Today’s question comes from Sharon. She wrote: “When someone asks me what I believe, without going into a 90-minute dissertation, I like to say, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Maybe simplistic, but true. My question for you is, since you are interested in creedal/non-creedal beliefs, do you think my statement is a Creed?”
Sharon, first let me say you are in good company when you respond to questions about your beliefs in the manner you do. When asked how he would summarize the essence of his Christian faith during a 1962 visit to the United States, Karl Barth – considered by many to be the greatest Christian theologian of the 20th Century – responded exactly as you do: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” So much for being simplistic 😊
Now to your question about whether or not your response should be considered creedal.
This question is a little more complicated than a yes or no answer. My “It depends!” response is built on how a person approaches the “Jesus” referenced in the song.
If a person approaches Jesus by suggesting it is one’s beliefs ABOUT Jesus that are most important – then I think that person is taking a creedal approach to their Christian faith. And please note when I say “beliefs about Jesus” – this can come from more than one theological direction.
If you believe, for instance, that a person MUST believe that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, born of a virgin mother, died and experienced a bodily resurrection in order to be a good Christian – this would be creedal approach from an Evangelical or Traditionalist perspective.
If you believe, on the other hand, that a person MUST believe that Jesus was human (not divine), that his birth happened in the usual way, and that the only way to understand the resurrection is as a metaphor – this would be a creedal approach from a Progressive perspective.
Both approaches – in my mind – are equally creedal.
So how can you hold a Jesus-based faith in a non-creedal way?
Rather than defining things via your beliefs ABOUT Jesus, a non-creedal Christian can lead with her or his RELATIONSHIP WITH/OR CONNECTION TO Jesus. This approach moves beyond rigid doctrine and allows individuals to have different experiences (or understandings) of Jesus. It is that generosity of spirit – a generosity that allows, and even encourages individuals to see things differently – that is the hallmark of a non-creedal approach toward Christian faith.
So what does Sharon’s question raise for you?