Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Can Creeds Change?

Well, can they? Let’s extend our right hands, wiggle our fingers, and time-warp the air around us as we travel into the early twenty-third century.

Communiqué from the Bishops of the United Western Church (UWC), the United Church of the Seventy-Four Eastern Denominations (UC74ED), the Worship Leaders of the Independent Network of Churches (WLINC), the Blesséd Christian Churches of the Equatorial Nations (BCCEN), and St Biggles the Airborne, Hemel Hempstead, UK (SBAHHUK).

Date: 27 January, 2203 ce

This past week has seen the five major Christian global networks of churches meet for the Third Ecumenical Council of Humpty Doo in Australia’s Northern Territory. The occasion for meeting was to revise the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of ad 381 in light of massive and significant societal changes that render its theology meaningless to all but a few independent fundamentalist churches in the panhandle of the South-Eastern States of America and the Republic of Texas, and the Independent Christian Counties of Sussex and Kent in Western Europe. Such changes include:

·     the conviction that God’s role in galactic matters is limited to a sympathetic observer of all that transpires;
·     the standardization of in-vitro fertilization techniques to effect progeny;
·     the elimination of precisely defined concepts of parenthood;
·     the recognition that each human has a special role to play for the good of humanity; and
·     the absence of belief in any sort of afterlife beyond the iDeath memory app.

In light of these widespread socio-theological changes, the Third Council of Humpty Doo acknowledges that while the Church catholic historically has confessed faith in God as portrayed by the Creed of 381, the vast majority of individual Christians today do not and cannot confess faith in this way. This means the Church catholic finds itself in the unusual position of confessing a faith that nobody believes. Thus the Council has authorized the following revision of the Creed of 381:

The Creed of Humpty Doo, 2203 ce
An Authorized Revision of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of ad 381

We recognize that some still believe in one God,
whom we call the Donor, the All-watching,
the initiator of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and whatever might be unseen.

We recognize that some still believe Jesus Christ is Lord,
whom we hold is the best of all the Donor’s progeny,
who epitomizes the perfect God–human relationship
to which we all aspire;
yes, because of him, we are inspired to aspire.
For us and for our inspiration he was born under the heavens,
kept in step with the breath of God, loved his surrogate (serendipitously, a virgin),
and grew up to be a fine man.
For a variety of reasons he was crucified by the Evil Roman Empire;
he fainted but was mistakenly buried.
On the third day his disciples revived him
in accordance with the good practice of the day;
metaphorically, he ascended into heaven
and is seated (again, metaphorically) at the right hand of the Donor.
His mythical return in glory shows us that good triumphs over evil,
and that love will win the day.

We recognize that some still believe in the Holy Spirit,
which we feel is the breath of God,
the seed of the Donor impregnating all things with life,
and which is to be regarded as our life force.
We believe that the one holy catholic and apostolic Church
is in fact an inclusive organism made up of every person, regardless of creed, colour, or even assent.
We acknowledge for reasons unknown that baptism is a Good Thing for our progeny.
We look for the dearly departed to live on in our hearts and on iDeath,
and for successful iDeath uploading ceremonies.

The Creed of Humpty Doo (2203 ce) is authorized for immediate use. A poll will be taken in early 2208 to ascertain the Creed’s acceptance and use among the churches. Each member of each member-church of the churches represented at the Third Council of Humpty Doo will have opportunity to vote for his, her, or its favourite part of the Creed at this time. All those parts of the Creed that do not have at least a seventy per cent approval rating are likely to be rejected the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Middelfart, Denmark, to be held in June 2210.

So may the grace of the Donor-initiator’s best progeny, the pleasing warmth of the Donor-initiator, and the network-building strategies of the Donor-initiator’s seed-breath be with us all until our memories are uploaded to iDeath. Amen.


  1. Very good ;)

    The short answer to the serious question (assuming it *was* serious) is, yes, Creeds can change. As you know far better than I, the Nicene Creed changed between its 325 AD and 381 AD versions.

    However, the basis on which creeds can change, and in what ways and to what extents they can change, are clearly subjects for a lengthier discussion... I may get back to you if I feel furtherly inspired...

    1. Well, let's hope you do feel furtherly inspired. :)

    2. I'm very furtherly inspired...

      So I'd suggest that there are 3 possible *types* of changes that could in theory be made to an established Creed:

      1. Addition - given that Creeds are not designed to be comprehensive but rather to provide a common core of beliefs, it's possible that the Church Catholick might one day decide to add a new clause - for example, to include some of the events of Jesus' earthly ministry.

      2. Subtraction. I can't see this ever happening, because I don't think there's anything particularly contentious in either of the church's main creeds. But if there had been a line about, say, male-only leadership, the church might conceivably decide that it was not a central tenet and no longer appropriate to include. Or it might be felt that Jesus' descent into hell did not have sufficient biblical authority to merit its inclusion.

      3. Adjustment - minor amendment to an existing clause. The section about the Trinity might be a candidate, given that there have been different understandings of the doctrine in different sections of the church.

      What then of the grounds on which such changes might be made? I can think of 2, maybe 3, legitimate grounds:

      1. Clear divine revelation - unlikely perhaps, but it's not theoretically impossible that God might decide to reveal unequivocally some new aspect of doctrine or revision to existing beliefs.

      2. Compelling new archaeological or scholarly evidence leading to a revised view of aspects of the gospels.

      3. An overwhelming change in the understandings or beliefs of the whole universal church, agreed by all to be led by the Holy Spirit (which I suppose would then be a variant of (1)).

      However... in practice I don't think that any change is now ever likely to be made either to the Nicene or Apostle's Creed. They're too well established and long-accepted, and there isn't a central universal church authority that could decree or agree such changes.

      However, it might be possible that supplementary secondary creeds might spring up within particular denominations, which would not be universally binding. I suppose the Anglican 39 Articles could be seen as something along these lines...?

    3. Well, I guess the Thirty-Nine Articles and their ilk are more readily described as 'confessions'. If we take the Church catholic to be a multiverse, then confessions would be universally binding, but not multiversally binding. Or something.

      I doubt that any change is likely to be made to the Nicene or Apostles' Creeds now - apart from the possibility of the filioque clause in the former. Of the legitimate grounds of change you mention, I'd think the Church catholic would find it difficult to accept either #1 or #3. It doesn't make theological sense to me to say that God would either reveal a new aspect of doctrine (for doctrine is an ecclesial construct; no doctrine is revealed, even if all doctrine is (supposedly) based on revelation) or revise existing beliefs (again, beliefs are held by creatures - it is people who revise their beliefs on the basis of deeper and/or different understandings of things). I think your #3 is more likely than your #1; but for a creed to be revised, the Church catholic would have to be bloomin' blinkin' sure of the Spirit's leading! All of which leaves #2. I can imagine that if the skeleton of Jesus was found, and somehow was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the skeleton of Jesus, then I think it more likely that the creeds would be reinterpreted rather than revised. All that stuff about Jesus rising from the dead - that could be interpreted as figurative and/or spiritual rather than literal or actual, as indeed many people probably do already, including those strange people who think that the man Jesus of Nazareth never even lived.

    4. Yes, good point about the distinction between revelation, belief and doctrine... duly noted!

      I suppose what I meant was that God might choose to reveal something new so unequivocally and unilaterally that the Church catholic would have little option but to revise its core doctrines/beliefs. It seems so overwhelmingly unlikely that we can probably discount it practically, but it's not absolutely impossible in theory.

      But as I say, in practice I don't think the Creeds will ever change again now. New confessions aplenty will doubtless arise though.

    5. Oh, I'm sure. Let's face it: both of worship in Church of England congregations, and I'm guessing both our churches, however unconsciously, focus on different aspects of the Creeds and/or Thirty-Nine Articles that they'd practically be different confessions!

      (Was any of that clear?)

  2. PS I mean Apostles' Creed of course... ;)

    1. Just goes to show ya...
      " you just can't fix stupid"

    2. Just goes to show ya...
      " you just can't fix stupid"