I Believe

The Apostles’ Creed opens with “I” rather than with “we” which many other creeds use. This first word – I – pinpoints responsibility. It is not “we” which might leave mental room, in public recitation, for the condescension of “we, but really they.” It is “I.” The “I” pins us down, as one has said.[1] This makes modern men and women uncomfortable. Ours is a day when personal liberty to do what one wishes is the first and unquestioned right. And the right to remain apart from the “I” of personal investment and commitment, with all of its considerable risks, is a right we guard jealously. Much more commonly, we fiercely defend our assumed right to buy only selectively into the Christian faith, to opt in for Christianity when it is publicly ridiculed in the media but to opt out when it runs in too frictious a way alongside our weekend plans. To question our liberty to an a la carte Christianity, reactions suggest, is to question the meaningfulness of human existence.

But the Christian faith, as we will soon discover, will not indulge this fiction. From the opening word, I am not an observer, wholly detached and objective to what these words confess. I am a participant. I, not only we or they, have responsibility here, I must own, or refuse to own, these words and the world to which they refer and belong. I must enter into them, into this Faith, myself. As will soon be clear enough in the Creed, “I believe in.”

Of course, we must remember the Creed does not hereby dispense with the community. This “I” will shortly become “us” and later in the Creed much will be made of the catholicity of the Church. But the Church is the communion of those who say “I” with others, of the “we” formed by those who first say “I.”

[1] Mary McDermott Shideler, A Creed For a Christian Skeptic (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 23.