Creeds, Queries and Mars Bars
Posted on May 16, 2013
In the little Christian cult that I belong to, we use “Queries and Advices” to guide our way. We chose this over a creed for a number of reasons which I’ll outline below, but lately I’ve been thinking that I’d like a little creedalism.
We borrowed the idea of ‘queries and advices’ from the Quakers, or the “Religious Society of Friends”. These are the queries and advices from the British Quakers. Quakers are most famous for their cereal products, but they used to be famous for refusing to go to war, not drinking alcohol, not swearing oats (oops, ‘oaths’) and silent worship. There used to be only 3 Quaker queries, but there is quite a few more now.
We made up our own queries and advices based on what we had found coming up time and time again in our common life over the last 20 years or so. But why did we choose to use queries and advices over a creed? It would be simpler just to take the historic creeds, yes?
- The shape of the mission of Seeds is always provisional, because the context that we are in is always changing, people are always changing, we are changing…you get the gist. Queries and advices recognise that change, and keep us asking important questions. Creeds tend to say “this is how it is – deal with it”.
- Queries get you thinking: a creed gives you an answer to a question, whereas a query asks you to come up with something yourself. Confessional theology get us to say “This is what I believe”, whereas an interrogatory theology(I know, I am smart) asks you hard questions that demand a response, like Jesus did.
- Creeds can be used as a tool of uniformity: the creeds got worked out back in the day because there was too much diversity of belief, and so it was clear what people were getting themselves into. I don’t mind this. But I think they need to be discussed, argued over, and not be used as a tool for uniformity.
However, I also like creeds, and I want to go in to bat for them, and not only because I earned Mars Bars in CEBS for learning them.
Here’s 3 reasons for knowing the historic Christian creeds:
- They are a big playground with strong fences: I used to think creeds were restrictive and laid down too many beliefs to whack people with, and as a rebellious teenager didn’t like reciting them as a congregation. However, once I looked carefully at them, there actually is not very much that they affirm. I mean, they set down some pretty large things to believe in, but they don’t itemise much. I see them as defining a very large area for us the work within, rather than stakes holding us down.
- Other people thought them up: one of the weaknesses the church right now (and this applies to whatever brand you subscribe to) is the lust for newness. It usually gets talked about as ‘innovation’, and while innovation is fine when it comes to how the gospel gets lived out, I am not a keen fan of theological innovation. Maybe some renovation, but I am not about to knock the walls done. In addition, the fact that other people thought them up means I am connecting with the history of my faith – both hard and easy bits.
- Queries and Advices can be used to avoid what we don’t like: because queries and advices don’t actually say “believe this” at any point, it’s quite possible to wriggle out of saying you believe anything strongly.