Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 1, 2003
Creed can enflame lives - - author
Book engages theological truths
The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters, by Luke Timothy Johnson. Doubleday: New York, N.Y. 2003. 324 pages. Hardcover.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
"It challenges those who recite (it) week by week to live as though that which they recite is true."
- Luke Timothy Johnson
More experience of life, broader reading, and a growing awareness of the deeply confused state of many faithful today led him to adjust his earlier prejudices and write this creed-affirming book.
"I have grown in my appreciation of how important it is for the Church to have a communal sense of identity," he says, "and how hard that is to come by without something like a creed."
Johnson knows that cultured despisers, even many Christians, will not readily agree with him. He views as his primary audience, the Catholic and non-Catholic, "who still stumble through it as an act of piety because the Church tells them to."
The aim of this readable book for those with or without a theological education is to make the creed controversial for those who say it but do not understand it and therefore do not grasp what a radical and offensive act they engage in at worship.
"In other words," the author continues, "I want to make the creed more controversial (and counter-cultural) rather than less . . . for the right . . . rather than the wrong reasons."
Johnson prefers the Apostles to the Nicene because it says what needs to be said and does not get caught up in confusing philosophical constructs.
This book is worth reading because, even though it carefully and accessibly engages the theological truths of the creed, Johnson believes that the communal faith experience reflected in a consistent liturgical act is even more important.
"The more the boundaries of Christian communities are shaped by the powerful yet flexible myth of the creed," he ends, "the more confident Christians grow in their identity, and the greater grows their capacity to speak coherently a life-giving word to a confused . . . contemporary world."
(Wayne Holst is a parish educator who has taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.