Christian Creeds


Creeds (from the Latin Credo - I believe) are collective statements of belief. In the Christian tradition these have been doctrinal rather than ethical. They have largely arisen as a reaction to problems rather than as systematic statements designed 'from scratch'.

There are currently three Creeds in use in the Western Christian churches:

The Creeds of the Christian tradition, largely responding to the need to define the Blessed Troinity and Christology, are of very limited scope, defining:

  1. The eternal Father, Creator of all
  2. The Son, who is "consubstantial" with and "begotten of" of The Father, born of The Spirit and the Virgin Mary, with a divine and human nature in one person, who was 'sent' by The Father, who was crucified, died, was buried, "rose again" and ascended into Heaven
  3. The Holy Spirit who "proceeds" from the Father and the Son (In the Greek Orthodox Church The Son only "proceeds" from The Father)
  4. The Holy, Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgivenesss of sins, the Resurrection of the body; and life everlasting.

There are some important omissions:

  1. Although the doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely central to Christianity, it is only fully and clearly stated in the Athanasian Creed
  2. There is no reference to redemption
  3. Although we are a Church of "Word and Sacrament", neither is specified (except for a reference to its Resurrection testimony)
  4. There is not ethical/moral content.

Because Creeds are written doctrinally, it is easy to overlook two vital points:

Before we can construct a Creed for the 21st Century (assuming that we think that the three already quoted are not wholly inadequate), we need to consider the following steps:

  1. Purpose. What is the purpose of the Creed, ie, is its main purpose?:
    • The establishment of doctrinal clartiy (like the Nicene Creed)
    • Catachetical (Like the Apostles Creed)
    • Mission oriented?
  2. Content. Should our Creed comprise any or all of the following?"
    • Doctrine
    • Individual and collective ethics?
  3. Doctrine. If we want to include doctrine:
    • Which doctrines and
    • On what grounds?
  4. Ethics. If ethical, should we provide general principles or a list of virtues/vices
  5. Language. Having defined our purpose and conent, what kind of language should we use?"
    • theological/philosophical
    • Technical/bureaucratic
    • Demotic.



Please select a section:

  1. The Athanasian Creed
  2. Foundations of Christian Faith
  3. Dorothee Soelle