Brian LePort thinks that the Apostles’ Creed is (or at least should be) the minimum standard for Christian fellowship. I wanted to make a few comments in response to a paragraph toward the end of Brian’s post but since they’re kind of lengthy I’m posting them here instead of there. Brian said:
Now there is reason for Nicaea, and Constantinople, and Chalcedon and I believe the Spirit guided the church to make right (more accurate) declarations about God, Christ, and the Spirit in order to correct error (or, at least, erroneous trajectories), but I am not sure if I can honestly denounce the Christianity of someone who either (a) doesn’t understand what is at stake when they do not affirm these councils/creeds or (b) does understand, but thinks that the councils/creeds went too far in declaring what is accurate about things that we cannot fully know. If someone cannot line up with the simplicities of the Apostle’s Creed it seems easier to wonder about their Christian confession (though, admittedly, the virgin birth and the descent into the grave may be hard for even the most honest Christian).
From where I’m sitting it doesn’t much matter whether I (or any individual) denounce the Christianity of someone else; what matters is whether or not the Church has done so. Who am I to come in and attempt to overthrow settled doctrinal matters because they don’t agree with my sensibilities (and what is it about me that is causing this disagreement in the first place)? The Apostles’ Creed is good so far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough — if it did then we’d have no reason for anything beyond it. Most heretics can affirm the Apostles’ Creed without issue. Why? Because it’s general and vague. I’ve known a number of Socinians and Christadelphians who affirm the Apostles’ Creed, and I’d imagine that Oneness Pentecostals could affirm it without issue as well (although I don’t personally know any who do), but that doesn’t make them members of the body of Christ, sorry. And I’ll just say this about salvation: There is no salvation outside of the Church. Why? Well, because the Church is the body of Christ and the body derives its life from the head. To be detached from the head is to be detached from the source of life. This counts a whole lotta folks out whether we like it or not, and I’ll admit that it’s unpleasant to think about, but the truth can be unpleasant at times.
Now with regard to using the Apostles’ Creed as standard for what constitutes the minimum for Christian fellowship, it seems arbitrary to me. For example, Brian characterizes the contents of the Apostles’ Creed as “simplicities” that if not affirmed are cause for alarm. What’s so simple about the Apostles’ Creed and difficult about the Ecumenical Creeds? They all seem pretty straightforward, in fact, I’d argue that the more precise the creed, the more likely it is to be understood since there’s less room for ambiguity. In other words, why the Apostles’ Creed and not the Ecumenical Creeds or some Reformed confession? How does one settle on one and not another? I can say that the Ecumenical Creeds (and by that I mean the first seven) have the benefit of being ecumenical which automatically catapults them above the Apostles’ Creed or any Reformed confession.
But I think the thing that most stuck with me after reading Brian’s post was the strangeness of seeking a “minimum” for Christian fellowship in the first place. To sit around and ask, “What’s the least someone can believe or do and still be a Christian?” strikes me as the wrong kind of question. But more to the point, what exactly does Christian fellowship entail? I think that’s the more important question here. Obviously Christian fellowship at least entails being Christian (or so I’d think), so the issue of who is or is not a Christian is important, but presumably all Christians can agree on the Church’s faith as expressed in the Ecumenical Creeds. It’s only heretics and non-Christians who should have problems with these statements of faith. So anyway, what does Christian fellowship entail? Hanging out at Starbucks drinking coffee? Singing karaoke? Partaking in the Lord’s Supper? Singing songs of worship? What?