"Deeds Not Creeds." Really?
Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 AD.
We Christians have all heard of it or done it; the bash on "organized religion." You know what I mean and you've heard it before, and so have I. The two most common phrases that sum this up from the evangelical side are, "relationship not religion," and "deeds not creeds." I'd like to address them both, but today I'll start with the second one, as it is something that I've been hearing a lot lately in sideways remarks regarding denominational Christianity, of which I happen to be a part of.
"Deeds not creeds." At first blush it sounds right, doesn't? Deeds being the good things we do to help others, make the world a better place, and meet the needs of our brothers & sisters in Christ as well as the lost. This is putting hands and feet to "love thy neighbor," essentially. These are the things that we can see tangible results from; perhaps it looks like bringing a new mother meals for a week while she adjusts to a new baby in the home, helping the elderly man next door with his yardwork, or secretly giving money to a family struggling to pay bills. There are a world of deeds that can be done, things we can do to help that are as limitless as the need that exists. Of course we ought to do these things for one another. Of course we should! But why? We do these things not because God needs us to, but because our neighbor needs us to. Scripture tells us to serve one another, to look out for the needs of our fellow saints, to be good Samaritans, and to take care of widows and orphans (which I believe includes all those in need). Yes, we ought to do these good deeds, but just because they are "good" should they take the place of "creeds?"
So now I'm going to write out an actual Creed. And as you read it, keep in mind this question; which part of this do you disagree with? As you read, think about which part you can choose to not live by. Think about how taking out your neighbor's trash negates these words, or how you can set it aside in favor of buying a goat for a family in Africa. Read carefully and decide which part is man-made and therefore discardable.
Here we go:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only‐begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
There. A Creed. The Nicene Creed to be exact. It was written in the year 325 A.D. in response to a heresy that was about to take over the Christian church, one that denied the Trinity and the very nature of Jesus. How is this not important again? Because without knowing and confessing this, my very understanding of who Jesus is is at stake, and then so is the theology on which my entire life is built upon.
Now please explain to me how a Christian is supposed to replace this with "deeds?" Because in my mind (as small as that is) the deeds I do and the life I live flows from this creed. In my mind there is nothing written here that I can disagree with to depart from. In my mind, no amount of deeds I do are better than believing in those words. Because the deeds I do are about my work and service (however good they may be), but this creed I confess is entirely about the nature of who Jesus is, and therefore what I do is because of who HE is and what HE has done.
So tell me again how "deeds not creeds" is supposed to work?