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 I Believe: The Apostles' Creed For The   Emerging Church 

Understanding the history and use of the Apostles’ Creed will enable us to appreciate the necessity of doctrine and what a truly Christian confession will contain. In order to support this thesis, this paper undertakes three objectives. First, it traces the development of the Apostles’ Creed, exploring why it was developed and discussing how early Christians used it. In doing this it will be necessary to compare the Apostles’ Creed to the Nicene Creed and its development. Second, the Apostles’ Creed is compared to the Scriptures, measuring its biblical fidelity. Third, the value of creeds to the contemporary Church, especially the emerging church, is discussed. To do this we will engage the work of Michael Frost and Brian McLaren. Both men are leading advocates of the emerging church who have addressed the issues of creeds and doctrine, while attempting in their own manner to define true Christianity. The Apostles’ Creed will be shown to be a satisfactory choice for guiding Western Christians through a changing world.

The age in which we live is an exciting, even if unpredictable, time for the Church. Stanley Grenz asserts, “We are entering a postmodern era.”[1] Postmodernism is difficult to define, but it includes the accomplished dismissal of Christendom.  The “Christian” religious culture that dominated Western society no longer dominates.[2] Many lament the Church’s fall from a central position in society. Yet, Helmut Thielicke warns, “Where [the Church] basks in the sunshine of public favor . . . it may rot, lose its dynamic, and become a liability carried along only by virtue of the inertia inherent in tradition.”[3] We should view this shift in status as a unique opportunity. Benedictine monk Timothy Joyce states, “The cost of the transition . . . is some confusion and loss, but it needs to be endured in a spirit of hope in a future to which God calls us.”[4] What is positive about our present situation is that it is similar to the Reformation, yet with a more ecumenical, rather than a divisive, spirit.

The Church benefits, because we are being allowed to reexamine and restore our foundational doctrines in order to contextualize the good news for the emerging environment. Grenz affirms, “ . . . we have the freedom to reestablish the basics, and in turn discard corrupting influences.”[5] In doing so we have rediscovered ancient wisdom, which had been misplaced – minor currents simply ignored by the mainstream. The notable revival of trinitarian theology is a prime example of this.[6] The emerging church[7] serves as another.

For over a year and a half my wife and I have been committed to a church in Portland Oregon called Evergreen Community.[8] One way in which this community discusses issues is through an internet forum. The forum is a place where anything can be discussed ranging from pop-culture to ‘deep theology’. Though Evergreen Community is an evangelical community that clearly affirms the message of Jesus, you don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to be a part of the community. Because of this, just about every major Christian doctrine has been questioned. One person asked, “What is the definition of Christianity?”[9] This question – along with ‘what is a church?’, and ‘what is worship?’ – is what the emerging church is exploring. Nothing is taken for granted. We are hungry for a solid understanding of our beliefs and practices and will not accept the faith of our forebears without giving it a thorough examination. Our faith must truly be ours.

Few who attend emerging churches are grieved by the institutional church’s loss of prominence. Many are grieved by the attempts being made to reestablish Christendom. All can find hope in the words of G. K. Chesterton. Though the Church “has often enough fallen into ruin [it] has never been past rebuilding . . . [even if] rotted away to its first foundation-stone, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.”[10] How wonderful it is to be alive at a time when we are allowed to tear away the rotten beams and build anew. In order to build in a lasting manner we must be sure we understand what we are building. And, we must know what we are building upon. Emil Brunner declares, “We want to build our house upon rock, upon God’s own Word, upon Jesus Christ . . . .”[11]

The question – ‘what is Christianity?’ – has been the driving force behind my Master’s studies. This question, however, proved to be too broad a subject for a thesis. Instead we will look at a more specific issue. Does Christianity have fundamental beliefs that cannot be negotiated; irreducible and invariant convictions which if ignored or confused can result in the loss of a truly Christian faith? 

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Thesis Intro

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three





[1] Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 162.

[2] Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Peabody MA: Hendrickson, 2006), 4.

[3] Helmut Thielicke, I Believe: The Christian’s Creed, trans. John W. Doberstein and H. George Anderson (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965), ix.

[4] Timothy Joyce, Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, A Vision of Hope (New York: Orbis Books, 1998) 147.

[5] Stanley J. Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 24.

[6] Ibid. We may sum up trinitarian theology by saying that it demands that Christians stop treating Christianity as a monotheistic religion. Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, trans. R. A. Wilson and John Bowden (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 235. Instead we must realize that “The Trinity is the nature of God and the nature of God is the Trinity.” Moltmann paraphrasing Karl Rahner, 240. The main way we should understand the Trinity is relational.

[7] The terms ‘emerging church’, and ‘emergent church’ are misunderstood, mysterious, and contended descriptors. Some churches will call themselves emerging, while others tell them they are not. Some churches are labeled emerging, though they would denounce the entire movement. Some people in the movement have given up on the label, but others still see it as a useful category, even if it is imprecise. I hope that this paper will help the reader gain some understanding of what an emerging church is like. For another perspective see, Nancy Haught, “Unchurched? Dechurched? Rechurched? Your Prayers May Be Answered,” The Oregonian, October 15, 2006, Living section, p. 1. This article can be accessed on the web through the following address, <http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/living/1160524580310120.xml?oregonian?lvlssf&coll=7&thispage=1> (January, 2007).

[8] For more information about this community go to <http://www.evergreenlife.org/

[9] Jason Burgett, “Because Everyone Knows How Much I Like Definitions,” Forum, May 29, 2006, <http://www.evergreenlife.org/web/boards/index.php?topic=1883.0> (January, 2007).

[10] G. K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi (George H. Doran Co., 1924; reprint, New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 2001), 50.

[11] Emil Brunner, I Believe in the Living God: Sermons on the Apostles’ Creed, trans. and ed. John Holden (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), 17.