Back to Creeds

Creeds 6: the final statements

Both our main creeds finish with statements about the church and the future. The statements common to both include the holy catholic church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the dead/body; and the life of the world to come. The Apostles’ creed adds the communion of saints. The Nicene creed adds that the church is “apostolic” and that it is through baptism that sins are forgiven.

“Catholic” means, simply, universal1. “Apostolic” means it is the same church now as was started by the band of early apostles. That the church is “one” is debatable, because you may argue that in principle the church should be one and that “spiritually” it may be one already – but observably it is divided at present.

The “Communion of Saints” in the Apostles’ Creed [but not the Nicene] has at times been understood to be our future state, living in a community after death with the saints of old. However, most people have taken this to be an already existing relationship which, spiritually, we have with them even now.

The forgiveness of sins is included in both creeds, but in the Nicene Creed it is described as the result of baptism. That raises an further inconsistency – about why one sacrament is included and others not [especially Holy Communion].

The resurrection statements assert the Christian hope that there will be a future – a life in a “world to come”. The idea of the “body” being raised is a difficult one, because we see our physical bodies being buried [and therefore decaying] or being burned. For different approach, try 1 Corinthians 152. Note, also, that in the Apostles’ Creed you “believe in” the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, but in the Nicene Creed you “look for” them.

Perhaps what is even more interesting in this mixture of thoughts at the end of the creeds is what is left out. No eucharist, indeed no concept of worship and prayer. Nothing on the central Christianity ideas of love and forgiveness – nor other key ideas on the living out of what following Christ means.