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Introduction to Creeds

Creeds: What Are They and Why Do We Have Them?

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Michel Onfray’s Atheist Manifesto: The Case against Christianity, Judaism and Islam and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (a splendidly belligerent title) by Christopher Hitchens are three of a raft of recently published books attacking the notion of faith in God and a religious response to life. Books like these bring into focus some vital questions for all of us:

  • Is belief in God reasonable?
  • If we don’t believe in God, what do we believe in?
  • What is life all about?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Have humans any purpose? If so what is it?
  • Why do we suffer?
  • Why is the world in such mess?
  • How can we achieve happiness?

These books and the articles, reviews, interviews and discussions of them in the media also have the useful effect of stimulating a new interest in what we Catholics actually do believe. We might be motivated to do some reading and talking and thinking that will help us appreciate the unique approach to life we share. We might realise anew (or for the first time) that the stance of faith is a perfectly intellectually valid and life-giving one which opens us up to a deeper understanding of the truth about the world and what it is to be human, and a way of life which leads to generosity, to forgiveness, to self-transcendence and so to happiness.

Working out what we believe – the role of Creeds

One way in which we can work out what we believe is to look again at our creeds, those short statements of faith, developed in the first centuries of the church and assented to by all the major Christian traditions, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. Online conversations with Luke Timothy Johnson and Jaroslav Pelikan, two popular scholars and writers, reveal their enthusiasm for the Christian creed and the radical challenge it poses to a society awash in materialism and self-absorption. Another article by Ron Rolheiser OMI proposes the language of the Creed, as well as the language of the Scriptures, as icons to be contemplated.

Click on the appropriate 'Section' button on the right to read about how Creeds developed in the Church.