Sunday, November 9, 2008

"I believe..."

Every time we recite the Nicene Creed, I feel so grateful. I think of all the people in this post-modern world who do not believe in anything they cannot measure, do not believe in God or in their own spirit. When a person believes in material reality only, then material things have no inherent meaning. They have only such meaning as you assign to them. But those meanings one invents have a nasty way of disintegrating over time; the longer you live, the more disappointed you become, as looming death swallows up all your made-up meaning. Ultimately, one is left with -- nothing. Not even absurdity, for that very concept is also absurd. One is left with nihilism; one is left waiting for Godot in a hellish world.

But for Christians, it all has purpose. It all means something, and that meaning is summed up in one word, or rather, one Person: Christ. And the meanings Christ gives to existence are so pithily summarized in the Nicene Creed, so densely stated in those few sentences that you could easily have, say, a 12-week course just to unpack it all and still only barely scratch the surface.

If to be saved meant nothing more than this, it would still be a great salvation, just to be saved from meaninglessness!

And then I think about how we Christians, same as materialists, do NOT believe in made-up myths or human philosophies or thought systems. (Well, materialists explicitly DO, as I've just said, but only in the short run; for such "meaning" in the long run is unsustainable.) As St. Peter writes, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty..." (2 Peter 1:16)

And, in common with materialists, we believe things that are firmly rooted in human experience; by which we do not mean human dreams or inventions or fantasies, but down-to-earth, sensory experience. As St. John wrote:

That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life -- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have communion with us; and truly our communion is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (I John 1:1-4)

I think about all this each time we recite the Creed, and I feel extremely grateful that the world as revealed in Christ has such profound, life-giving, comprehensive, beautiful, and infinite meaning. I try to savor each word.