The idea that Christianity is defined by the Creeds is very pervasive, and many people think that they have to give up on Christianity because they don’t fit that definition. To combat that perspective, I’d like to give you an example of a person who calls himself a Christian, yet does not confess any major Creed: myself! I offer this example, not to persuade you to join my church, nor to persuade you to believe what I believe about God, but only to illustrate one way of carving out a non-creedal Christian religious identity.
As a skeptic and as a mystic, I naturally prefer a sort of minimalist creed. I prefer not to claim to believe things that strike me as mere conjectures, and I prefer not to try to nail God down with a lot of propositions. So my own personal creed is quite short: it mostly just says that I believe in God, and that I try to follow the way of Jesus. If you want to know, here’s how I actually phrase it to myself these days:
I believe in God, whose love calls the universe into creative harmony. … As I listen prayerfully for God’s loving call, I have the treasures of the Christian tradition to help me. Within that tradition, I claim Jesus Christ as my primary revelation of God’s harmonious way for humankind.
There’s a bit more, but that’s the gist of it. As you can see, it’s pretty idiosyncratic. That’s because it’s a creed, not a Creed. I wrote it for myself; it’s not meant to be said by a church full of people in unison.
There’s a story about Jesus being asked which commandment is the most important. The Gospel of Mark has the story this way:
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
That’s more than enough to work on for a lifetime, and it’s only one of many stories in which Jesus tells his followers what to do and how to live. But one thing Jesus never says is that his followers must believe and confess a long list of theological assertions. I don’t think he thought that such things were particularly important. So I don’t think he would be disappointed to know that my creed doesn’t include a lot of hypotheses about his birth, resurrection, redemptive action, or eventual return.
But that’s just me! Perhaps your own creed confidently affirms more details than mine. The great thing about working with creeds, rather than Creeds, is that they don’t stop the conversation. You and I may believe different things about God, but that need not prevent us from praying together, or working together to heal the world.