Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Keep the Athanasian Creed?

More from Robert Saler's essay, "Longing for the Longest Creed," found on pages 21-23 of the latest (Summer 2008) issue of Lutheran Forum:
[W]hat theological justifications remain for retaining the creed as a presence in the life of the Lutheran church? Can there be any value in encountering a creed in the teaching or even the liturgy of a congregation, if large segments of that congregation cannot assent to all of its features? I would suggest that it is precisely because the Quicunque provokes such an unsettling encounter between the fidelity of the early church and our contemporary mindsets that retention of the creed is so vital. This is true for several reasons.

First, the creed reminds us that, while Lutherans assert that it is faith that justifies us, we also believe that the faith to which we are called has a content and not simply a form. were one to deny this by claiming, explicitly or implicitly, that the grace of the Holy Spirit calls us to the "life" or form of faith without any specific theological content, then such a denial would constitute a definitive departure from the theologically "thick" faith of the Reformers and the church with which they understood themselves to be in continuity. Such a mentality would exacerbate the unfortunate tendency of many Christians to proclaim that we are saved through faith without further specifying what that faith asserts about itself. The Athanasian Creed is one of the church catholic's most powerful statements that the faith to which grace calls us is faith in the God of Abraham, the God of Jesus Christ, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It declares that Christian faith is faith in the Trinity. The Lutheran insistence upon sola fide [faith alone] does not erase the so-called "scandal of particularity." If anything, sola fide revels in particularity. So does the creed, and in that sense it is a very Lutheran-friendly document.

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