Part 2: Believing in Christ
For Anglicans, as for all genuine Christians, authentic Christianity is apostolic Christianity. Apostolic Christianity rests on the historic, eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ followers, the apostles, to the facts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, present heavenly reign, and promised future return. Both Jesus and his apostles understood these facts to fulfill the Old Testament hopes of the Kingdom (or reign) of God, to which God’s covenant with Israel was intended to lead, and which the Christian Church has received as a reality from Jesus and his apostles.
Anglicans affirm that the Bible, the Old and New Testament together, is “God’s Word written” (Articles of Religion, 20), from which we learn these authoritative facts. By the second century, these key facts of apostolic faith had been organized into a syllabus of topics for catechetical teaching (the Rule of Faith), and this syllabus became the Apostles’ Creed—so called because it sums up the apostolic faith. In due course this Creed, one of three found now in the Prayer Book, took its place as the baptismal declaration used in the church at Rome and elsewhere. The earliest of the Creeds we acknowledge, it is the briefest and most easily memorized for purposes of catechesis, but is complemented and enlarged upon by the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.
To gather and focus the central truths of the apostolic faith, as the Scriptures present them, is the first task of all catechesis. That is what the Apostles’ Creed does. It is arranged in three paragraphs or articles, which highlight in turn the person and work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thus the Creed is Trinitarian, as is the New Testament itself. It is a curriculum of truths that leads inquirers into a focused and grounded personal faith in the Triune God, and into real discernment of the personal commitment such faith involves.
The Creed exists, as all Creeds and Confessions do, to define and defend this commitment that is basic to being a Christian. Its central article—which declares who and what Jesus Christ was, is and will be—is the fullest and longest; the article on God the Creator (the Father) introduces it, and the article on the Holy Spirit and the Christian salvation follows from it. As a whole, the Creed testifies to the vital core of God’s self-revelation. It is a consensus document, coming to us with the resounding endorsement of faithful believers over nearly two thousand years, for it has been recited by Christian communities at all times and in all places throughout the history of the Christian Church. And it is a benchmark of orthodoxy, that is, of right belief, guiding our understanding of God’s revealed truth at points where our sin-clouded minds might go astray.