinity Sunday, they are not generally thinking of the Triune being, Father, Son & Spirit. Not many of us preachers eagerly look forward to this teaching opportunity of Trinity Sunday in the church calendar!
Leslie Newbigin put it this way in his old classic, ‘The Open Secret’:’The working concept of most ordinary Christians is – if one may venture a bold guess – shaped more by the combination of Greek Philosophy & Islamic theology, than by the thought of the fathers of the first four centuries.’
If even the church is confused about who God really is, is it any surprise that the rest of our unchurched society has a mixed message?

Quite simply, we need a new creed for today’s crowd. One which sounds a clear note again, to teach & encourage believers, as well as challenge the best guess views about God of post moderns which fall so far short of reality. New language to describe ancient ideas from our forefathers. New ways of communicating truth to those who will not otherwise hear & understand. New words to affirm the age old truths that God has revealed Himself as Father, Son & Spirit for our sakes, for our generation!

The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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