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The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters [Hardcover]

Luke Timothy Johnson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 19 2003
This thoughtful, fully accessible exploration of the creed, the list of beliefs central to the Christian faith, delves into its origins and illuminates the contemporary significance of why it still matters.

During services in Christian communities, the members of the congregation stand together to recite the creed, professing in unison the beliefs they share. For most Christians, the creed functions as a sort of “ABC” of what it means to be a Christian and to be part of a worldwide movement. Few people, however, know the source of this litany of beliefs, a topic that is further confused by the fact that there are two different versions: the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.

In The Creed, Luke Timothy Johnson, a New Testament scholar and Catholic theologian, clarifies the history of the creed, discussing its evolution from the first decades of the Christian Church to the present day. By connecting the deep theological conflicts of the early Church with the conflicts and questions facing Christians today, Johnson shows that faith is a dynamic process, not based on a static set of rules. Written in a clear, graceful style and appropriate for Christians of all denominations, The Creed is destined to become a classic of modern writings on spirituality.

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From Publishers Weekly

Catholic theologian Johnson knows that the creed, although it is recited by millions of worshippers every Sunday, is far from being well understood. He also knows, clearly from personal experience, that much of what the creed affirms-from a personal Creator to a final resurrection-is the butt of jokes at fashionable dinner parties. This book is his careful attempt to explain to perplexed Christians, with attention to their dinner-party friends, why an ancient confession of faith still makes sense in the modern world. Exploring the Nicene creed line by line, Johnson introduces readers to the history behind each phrase, both in Christian Scripture and in church tradition, and he defends its relevance to faith today. While this approach is similar to that of Catholic apologists like Scott Hahn and Patrick Madrid, Johnson diverges from them in his willingness to sharply criticize both the secular modern world and his own tradition when he sees either one denying the powerful, liberating truths that the creed expresses. Both fundamentalists and progressive Christians (liberation theologians, feminists and devotees of the "historical Jesus") get equal-time rebuttals as well. Johnson's studied vagueness on some controversial questions (such as the historical nature of the resurrection and the uniqueness of Christianity) will put off some readers, but many others will find this a compelling introduction to the essence of Christian faith.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Praise for The Real Jesus

“More than simply being a critique of the historical Jesus enterprise, Johnson’s book provides a positive statement about what it means to have a genuine, contemporary faith in the living Jesus.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“The best of the recent flow of books [on Jesus].” —Newsweek

“One of the most exhilarating religious books published in this decade.” —Christianity Today

“Passionately argued . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

Praise for Living Jesus

“Johnson demonstrates that the “living Jesus” of the biblical traditions is immensely more fascinating and significant than any of the “dead Jesus” that the quests for the historical Jesus keep producing.” —Miroslav Volf, Yale University Divinity School

“A stirring book…Informative and challenging”—The Bible Today

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First Sentence
Before considering its individual elements, we do well to think about the existence of the Christian creed as such. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Credo... May 29 2004
Truth in advertising compels me to confess that Luke Timothy Johnson was a professor of mine during my undergraduate years - I took several classes from him in the Religious Studies field while an undergraduate at Indiana University; I have used his books consistently both as a student and as an instructor, and they have been of a consistently high quality in scholarship and readability.
Many of Johnson's text deal with the New Testament directly, or with issues deriving from it (explorations of Jesus, early church studies, etc.). This book, 'The Creed', combines a lot of this kind of scholarship into an overall discussion of the creeds the modern church espouses. Johnson, a life-long Roman Catholic, has had the recitation of the creed as part of his regular worship experiences all his life - first in Latin, then later in English. Many Christians Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant share this kind of experience. Often faithfulness is a response to God, but Johnson has in this text developed more along the lines of faith as belief, as giving a common sense of purpose and identity. In the preface, Johnson states his belief, his faith that the creed may be a most important element in helping the church to recover its sense of itself.
Johnson identifies the pervasive character of modern philosophical thinking from the Enlightenment through to Modernity as rather inimical to the kind of faith the creed called for when first formulated by the early church. The world is now set up in many ways in duality between belief and inquiry, and rarely to the two intersect happily. Not only is creedal Christianity a subject of criticism from outside Christian culture, but is also a controversial topic within - how are the creeds to be interpreted and applied? How vital are they?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading on So Many Levels April 1 2004
Regardless of your faith tradition, The Creed is a book worth exploring, studying, and discussing in your church. Agreement with Johnson's arguments and conclusions is not necessary -- it is the questions that Johnson raises that are important. Contemporary Christianity suffers a monumental credibility problem and identity crisis. Few Christians can clearly articulate what they believe, why it is important, and what ultimate meaning it has for their lives. Rigid fundamentalism to anything-goes liberalism paint a wide spectrum for confused seekers. Church-goers often simply go through the motions, mouthing professions of faith that have little or no meaning in their daily lives. Johnson calls all Christian believers to take seriously what we claim to believe, and he challenges us to act counter-culturally -- first and foremost by defining ourselves in relationship to community, rather than as individuals. This is a fine historical review as well as a clarion call to create a future grounded in a clear, compelling identity that says once and for all who we are, what we believe, and why we are here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This book was given to me by my father as a gift after I expressed interest in possibly pursuing an advanced degree in Christian theology or apologetics. It was an excellent choice because it deals with one of the fundamental Christian creeds - the Nicene creed. Overall, the author's presentation about the subject was strong, but I did find a few sections somewhat tangential.
The author states that his aim in writing this book is "to make the creed controversial for those Christians who say it, but do not understand it, and therefore, do not grasp what a radical and offensive act they perform when they declare these words every week in a public assembly". Oddly enough, the church I attend actually does not recite the Creed during weekly services. None the less, I was very interested to see how the author goes about fulfilling his aim.
The bulk of the book focuses on a line by line analysis of the Creed, and the fundamental doctrines it represents. Basically, the book illustrates how different the Christian view is from other religions, and the world we in which we eixts. Additionally, the author feels like the Creed should be a unifying way to help the Church find common ground. He realizes that the Body contains diverse views throughout, but he proves the point that the Creed helped unify the early church, and it can do the same today.
Additionally, the author offers analysis of various denominations approachs to certain doctrines, such as baptism, the Holy Spirit, and the accuracy of the Bible. It is these sections which are not all successful. For example, pointing out that the modern charismatic movement does a better job of including the Holy Spirit in their doctrine, but go overboard on the issue of speaking in tongues is insightful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The reason to believe April 6 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 50 REVIEWER
Over the pat couple of years I have increasingly become aware of the controversy that Christian Creed, and Creedal Christianity, invoke. The more fundamentalist Christians tend to think of creeds as a later development, and by extension a corruption, of the original pristine New Testament Christianity. On the other hand, theological liberals of all stripes perceive creeds as a straitjacket and a tool of control and exclusion of the heterodox views that were suppressed by the Orthodox "faction". Furthermore, secularists and atheist equate any and allegiances to creeds as a credulity, an infantile instinct that needs to be eradicated if we are to move ahead as a society. Luke Timothy Johnson in this wonderful little book goes a long way in defending The Creed against all these major detractors, and he does it with a great deal of skill, scholarship and finesse.

The early chapters of this book explore how did particular statements in The Creed come about, what were the historical and theological disputes that lead to their inclusion. However, this is not the main focus of the book, and some other works on this topic may be more relevant. The major part of the book is dedicated to taking each one of the statements in The creed (and The Creed in question is theNiceno-Constantinopolitan Creed), elaborating on its meaning, providing the relevant biblical proof-texts that support it, and providing the significance of it in our dailylives and in the world at large. It is here that Luke Timothy Johnson is at his best, and this book brought new freshness to the old statements of faith that I've been reciting in Church for many years.

This is a wonderful modern book that I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in the Christian beliefs.
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