The creed opens with “I believe in God…”. Everything else the creed has to say is oriented around this life-altering statement. Our creed is much more about God than it is about us. This may disappoint some people, but it is necessary to be honest—we probably spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about ourselves. The creed turns our attention away from ourselves and towards this God who, according to the creed, is “the Father almighty and creator of heaven and earth.” The descriptors “Father” and “creator” tell us something about our God. From Primal Credo, chapter 2:
“Father” and “creator” are action-packed titles showing us the God we believe in is living, moving, doing, relating. He is not a stationary God, but he is fathering and creating. God as Father is a peek into how personal God is. He is not an abstract spiritual energy. He cannot be reduced to a set of ideas, moral principles, or pithy statements. He is knowable and personal like a father, and he is our Father. God as creator reveals how powerfully active God is in creation. He does not hide out in some forgotten part of the universe doing nothing; rather, he creates.
God as creator was revealed to us in creation.
God as Father was revealed to us in Jesus.
There has been a running debate over the last 30-40 years in the church regarding to the masculine reference to God in the title “Father.” Some feel that calling God “Father” only reinforces male chauvinism and the domination of men over women. I believe hanging on the traditional, male reference to God is important and we can overcome the male chauvinism without changing how we speak about God. Again from chapter 2:
“Father” is an unmistakable masculine reference. Jesus reveals God as a father not because God has chest hair and a desire to watch football and eat buffalo wings (which is a poor caricature of masculinity anyway). God is a divine person and we understand the concept of a person in the context of gender, either male or female. We cannot conceive of a genderless person. People may not understand their gender or they may attempt to change their gender, but they cannot remove gender altogether from their identity. Jesus reveals God as a masculine father, not that we would overlook or marginalize our mothers, sisters, and wives. God does not have a gender per se, so we cannot hold masculinity in higher esteem than femininity. God is the creator of human beings—male and female. Both men and women reflect the goodness of God’s creation. Jesus shows us God as Father, first and foremost, so we can see him as a person.
God is a personable as a father, but he can never be our buddy; the creed reminds us that he is the Father almighty. We can know him and love him and communicate with him, but we can never become too casual (or even too comfortable?) in his presence. He is after all the Almighty.
In addition to the fatherhood of God, the creed tells us that God is creator of heaven and earth. God made everything that has been made. The creed serves as a synopsis of the biblical story, which begins with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis, and the creed, gives us the “who” behind creation, but does not tell us the “how.” Science guides us in understanding the “how.” Science can certainly get it wrong. History reveals the errors of science. A part of the scientific process is forming a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, and accepting or rejecting the hypothesis based on data. We need to guard ourselves from making the scientific community the enemy of the faith. Instead of “fighting science” we should dialogue with science:
Our belief in God as creator rises from the beginning of our story in Genesis, written by a pre-scientific author to a pre-scientific culture using the language of story and poetry. To force the Genesis account of creation into scientific categories is one of the quickest ways to drive the wedge between faith and science much deeper. Trying to use the biblical story and our creed to make scientific claims is, as Adam Hamilton says, “… a bit like trying to use a paintbrush to drive screws into a wall. It is the wrong tool for the job.” Our creed, as informed by the story of Scripture, does not answer the “how” questions; it answers the “who” and “why” questions. We need not fear when listening to the scientific community telling us how the universe moves in rhythm and harmony or how the cells of the human body replicate themselves. We have much to learn and much to benefit from listening to science. Equally, we need not fear entering into conversation with the scientific community using the language of the creed.
The language of faith puts life into the soul of truth. Science can guide us in understanding how, but faith guides us in answering the big “why” questions.
Why is there something instead of nothing?
Why is there a universe?
Why is there scientific laws?
Why is there a planet sustainable for human life?
Why is there human life?
Why do we exist?
When we confess faith in a God who is creator, we acknowledge that there is meaning, intention, and purpose behind our creation. With meaning and purpose behind our creation, we can find meaning and purpose in human society.