Authority of Our Creeds and Confessions

Authority is the right to give orders, make final decisions, and enforce individuals to obeying decisions and orders. Often authority is passed down through family lineage or given to one that is tested to meet the qualifications of leadership. As we have discussed in the past creeds and confessions are statements of faith and beliefs that unite individuals together through a proclamation of common ground. The question then becomes where the authority of the creeds and confessions come from? There can be an argument that can be made that the authority comes from the church.

The church developed the creeds and confessions we have today. The churches authority exists because, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven upon the rock that the church is built that hell should never prevail.[1] The church then ordains individuals who are faithful to leadership levels who then become shepherds of flocks. These shepherds unify to determine what the laity actually believe. In the beginning, the authority rested with the Roman Church saying that it was the teacher and mother to every church that existed.[2]  However, after the protestant reformation, The Westminster Confession of Faith states that it is man’s chief end is to glorify God through obedience to the Word of God.[3] Therefore, the protestant church proclaims that authority is the Word of God. Thus, all authority of the creeds and confessions must come from the Word of God. This means that God puts the authority into the creeds and confessionals that the church creates. Then how does the church make a decision on who has the authority on how much pay the electrical company or even what to post on social media?

The Word of God gives guidelines on how individuals should spend their money and how they should act with one another but does not get into the fine details of the everyday life decisions everyone makes. Thus, the relationship must be more direct and personal. Confessions must unit smaller groups while creeds unite many smaller groups together. The authority might be separate but equal. For example, in the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England, was not applicable to those Anglicans that can from Europe to the United States.[4] Thus, American revised the Thirty – Nine articles to better suit the American government and beliefs. While the Church of England and the Anglican Church both follow the authority of the creeds established in the original church the confessionals are different because they are set up to represent the individuals in their community and the life God has provided them. However, this still does not answer the question of the authority to make the day-to-day decisions in our lives that we will confess and believe.

This leaves only one place for the authority to come from in the creeds and confessions. It must reside in the hearts of sheep that sit in the pews. In the Shema, it states “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” These where the word God spoke to Moses to deliver to the people of Israel. It then continues on to instruct people through its generations the prayers and traditions that are found in the Torah.[5] This one line makes a direction connection between you and the Lord. Thus, it becomes a personal investment and understanding making it easy to teach and to understand.[6]  The decisions and actions you take in the day-to-day life must glorify and honor that God is one Lord. So the question then when faced with a decision to make comes does this honor and glorify the one Lord? Therefore, creedal and confessional authority is based on the people that implement them into the church. It is implemented through the organization of church life, regulation of their worship, administer their organization, staff their programs and pay their bills.[7]  Thus, the authority of the creeds and confessions rests on the individuals who implement the ins and outs of the church. Therefore we are each the authority of the creeds and confessions. We guide and instruct ourselves with others like ourselves to serve and honor the Lord.

 

[1] Matthew 16:17-19, KJV.

[2] Pelikan, Jaroslav. Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. 280.

[3] Ibid. 281.

[4] Ibid. 323.

[5] Deuteronomy 6:4-9, KJV.

[6] Pelikan, 331.

[7] Ibid. 245.

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Let My Mouth Be Filled With Thy Praise Part II

This week’s Gospel readings from the Book of Common Prayer 1928 edition are from St. Luke and his telling of the crucifixion of Jesus. The reading from today is St. Luke 23rd chapter verses 39 through 49.  One of the Roman soldiers challenged and mocked Jesus asking the question that if was truly the son of God then why did he not save himself?  Although a Roman soldier a man rebuked his fellow soldier saying that Jesus’s killing was wrong for he had done nothing wrong. Feeling ashamed and believing he asked Jesus to remember him when he went to heaven.  Even at the end Jesus was converting individuals into believers.  Jesus stood till his final breath fulfilling his mission and beliefs.

Would we do that today?  As Americans we watch in horror the outside world has become.  We watch the endless videos of ISIS beheading Christians.  Yet once we see the video we will turn the channel or go get something to eat.  If Christians make up 2.18 billion of the 6.9 billion individuals in the world, why is it that we cannot mobilize ourselves to protect our beliefs and fellow brothers that share our faith?  Why are we allowed in our country to watch hate crimes based on the religious intolerance of others? As one of the leading countries of the world, why as a Christian nation do we fail to do what is right in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ?  I on average are at Church four to five days a week.  I spend three of those days in some type of religious service.  We pray for the state of our nation and for the state of the Church yet what are we actually doing about it?

As the outside world drastically changes we become scared and fearful of what our friends, who are not strong about their religious beliefs, will say to us if we share with them about our faith.  We hear words as being a Bible Beater, Religious Nutcase, and Crazy. Therefore we ignore the opportunity to share our faith denying the opportunity for someone to possibly find a closer meaning to God. Isaiah 41 verse 10 states Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

We all have the power to change individuals’ lives and possibly bring them back to the Lord.  We are all disciples.  As disciples we are expected by the term alone to help to spread the teachings of another according to Webster’s dictionary. As disciples the most important tools we have are prayer and the Holy Spirit.  To ignore either is a failure on our part to be prepared to be open willing vessels for the Holy Spirit. This is not an introvert or extrovert issue.  As an introvert I have spent most of my time tucked away from others because of the serenity it provides me. Not until recently decide that I could be a disciple with my own gifts. I share my word through blogging, Facebooking, twittering, and having small one on one conversations with those in need.  I do not go door to door asking if they have accepted God into their heart.  Some people can do that I cannot.  I can however go into a hospital waiting room and talk to people who are upset and alone.  I can talk to them gently about God.

In a world where we spend so much time either wanting to be noticed or to be overlooked as Christian Disciples we have no option.  There is only one truth and responsibility.  We are expected to plant the seeds of truth in everyone we touch.  We spread those seeds through our actions, thoughts, words, and deeds.  Have you spread those seeds today?  Pray often for not only does it provide comfort and focus for you but also provides you the opportunity to allow God to speak to you which you can then share with others you talk to on a daily basis.  Christianity is not a check box designated for service only but should be a daily, moment by moment, activity that courses through our veins to share about daily. Remember to share your joy with others because it brings joy to the Lord. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers. 3 John 3-5.

Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church; That we all may be one. Grant that every member of the Church may truly and humbly serve you; That your Name may be glorified by all people. We pray for all bishops, priests, and deacons; That they may be faithful ministers of your Word and Sacraments. We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world; That there may be justice and peace on the earth. Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake; That our works may find favor in your sight. Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble; That they may be delivered from their distress. Give to the departed eternal rest .Let light perpetual shine upon them. We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy; May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom. Let us pray for our own needs and those of others. Amen