In the Time before the Alpha Course

An interesting passage from my Symbolics textbook:

“[The roots of creeds] lie not so much in the Christian’s sacramental initiation into the Church as in the catechetical training by which it was preceded. Declaratory creeds, conceived in the setting of their original purpose, were compendious summaries of Christian doctrine compiled for the benefits of converts undergoing instruction. The German scholar A. Seeberg was working along sound lines when he stated: ‘The primitive Christian creeds are simply and solely the recapitulation, in a formula based upon the Trinitarian groundplan, of the basic catechetical verities.’ Our own English historian, C. H. Turner put the same point in different words: ‘The creed belongs, not indeed to the administration of the rite of baptism, but to the preparation for it.’

“… Even at the New Testament stage the Church’s central message, the kernel of its doctrinal deposit, was beginning to harden into semi-stereotypical patterns, and that catechetical instruction was one of the fields in which this process was earliest in getting underway.

“… It is obvious that teachers must always have felt the need for concise summaries, approximating as closely as possible to formulae, and that the increasingly elaborate and official character of the Church’s arrangements for instruction must have made the need all the more urgent. What is significant is that when we first come across declaratory creeds, their express purpose is to subserve the ends of popular instruction.”

– Kelly, Early Christian Creeds. p.50-51.

The creeds of the ancient church had a more practical function than they serve today, being used as tools to teach people about the faith. Could you imagine if the Alpha Course used the Apostles’ Creed as its foundation? The creed is a plain and simple platform from which to introduce people to the essential Christian doctrines, with the added bonus of being easy to memorize. It’s a shame that it’s not likely to happen.

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2 thoughts on “In the Time before the Alpha Course

  1. Ok….I have to read this about 12 times before I actually understand what is being said…Maybe thats why you are where you are, and I am where I am… Continued strength in your studies!

  2. Kelly’s a mid-twentieth century British writer who, like too many intellectuals, probably suffered a bit from spending too much time in books and not enough time with real people. He thought too much with his bowtie, and it shows.

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