Credo - I believe

What do we mean, as Christians, when we say "I believe" at the beginning of the recitation of the Creed?

As a starting point we might want to think about ways in which we use the word "believe"

Apart from the rhetorical use, belief involves taking something on trust. If we ascertain something for ourselves, like seeing a train arrive at the same time every day, it's an established fact confirmed by a timetable, not a belief; but if we come to the station at a time of day when there are no trains, we believe the timetable.

Having cleared this ground let us look at "Credo". It's important to establish that although we can assent to a form of words headed by this plural verb, we all actually believe in slightly different ways, no two of us being able to believe alike; this is why the "truth" of what we  believe is different from "fact". To quote the simplest of examples, two people may point at their fathers and say "that is my father" but the truth of the two statements will be different because no two child-father relationships are identical. So when we say "credo" the commonality is not factual but it is linguistic; we, as a corporate group of people, avow certain statements in common.

But what does that call us to do personally? I am always reminded of this question when taking Confirmation classes. What, precisely, are the candidates supposed to believe and what does that mean?

Does it mean that we accept the propositions of the Creed precisely in the way that we believe things we can't personally verify?

One apparently simple answer is that we can believe whatever Jesus tells us about the Father, or the Holy Spirit, or sending out the Apostles to preach the Gospel, except, of course, that it is almost certain that the Evangelists weren't eyewitness and were basing what they wrote on the testimony of eyewitness. There are always Chinese whispers;' in this kind of communication; and in spite of massive academic research there is no satisfactory way of establishing whether Jesus said any of the words attributed to him in the Gospels.

So where does that leave us:

From then on, we have to believe that the "Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" has some way of formulating what Christians should believe. This is difficult, if we think all Christians should believe the same thing, as the said "catholic" church is divided; but because it split over a wide variety of issues, small and great, what are the benefits of all Christians believing the same things in precisely the same way?

Cardinal Newman believed that how we believe should be organic, evolving over time, as the Holy Spirit directs.

In conclusion, then: