I Tremble at the Thought of Belief

03 May

Today is a good day. I am happy to announce the official release of Primal Credo: Your Entrance into the Apostles’ Creed.

Writing this book has been a laborious, but worthwhile, 10-month experience. It started last summer when I began to hammer out the opening paragraphs of chapter 1 and finished last week when I approved the final proof. I have had an interest in writing a book on the Apostles’ Creed for a couple of years now. Churches like mine that are young, hip, cool, contemporary, evangelical, and nondenominational are not known for giving the creed much attention. We are known for untucked shirts, jeans, cool glasses, expensive coffee, and conservative politics (all of which are a caricature).

When we look past the cool glasses and overpriced-coffee, we find something missing in these wireless, highly-mobile evangelical churches. Truth be told, there is a gaping hole in evangelicalism, a hole we could call tradition. The rediscovery of the Apostles’ Creed has become a way for many to begin to fill the hole, to infuse our paper-thin spirituality with the richness and the depth of the Christian tradition. Primal Credo is your guide into the creed.

It all begins with Chapter 1: Creed. The English word “creed” comes from “credo” the Latin word for “I believe” or simply “belief”. And…

“I tremble at the thought of belief.”

This is the opening line of Primal Credo. These are literally the first words I wrote in the book. I tremble at the thought of belief. I tremble because belief is what makes us human. Belief exists in the deepest part of a person’s soul. Belief makes us who we are. It shapes our identity. So to mess with a person’s beliefs is to mess with the core of who they are. And our creed, our belief about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, challenges every other belief system out there.

We work in vain whenever we try to separate people into two categories: “believers” and “non-believers.” Belief does not require religion or theology.

We are all believers, because we are all human beings.

We are all believers, because we all believe something.

Doubt is not the opposite of belief. Even doubters believe something. In fact, every doubt is based on an alternative belief. Fear (and its coordinating anxiety) is the opposite of belief.

Belief is not a matter of choice, but confidence. Our system of belief describes our deepest convictions, our most trusted knowledge base, and our most tightly held values. And Jesus entered into our world to challenge every system of belief. From Primal Credo, Chapter 1:

Into a world of conflicting beliefs comes the son of a carpenter, heralded as a prophet. He proclaims the goodness of God’s kingdom. He heals the sick. He challenges the religious establishment and breaks social norms. He turns water into wine and walks on water. He teaches. He shows people a new way to live, a new way of living in right relationship with God, a new way of believing in God. People celebrate him, talk about him, and betray him. He is arrested, tried, sentenced, and executed. He dies a gruesome, horrific death, but not until he cried out in a breathless prayer: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He died. He is buried and then—silence, a day of mourning and despair by those who loved him and gave up everything to follow him. Then on the first day of the week, life overcomes death. Resurrection. Conversation. Ascension. His suffering seemed unending, but not even the grave could conquer him.

The fledgling group of Jesus-followers watches in disbelief as he dies and they experience a new kind of belief when they talk to him alive and resurrected. This new Christian belief enters the world to challenge every other system of belief, which in turn challenges everything in our lives and relationships. The Jesus-followers say goodbye to God in the flesh and they wait eagerly for the Helper, the God-like-a-dove, the promised Holy Spirit. As they celebrate the Jewish Passover, the Holy Spirit enters the house where they were gathered with the power of gale force winds. The Spirit overwhelmed these early Christians. They spill out into the streets of the Roman world, speaking in new languages and declaring the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. As three thousand new people enter into the community of the forgiven, the life of this new community was formed by devotion to four things: “the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The Apostles’ teaching would eventually become the New Testament. But before all the books of the New Testament had been written, the teachings of Jesus and his apostles’ were passed from person to person, from church to church, as a part of an oral tradition. After the 27 books of the New Testament had been written and began to grow in acceptance as Scripture, the church put together a succinct statement of Christian belief. Today we call it the “Apostles’ Creed.” Originally it was verbally confessed by those who were being baptized as followers of Jesus, but through the centuries it came to stand as a symbol of the faith. This is what it means to be a believer in Jesus…we believe THESE things:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.


When we as present-day follower of Jesus allow the Apostles’ Creed to shape our system of belief, we discover our DNA as followers of Jesus. Again from Primal Credo, Chapter 1:

The creed is the DNA of our new life with God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scientists have discovered the building blocks of organic life, which they call DNA. Each individual strand of DNA contains all the information for a person’s genetic code. Every cell in our bodies carries our unique DNA. The creed is the DNA of faith. God has designed it to live in the heart of every follower of Jesus as the building blocks for our entire life. The creed, as a primal summation of Christian belief, lives in our hearts as much as it lives in our heads, because to believe is not merely to know or to obtain knowledge—to believe is to live. Deep convictions govern our lives, because we consciously or unconsciously affirm these convictions to be true. As followers of Jesus, we live differently because we confess this creed to be true.

Order your copy of Primal Credo today.


Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Life, Theology


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3 responses to “I Tremble at the Thought of Belief

  1. Deborah Henry

    May 5, 2011 at 3:33 am

    I think doubt is a byproduct of fear. It takes courage to believe. I think that believing is a choice which includes courage. And that a confession of faith to believe is the affirmation that “this is what I believe”. Ultimately, the head knowledge that becomes heart knowledge, through the daily witness of that belief, is the true reward of life.

  2. Andrew

    May 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Did you come up with the phrase “he descended to the dead”? I like it.

  3. Derek Vreeland

    May 9, 2011 at 1:52 am

    That phrase is not original with me. A number of modern versions of the creed use the phrase “the place of the dead” instead of “hell.” In the book I use the version of the creed used by the Presbyteran Church (USA). The version of the creed in their Book of Common Worship, uses this phrase.


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