Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 23rd, 2017 by Joel Watts

the Creed in light of ecumenicism and academia

From Robert Jenson‘s, Canon and Creed:

At this ecumenically untoward moment, there are even renewed concerns about confessional identity. Since the creed and the Scriptures are shared by most of the separated churches, it is unlikely that they will greatly help, for example, the Lutherans discover why they are not Methodists. Scripture and creed are ecumenical possessions, and the churches are at the moment not very interested in the ecumene. Even the officially and thereby in its case permanently committed Roman Catholic Church currently manifests little actual interest in ecumenism at national or diocesan levels. And the mantra among Protestants is “What is the special contribution of our denomination?” “Contribution” sounds ecumenical, but one need not be overly cynical to suspect that the question actually seeks reasons for maintaining denominational distinctives. Neither canon nor creed will provide such reasons; indeed, the most that could be expected from either would be condemnation of the question.

In some academic and ecclesial circles, canon and creed are even assumed to be in competition for our loyalty. The Scripture is regarded as a deposit of ancient Israelite and early Christian “religion”; and the creeds are thought to be the result of later and alienating “philosophical” influences. Harnacks dictum that creedal doctrine is the result of the “hellenization of the gospel,” the latter to be found in a historical-critically edited New Testament, has been often and conclusively debunked, but continues to inhibit many scholarly consciences. Thus it is widely supposed that we can cling to Scripture or cling to church doctrine, or possibly to both in different contexts, but cannot cling to both with the same grasp. The biblical-studies establishment still greets proposals to read Scripture by the light of the creed with great suspicion, or indeed occasional outrage. And a proposal that the creed might be read by the light of Scripture may be met with mere wonderment at how the varied ancient documents collected as Scripture are supposed to help in the alien realm of currently effective church doctrine.1

  1.  Robert W. Jenson, Canon and Creed, Int; Accordance electronic ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 1-2. (if you have Accordance, click here)
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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