The Apostles' Creed -- Fundamental beliefs statement

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Christian Thought classes at Southern Nazarene University often begin with the class reciting aloud the Apostles' Creed.

"Next to Scripture, the statement of faith most often used to communicate the essence of Christianity is the Apostles' Creed. For the Early Church, it provided a touchstone to guide both evangelism and discipleship in a vast world of diverse cultures and beliefs"
    -- cover blurb on A Layman's Guide to the Apostles' Creed by H. Ray Dunning

The doctrinal statements of all evangelical Christian churches build on this ancient statement of belief that began to take form around 125 A.D. The Nicene Creed was formulated a couple of centuries later. It is longer and responds to heretical preaching about Jesus Christ. The Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene are good examples of modern affirmations of faith.

The Apostles' Creed -- "This I believe"

Began taking shape in 125 AD. Name derived from the fact that it reflected the teaching of the Apostles

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into Hades;
The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Church universal,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.1

"Do I have to memorize this? Will it be on a test?"

That's always a key question, isn't it? No, it probably won't show up on a test. But we'll say it often enough in class to make many of its phrases stick in your long-term memory.

The Apostles Creed was a clear rejection of the teaching of the Gnostics who argued that Jesus could not have been fully human. It seems to have been written to declare that Jesus of Nazareth was fully human, not just some ghostly apparition. Though brief, the idea of God as Triune can also be seen in this early creed.

1The Apostles' Creed was not originally written in English. Since this is a translation, several versions with slightly different wording do exist. This version is from the hymnal Sing to the Lord.

Why was the Apostles' Creed written? The Apostles' Creed versus Gnosticism

The Nicene Creed

Adopted by an Early Church council in 325 AD and revised in 381 AD. It may have been written in response to questions about the divinity of Jesus.

Piece of trivia: The name "Nicene Creed" is derived from the name of the city where the council met that first adopted it (Nicea in modern-day Turkey),

We believe in one God,
   the Father almighty,
   maker of heaven and earth,
   of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
   the only Son of God,
   begotten from the Father before all ages,
      God from God,
      Light from Light,
      true God from true God,
   begotten, not made;
   of the same essence as the Father.
   Through him, all things were made.
   For us and for our salvation
      he came down from heaven;
      he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
      and was made human.
      He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
      he suffered and was buried.
      The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
      He will come again with glory
      to judge the living and the dead.
      His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
   the Lord, the giver of life.
   He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
   and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
   He spoke through the prophets.
   We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
   We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
   We look forward to the resurrection of the dead
   and to life in the world to come. Amen.

Christian Thought -- basic Christian doctrine course

Christian Thought was one of Southern Nazarene University's "General Education" courses. Required for all students, it was a basic, introductory Christian doctrine/theology course taught from a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective.

"We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" -- 2 Corinthians 4:2

Class resources

Leading a devotional time in class

See samples of devotional reflections I've written

Optional assignment for students in Christian Thought

There are many church congregations where the Sunday morning attendance is no larger than our class. Leading our class in our devotional time will prepare you to be a leader in your church.

  1. You may choose to have the devotional substitute for some of the written textbook reactions. Check the syllabus for details.
  2. Prepare adequately. Don't throw something together at the last minute. If it appears you have done that, your grade will be adversely affected.
  3. The devotional should be 3-5 minutes long and closely related to the topic and textbook readings listed on the syllabus for that day. Note: It often takes longer to properly prepare a short devotional talk than it does a longer one.
  4. Creativity in this devotional time is encouraged. It should include prayer. If you choose to call on someone else to pray, please ask them ahead of time.
  5. On the date those textbook reactions are due, turn in a sheet with the notation that your devotional is counting for those reading(s).

Tempted to cheat on schoolwork? Before you do, read SNU's academic integrity policy

Most class assignments will be submitted online via Moodle.

Writing Standards
Most courses at SNU contain a writing component. I expect students to produce written work that is focused, well developed, organized, and relatively free of grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors.
Papers falling short of this standard will not be graded. That work may be returned to the students for further revision and resubmission.
See my writing checklist.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

What is a "Creed"?

In Christianity, a creed is a formal statement of faith that summarizes the core beliefs of a Christian community. Creeds are declarations of what people believe. They are often recited in communal worship settings such as church services or ceremonies. They articulate fundamental theological truths and unify believers around shared doctrines. The most well-known Christian creeds are the Apostles' Creed (2th or 3rd century) and the Nicene Creed (325 AD). Others include the Chalcedonian Creed (451 AD), the Creed of Constantinople (381 AD), the Creed of Ephesus (431 AD), and the Athanasian Creed (4th or 5th century). These all emerged at different points in the early centuries of Christian history to address specific theological controversies and clearly establish orthodox beliefs. These creeds affirm beliefs in the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the nature of salvation, and other central aspects of Christian doctrine.

Christian creeds serve several important purposes and hold significant value within the faith. Here are some key aspects:

  1. Doctrinal Clarity: Creeds provide a clear and concise summary of essential Christian beliefs. They distill complex theological concepts into an accessible format, ensuring that fundamental doctrines are clearly understood and consistently communicated within the Christian community.
  2. Unity and Identity: Creeds help unify believers by establishing a common foundation of faith. They do not replace Scripture as the ultiate authority. However, by reciting the same creeds, Christians around the world affirm their shared beliefs and identity. That can foster a sense of unity across different denominational and cultural lines.
  3. Teaching and Catechesis: Creeds are valuable tools for teaching and instructing both new converts and lifelong believers. They offer a framework for understanding the core tenets of Christianity, making them an effective teaching/discipleship tool.
  4. Defense Against Heresy: Historically, creeds have been formulated in response to heresies and theological disputes. By clearly defining orthodox beliefs, creeds protect the integrity of the Christian faith and provide a standard against which false teachings can be measured and rejected.
  5. Worship and Liturgy: Creeds are often incorporated into Christian worship services, enhancing the liturgical experience. Reciting creeds during worship not only reinforces doctrinal truths but also creates a communal expression of faith and devotion.
  6. Historical Continuity: Creeds connect contemporary Christians with the historical church. They serve as a reminder that the beliefs professed today are rooted in the teachings and traditions of early Christianity, thus preserving a sense of continuity and historical depth.
  7. Personal Faith Affirmation: For individual believers, reciting a creed can be a powerful personal affirmation of faith. It allows Christians to articulate their beliefs in a structured way, reinforcing their commitment to the faith and providing a foundation for personal spiritual growth.

What does Southern Nazarene University believe and teach?

NextProfessors in the SNU School of Theology and Ministry believe that in Christ alone God has definitively and finally revealed Himself . . . [ read more ]

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