Why Do We Recite The Nicene Creed?

The Significance of Church Tradition: 

I love a church that looks and feels like a church— stained glass, vaulted ceilings, pews, a pulpit so sturdy it could protect the pastor if a bomb went off. An accusation of nostalgia might be made against me, but that’s not why I love this architecture. It is loved because everything has meaning. The stained glass is representative of the broken people of God. How the light of Christ can shine through our brokenness to tell His grand story is shown by the stained glass. The massive pulpits were built that way to hide the preacher. The preacher’s body was not what mattered; it was the message they preached that had meaning. The vaulted ceilings were even meant to invoke an experience of transcendence and holiness. Over time, the church began to integrate these components of architecture. These components were integrated to form and fashion the believer.


Modern Changes and Their Unintended Consequences:

In recent years, we have abandoned the “old-time” tradition of high church architecture. It is assumed that the church seems foreign to those in the world. The argument is presented as follows: “If an unbeliever walks into our doors and everything seems alien, they will feel uncomfortable and leave.” This complaint seems reasonable, right? Well, in an attempt to make the unbelievers feel comfortable, the sacred desk has been moved out for a translucent plexiglass podium. The stained glass has been removed and replaced with smoke machines and moving lights. Vaulted ceilings are no longer unutilized; pitch-black rooms that resemble a venue where a Coldplay concert might take place are what we have now.


Tradition vs. Innovation: Balancing the Old and the New

I genuinely believe that changes like these have been made by well-intentioned people, who love the Lord and are trying to win the lost. However, we have painted the church to look like the world. The pastor is no longer hidden; he is now a celebrity. The church’s brokenness is no longer central; in fact, brokenness is often seen as a weakness to the church looking to sell a highly polished church product. No longer is God transcendent and holy; everyone is treating Jesus like their buddy.


I do not want to over-exaggerate the point. It’s not like churches with high ceilings treat God as holy, and storefront churches are blasphemers. I am only saying that “tradition,” as long as it is meant to point us to Jesus, can actually be really useful in forming and fashioning the Christian. And though I have spent the better half of this blog promoting tradition, I am not opposed to innovation, expression, and spontaneity. My church plays contemporary worship music, I preach from an iPad, and everyone at my church wears blue jeans LOL.


The Purpose of Liturgy and Tradition

But I believe pulling from both the old and the new is the very thing that we are called to do. I think our message and service should be culturally relevant, while simultaneously being completely holy and other to secular gatherings. Additionally, though unbelievers are super important to us and to God, the church service is actually made for believers (more on this here).

This attempt to form and fashion the church with these historic traditions is actually the reason we attempt to integrate liturgy into our services. It is the reason we recite creeds and prayers of thanksgiving and confession. I know having a liturgical charismatic church in Ada, Oklahoma is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, but our aim is not to be “normal” but to be otherworldly. These historic prayers and creeds have been forming and fashioning the church for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.


The Value Of The Nicene Creed

For example, consider the Nicene Creed. In many modern evangelical churches, concerns have often been raised about the recitation of the Nicene Creed. Some fear that reciting a humanly constructed creed might elevate it to the status of Scripture, thus diminishing the authority of the Bible itself. Others are concerned about the usage of “catholic church” in the closing sections, while still others feel that the creed is an unprescribed tradition that should be avoided. However, these concerns can be addressed by recognizing that the recitation of the Nicene Creed is a valuable, biblical, ecumenical, historical, and educational practice of the Church.


The Nicene Creed, despite not being on par with Scripture, draws exclusively from biblical language and ideas. It serves as a concise summation of the essential teachings of Scripture. The Nicene Creed is born from the desire to faithfully convey the core tenets of Christianity and oppose heretical groups who would attempt to distort the one true triune God of Scripture. By reciting it, the Church reaffirms these truths, aligning itself with the Word of God. The Creed also holds remarkable educational value. This value becomes evident as we consider its impact on individuals, even the youngest members of the Church.


Imagine a young child diligently memorizing the creed and understanding its significance. This exercise goes beyond rote memorization; it becomes a powerful tool for comprehending the core principles of Christianity. As this child grows, they possess the ability to give a faithful presentation of the Gospel using the framework provided by the Nicene Creed. This creed, in its succinctness, encapsulates the foundational elements of salvation, guiding young minds to grasp the essence of God’s redemptive plan. Thus, the Nicene Creed serves as an educational foundation, equipping believers, young and old, to articulate their faith confidently and accurately.


One of the attributes of the Nicene Creed is its ecumenical nature. It serves as a unifying force, binding Christians across denominational lines under a common confession of faith. The creed excludes those who might outwardly appear Christian but hold divergent beliefs, thereby safeguarding the purity of doctrine. The term “catholic Church” within the creed does not denote Roman Catholicism exclusively; rather, it emphasizes the universal body of believers spanning time and geography. By regularly reciting the Nicene Creed, the Church reinforces its unity in foundational beliefs while distinguishing itself from distortions.


The historical endurance of the Nicene Creed stands as a testament to its significance. For over 1600 years, this creed has found its place in the liturgy of countless churches, serving as a bulwark against theological drift and heresy. It has weathered the storms of time and maintained its relevance in various cultural and theological contexts. The continued use of the Nicene Creed is a reflection of its enduring theological depth and the timeless truths it encapsulates.


Why We Recite The Creed

In conclusion, the Nicene Creed possesses profound value for the Church. It overcomes these modern evangelical concerns by being a biblical, educational, ecumenical, and historical practice. By reciting it, congregations ground themselves in the foundational teachings of the Bible, find unity amidst diversity, and connect with the historical roots of Christianity. This is why we at King’s Fellowship participate in the rich tradition of quoting the creed every Sunday.


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