THE CREED

PROFESSING THE FAITH THROUGH THE AGES

By Scott Hahn

Emmaus Road, 2016

191 pages, $23 (hardbound)

To order: EWTNRC.com or (800) 854-6316

 

Observers of religious practice in the United States today note the ascendance, especially among millennials, of interest in “spirituality,” as opposed to religion. It’s chic to be “spiritual” while avoiding the constraints of “dogmatism.” The obvious reply is that “spirituality” needs to stem from something or, better, Someone, most especially from God, and if we are to be in spiritual “relationship,” we need to know something of whom we are relating.

Bible scholar Scott Hahn shows us just how central creedal statements are to Christianity. The early Trinitarian and Christological disputes were not mere academic fights among theologians. Because they raised questions of how Jesus was both God and man, the implications of their outcomes were just as important for how we understand ourselves as how we understand God.

Hahn repeatedly emphasizes that the creeds did not originate because Christianity was about propositions, but about Persons: “Faith is our personal clinging to God and to his truth in its entirety. It is our act of trust in everything God is and says and asks of us. Our object is not a proposition, but a Person.”

Nor is it just a question of knowing. What we believe makes us who we are. “…[C]reeds don’t just make you who you are and I who I am; they also make us who we are. They are the ordinary means God uses to unite his people” (emphasis original).

Hahn’s focus is on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Profession of Faith Catholics make every Sunday. He devotes attention to two major themes: its Trinitarian and its Christological affirmations. He points out that the Creed was a central element of the baptismal liturgy: entering the People of God meant receiving and accepting the faith that bound that people together to God.

Now, consider the Creed’s Trinitarian affirmations. When we confess God as “Father” — as “Abba,” “daddy” — we are saying that the God who created everything could not be any closer to us! That is a radical statement that sets Christianity apart from everybody else, Hahn explains. “God’s eternal fatherhood cannot be squared ... with the other major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, or even … Judaism.” It clearly contradicts Islam, in which “God is exclusively transcendent. Thus no one, in heaven or on earth, can call upon God as Father. All other beings stand in relation to God, not as children to a parent, but as slaves to a master. For Mohammed himself, Islam was — most emphatically — submission as a slave, not a son.”

So, when a Christian declares, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty,” “we confess God as Three-in-One, and we believe the Father has sent his Son to dwell among us — and share with us the Holy Spirit so that we, too, might come to know and share divine life.”

Catholic spirituality is not “hooked on a feeling.” It stands on a Person, knowledge of whom (limited as it is) makes revolutionary claims about God, us and our relationship. This book offers deep yet readable insight into what we are really saying every Sunday when we proclaim, “I believe.”

 

John M. Grondelski, Ph.D., writes from Falls Church, Virginia.