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Credo

A study of the Apostles Creed


 

Links to sections on this page:
- The creator
- Father
- Almighty
- Omnipotence
- Omnipresence
- Omnicience
- Bible Study
- Questions
Links to other chapters:
1: Why creeds?
2: Why were the creeds written?
3: Studying the Apostles' Creed
4: The Place of Doubt
5: I Believe ...
7: ...And in Jesus Christ His only Son ....
8: ...dead and buried ...
9: ...I believe in the Holy Spirit

Chapter 6

I Believe ... in God the Father almighty, creator of the heavens and the earth

I believe in God …….the creator 

The Apostles Creed begins by affirming our belief in God. The Bible does not set out to prove God. Instead we find assumptions which take God for granted. 'Only the fool says in his heart there is no God' Psalm 53:1 The Apostle Paul thought that everybody should believe in God, because it was so blatantly obvious that there was God, all one had to do was look at the world around. This idea is shown forcibly in Romans 1:18-20 

'For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse' 

Anybody looking at this world from a vantage points, perhaps a mountain pass or the top of a very high mountain, or perhaps looking at the sea and its tremendous power, could hardly fail to be impressed by creation. There is in the created order something which inspires us, of the presence of someone bigger and greater than ourselves. We are aware of the awesome nature of the worlds in which we live and we recognise that mankind is not the all powerful. 

Many scientists are prepared to express their recognition that we do not even know the origin of matter. 90% of this universe we know absolutely nothing about. It all throws into perspective the words of wisdom of people such as Hawking, who claim to have discovered the origins of the universe and to have been able to discount God. 

The truth is that the majesty of creation betrays an amazing creator. From the beauty and design of the world we recognise that there must be a creator behind it all. In the same way that if we walk along a beach and find a watch we must accept the presence of a watchmaker, the dials and cogs did not all fall into place by themselves. To say there is no creator is like putting a collection of letters into a bucket and expecting that by pouring them out we would produce a beautiful poem by sheer chance. 

The result of this has been that the passage of time does not weaken our sense of the presence of the divine. People of all nations have engraved upon their minds an innate belief that the gods exist' The Gnostics who were around when the Apostles Creed was being formulated, felt themselves to be strangers in an evil world, spiritual beings in a world of flesh. Many people today feel that they are isolated and lonely in a vast impersonal universe. 

The light from the sun takes a mere eight minutes to reach us; that from one of the nearer stars, Betelgeuse, in the constellation of Orion, takes nearly 200 years. So that we perhaps see the light only now of stars which have already died. We are living in a truly enormous universe. However the doctrine of creation teaches us that this is not a vast impersonal world in which we can get lost and forgotten. God made and loves it and all of his creatures. We are here because God loves us and made us. The stars are not symbols of our futility and lack of worth, rather they are reminders of God's promises and their fulfilment (Genesis 15:1-6) 

Please read Psalm 8:1 which is full of appreciation for God's magnificent work 

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

We live in God's world, it is vibrant and full of God's life. The Old Testament prophets saw this. They saw the mind of God in simple illusions from life; like boiling pots and plumb lines, they were angry when they saw poor people and people who took advantage of the weak.

Sadly Protestant Christianity has often despised the body, creation or anything to do with it. The Reformation had very little to say about creation which was positive. Calvin considered the natural world corrupt because of the fall. Luther taught the idea of two kingdoms. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the World occupied separate spheres of existence. It has been largely solitary voices which have championed natural theology, theology which gave some degree of God given quality to the environment. There has been a tendency to regard the creation rather like a larder which God has given us to keep us alive. 

The Christian view is that the world is not a larder simply to be consumed for our own use. Creation is good and of value in itself, apart from its usefulness to mankind. Genesis itself is helpful in this context for it tells us that God created out of nothing ,'ex nihilio' so that everything which was made came from God. 'God saw everything that He had made and it was good'. Gen 1:31

The fact there was nobody else responsible (Heb 11:3, Rom 4:17) was a truth which Greek philosophy found unacceptable. They depreciated the physical and emphasised the spiritual. Plato said that earthly things were only copies of the true spiritual realm. On the contrary Christians say that God loves the world, he made it and we can see the residue of God himself in it. There is no room for a dualism, that is-two gods a good and a bad one, rather everything is God's, 

In Him we live and move and have our being Acts 17:28 

He is in all Eph 4:6 

Wherever we see light or life or good we see God Jn 1:4, 10 

Remember the words of the Apostle John, 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son' (John 3:16). The word used is kosmos which means everything! God loves everything, including the soil and the fields. Therefore whilst we use bread and wine in our sacrament, all creation is itself sacramental, a physical means of demonstrating a spiritual reality. All creation declares God.

I believe in God - The Father Almighty 

Having established the existence of God, the Apostles Creed continues by calling God 'Father' because Jesus taught his disciples that this is how they should pray. Jesus must have amazed those around by addressing God as 'Father'. The word Jesus would have used for Father is 'Abba,' as used in the hymn 'Abba Father.' It is a term of affection and intimacy used by children of their fathers. 

The Pharisees never used such a title to address God. Jesus used this quite distinctively and possibly uniquely. We can be sure that not until Jesus does it become characteristic to speak to God as Father. God was close to Jesus and this is shown clearly by his choice of this word. Moreover Jesus wants this level of intimacy to be shared by us all. Most probably the word 'Father' would have appeared presumptuous, and this is one reason why it would not have been be used. But Jesus was showing us that this was the kind of relationship with us which God desires. A relationship so personal that we can call the Creator of the universe 'Father'. God is somebody we can approach as we go to a human parent and share the good times and the bad, the success as well as the failure, the joys and sorrows. As 'Father', God is concerned for the needs of his children.

Almighty 

However whilst God is Father he is not just an 'ordinary father.' The Apostles Creed stresses that God is also Almighty and as such is beyond our grasp. 

I have a personal belief that because we like the cosy idea of God as 'Father.' we have lost some of what it means for God to be Almighty. God has for many Christians become so familiar that he tells us things on a daily basis, communicating on matters as mundane as finding a car park space when they are late to church. It may be helpful to think through how we think about God. 

A classic example of human beings cutting God down to size can be seen in the dating of the universe. This also proves that the human arrogance which sees God as intimate and understandable is nothing new. James Usher, Archbishop of Armagh from 1625 -1656 concluded that the beginning of time fell upon the entrance of the night preceding the 23rd day of October in the year of the Julian calendar, 710. Calculating that 710 in the Julian calendar equated to 4004 BC he announced that the world would end, according to Jewish tradition, 6,000 years later at 6.00pm. This is not something obscure or cranky and if you have an old Authorised Version of the Bible it will have the dates in the margin according to Archbishop Usher. Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University said, 'What staggers me about Archbishop Usher's statement is not that he was wrong -so was everybody else - but that he was wrong with such precision'. 

The 13 day difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendar adopted in the 18th century means that it could be on November 4th. And Professor Mark Bailey of Armagh observatory pointed out that we may be a year early because Usher's chronology ran from 1 BC to 1 AD without a year 0. So the 6,000 will come next year on October 23rd or November 4th. 

John Lightfoot 1602 - 1675 was vice chancellor of Cambridge University in 1654 and perfected Usher's work even further and pinpointed the exact moment when Adam was created, it was October 23rd 4004 BC at 9am. This was apparently chosen to coincide with the Cambridge University term, yes it really is that unbelievable! Human thought can be so precise about God and so precisely wrong. 

Some of you may be aware of the arguments which have taken place over the creation of the world. When Darwin wrote his book 'On the origin of the species by means of natural selection,' 1859 it created rows of immense proportions. Men like Bishop Wilberforce held public debates against the likes of T. H. Huxley to condemn Darwin and his ideas, sadly it was a redundant argument, because the Bible does not give us a chronological or scientific account of creation in either of the creation stories. Indeed modern chronological timescales are of little importance to any of the biblical writers, even in the New Testament where the writers feel able to move incidents from the beginning of Jesus ministry to the end with complete abandon. 

It was Augustine who first suggested that the Biblical writers might have been presenting a literary account of creation rather than a scientific one and that creation might have taken rather a long time. To speak of a 'day' is a good way of separating the things that God did. This would explain how the story has day and night going on before the sun and moon were created. If you look at the pages of the Old Testament there are no big bang theories, no theories of evolution, we are not told which test tubes God mixed with which. It is simply not given for us to know. This is very sad for us who imagine that we have wisdom and understanding, but God does not give us that privilege. No rather we have a story, which tells us in broad brush principles that God made it and we messed it up. There is nothing which says whether it was made by evolution, perhaps it was and perhaps it wasn't.

This human arrogance and attempt to put God into a man sized box can only end in tears and eventually Pope John Paul 11 (October 23rd 1996) declared that Darwin's theory of evolution was compatible with the Christian faith. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which advises the Vatican on scientific matters. He said that the theory of natural selection was more than just a hypothesis. The problem we have is one of trying to order God to our rules and patterns. There is an arrogance of humankind which supposes that we can really reduce God to a size which we can handle. It is in the face of this arrogance the bible teaches us that God is Almighty. 

The Christian church uses these three words to describe God, which if we remember them will keep us away from some of the dangers of human spiritual arrogance 

1. Omnipotence 
The Christians church has used the word Omnipotent to describe God. It is used because it means OMNI = All POTENS = powerful -All powerful. It means that God can decide to do anything which he wants to do. This power is spoken of frequently in scripture. In Psalm 24:8 it says that God is 'The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle'. 

This realisation came upon believers quite quickly in the development of faith. Right back in Genesis Chapter 18:14 God asks a rhetorical question of Abraham concerning whether Sarah could have a child when she was well past the age of childbearing he says to Abraham, 'Is anything too hard for the Lord'? The answer of course is 'no' -there is nothing which is too hard for the Lord. 

In Jeremiah Chapter 32:17 the prophet comes to the realisation that if God made this world then there is obviously no constraint upon his power to act in it. 'Ah sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.' 

The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20 that God was 'able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think' and in 2 Corinthians 6:18 he called God using the word 'almighty' This property of God as 'almighty' is shown throughout the pages of scripture. It is in the ability to show miraculous signs and cause Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. It is in the message of the angel Gabriel to Mary when he said 'with God nothing is impossible' (Luke 1:37). Jesus himself said 'With God all things are possible' (Matthew 19:26) 

This power of God is known as sovereignty. It stresses the infinite nature of God's power. Whenever we are tempted to say impossible we need to remember that with God all things are impossible. 

2. Omnipresence 
The only answer to the question of where everything comes from must be that ultimately there is something or someone who created matter and time in the first place. Christians believe in a God who is unlimited or infinite with respect to time and space. God created what we know as time for us to use wisely as one of his gifts -worth remembering in our current hectic schedules. This attribute of God is known as OMNIPRESENCE OMNI = All PRESENCE. We could define it as follows - God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being. 

In Jeremiah 23:23 we read - 'Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and the earth. Nothing we think or speak or do is secret from God, so that when we place our life in his hands we have one who goes with us in all things.

God's omnipresence is expressed powerfully in the Psalm 139:7-10 

Whither shall I go from your spirit? Or whither shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 

Note that the psalmist doesn't see God's presence as a threat but as him being able to uphold, God presence is to be a blessing to all of us. We are never away from him. Paul expresses this beautifully in the New Testament in Acts 17:27 when he says - God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one us, for in him we live and move and have our being. 

People have always wanted to build churches and temples as sacred places for God to live. There is an honest thought about this but it is a folly for us to imagine that we can create a house for God. The truth is that these places are perhaps better seen as being places which remind us of the fact that God is everywhere. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life we forget and we need to be somewhere where we can come to our senses and realise that God is all around us. 

3. Omniscience 
This literally means 'All knowing.' In the first letter of John Chapter 3:20 the writer says that God 'Knows everything.' In Hebrews 4:13 there is an interesting phrase which says that before God 'no creature is hidden but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do' 

The bible tells us that not only does God know what has been and what is, but that he also knows in the future. Isaiah 46:9-10 'I am God and there is none like me declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done'. The point that is being made is that God knows everything now, he isn't learning about the world and responding to events like we are. God knows what is happening before it has happened, otherwise God is not all knowing but still learning! This is why God was never surprised at the death of Jesus, why throughout his life Jesus knew he would die on the cross. Scripture call Jesus The lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. Rev 13:8 

The psalmist reflected on this intimate knowledge of us by God and said 

'O Lord you have searched me and known me You know when I sit down and rise up you discern my thought from afar' And again in another Psalm - Even before a word is on my tongue O Lord you know it altogether Psalm 139:4 

This knowledge of God is not a bad thing for us, it is a good thing. God knows everything about us but not in a 1984 'Big Brother' sort of way to catch us out. Jesus knew this and so he was able to say that God knew and cared about every single detail of our lives 'Your Father knows what you need before you ask him' Matt 6:8 and 'Even the hairs on your head are numbered' Matt 10:30 Because God knows everything we can be assured that he knows the very best things for our lives and we should trust him for the pattern for our lives, for he works wisely in our best interests, even when we do not know it at the time.

Conclusion

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that some of the lost confidence of the church over the last century has come at a time when we have also lost something in our understanding of the Almighty nature of God. It will reflect in our prayers, obviously if God has no power then there is no point asking him to change anything! We only beseech people who have the power to do what we are asking. No good asking a collapsed building society manager for a mortgage, ask a building society with money. We only ask from people what they are able to give. 

It is worth asking ourselves whether we have a God whom Moses worshipped in whose presence he took off his shoes for he stood on Holy ground, or do we have a God who is a father like Homer Simpson with whom we can saunter around in carpet slippers? Do we have a Holy God such as Isaiah saw, a God whose presence caused him to tremble at his own unworthiness, or do we want a God that we can feel able to understand control?.

Bible Study

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" 

Questions for discussion

  • Do we have a picture of God which is sufficiently mighty?
  • How can we prevent ourselves from reducing God down to our size?
  • Is it difficult to think of God as both Father and Almighty at the same time?

 

5: I believe

7: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord