Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Ben Myers (@FaithTheology) about his book, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Lexham Press, 2018).
What is a creed and how did creeds come about?
Dr. Ben Myers: The church has creeds because our faith is founded on revelation. Certain truths have been revealed by God. Those truths have to be remembered, understood, and handed on. Ancient Israel adopted a kind of creed, the Shema Yisrael: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deut 6:4). These words were recited every day and were handed down from one generation to the next. They’re a summary of everything God has revealed to Israel. In the New Testament, Paul summarizes his message by saying, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-5). This creedal summary remains the centerpiece of the Apostles’ Creed. And the pattern is the same as with Paul: the creed brings together those truths of revelation that we’ve received and that we have to hand on to others.
How did The Apostles’ Creed come to be?
Dr. Ben Myers: In the ancient church the creed was used to instruct new believers prior to their baptism. Even if you didn’t have access to the written Scriptures, the creed helped you to get a clear picture of the overall message of Scripture and how the Old and New Testaments fit together. In addition to this educational use, it also had a liturgical use. It was a declaration made at baptism, like the oath of allegiance that you make when you become a citizen of another country. “I believe in God … and in Jesus Christ … and in the Holy Spirit.” When we say those words at the waters of baptism, we stake our lives on the truth of the gospel.
What do you mean when you write, “In discipleship, the one who makes the most progress is the one who remains at the beginning”?
Dr. Ben Myers: Christian discipleship begins with baptism. In baptism we identify fully with Christ. We die with him, we’re buried with him, and we rise with him into newness of life (Rom 6:3-4). The whole Christian life is compressed into that moment like a closed accordion. Really it’s impossible to go beyond baptism—there’s nothing beyond it. What we need is for that accordion to open, for the meaning of baptism to stretch out and encompass the whole of life. To be a disciple of Jesus is to practice living as if we really have already died and risen with him. “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The more we remain at the beginning—at the cross, at the waters of baptism, in union with Christ—the more progress we make in discipleship.
How do you hope readers will be effected by the book?
Dr. Ben Myers: At the start of The Apostles’ Creed I describe it as an “invitation to happiness.” We’re like people who’ve inherited a vast estate and haven’t yet grasped its full magnitude. The more we understand it, the happier we are. In Christ we’ve received far more than we can comprehend—all things are ours because all things are his (1 Cor 3:21-23). And all of this is encapsulated in that amazing moment of baptism, when we confess “I believe” and are plunged beneath the waters into union with Christ.
What two parts of the creed are highlights for you?
Dr. Ben Myers: The first word and the last word are the ones that excite me the most: the “I” and the “Amen.” Each of these has its own separate chapter in the book. I think these two words point to the central mystery of the creed. When we confess the faith of the church, the whole body of Christ is speaking through us. It’s the body of Christ that says “I believe.” And when we say “Amen” we’re sharing in Christ’s own response to God (2 Cor 1:20). Christ himself is “the Amen” (Rev 3:14), and we join our voices to his.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Dr. Ben Myers: Psalm 23 has been important to me for a long time. My mother made me memorize it from the King James Version when I was a little boy, and it’s been on my mind ever since. You can see the whole Bible in that one psalm: a pilgrimage in the desert, a soul dangerously poised between life and death, the sovereign strength of God, the mercy of God, the faithfulness of God’s promise, the assurance that we don’t need to be afraid, the confident hope that we’ll dwell with God forever. I hope they’ll read that psalm out when they bury me one day!
What are your thoughts about the Bible Gateway App?
Dr. Ben Myers: Like many people, I tend to lie in bed and look at my phone when I first wake up in the morning. I look at some news apps, I see what’s happening on Twitter, that kind of thing. It’s a bad habit really. But I’ve tried to customize this habit using the Bible Gateway App. The App sends me a reminder just after I wake up, so while I’m reading Tweets and the morning news I also take a moment to read a chapter of the New Testament. And I’m following a reading plan that takes me through the New Testament once each year. It’s not the only time I read the Bible, but it’s helped to make something worthwhile out of a lazy morning habit.
Bio: Ben Myers is director of The Millis Institute at CHC, a Christian liberal arts college in Brisbane, Australia. He taught theology for many years at Charles Sturt University in Sydney and has been a research fellow at the University of Queensland, a visiting scholar at Fuller Seminary, and a fellow of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton. His books include The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan Williams, and Salvation in My Pocket: Fragments of Faith and Theology. He Tweets at @FaithTheology.
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