"I believe" — You can't live without some kind of faith.
Everybody believes something. Faith is crucial to all human existence. We believe that we can know what time it is. We believe that if we drop an object, the force of gravity will bring it to the ground. We believe that day follows night and that there is a predictable symmetry of how nature functions. We begin early in life, by trial and error, to identify persons whom we can trust. It doesn't take long to know whether Mother and Father are reliable. Every child, if honest, can do a pretty accurate computer printout on those areas in which their parents are trustworthy and those areas in which they must learn to fend for themselves. The older we get, the more sophisticated we become in assessing what persons and institutions in which we can put our faith. Faith, based on some rational process, is involved in items as varied as our confidence in the toothpaste we buy, the news report to which we listen, the airline on which we choose to fly and the person to whom we commit ourselves in marriage.
The Apostles' Creed is an endeavor to reduce to a very basic credal statement what I believe and don't believe about God. It is highly individualistic in that when I say it, or choose not to say it or choose to say just parts of it, I am making a faith statement.
And The Apostles' Creed is a succinct statement of what we believe or don't believe about God. It is corporate. It didn't come together in a haphazard fashion. It is a combined effort of centuries of believers who developed credal statements more simple and more complex, based on Scripture and the kinds of issues being faced in the societies in which they lived.
So, when I recite The Apostles' Creed, I am declaring what John Huffman believes in September of 2003. This statement is as up-to-date as this morning. At the same time, it brings all the historical richness of faith content of those millions of followers of Jesus of the past twenty centuries. It is not just that I declare my beliefs, but I join with this great company of believers in this common expression.
"I believe in God" — This is the starting point of all theological formation.
Either there is a God or there isn't. The study of human history makes it quite clear that humankind is religious. Scratch us at the surface, and most people have some belief in the existence of a divine reality, to be referred to as God or gods. Contemporary surveys show that even in this secularized world, most people still believe in some kind of divine reality. The atheistic writings of some philosophers, political theorists and psychologists have not been able to rid modern men and women from religious notions.
There are some classic arguments from reason that would point to the existence of God. These used to be called "proofs." Our post-Enlightenment way of looking at truth causes us to be a bit careful in using such a blanket term as "proof." Nonetheless, these classic arguments from reason are worth mentioning.