The Apostle’s Creed and the Great Pooh-Poohing of catholic Biblical Interpretation

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. 

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. 

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

apostlescreed

It wasn’t until my ecclesiology undergrad class in Bible College where I first heard the definition of what ‘catholic’ meant. Prior to that, I used to, along with many other North American Evangelicals simply conflated the language of ‘catholic’ with the Roman Catholic church. I didn’t realize that ‘catholic’ meant universal, and that the way it was being used in The Apostle’s Creed had nothing to do with the Roman Catholic church, and everything to do with the church ‘universal’ (of course, Rome uses it self-referentially to sectarianly assert that they are indeed and absolutely the location of the church universal). So in the past, the way I would’ve read The Apostle’s Creed (ironically, as a North American Evangelical, growing up, I never ever read The Apostle’s Creed, not until Bible College anyway) as if it was referring to the Roman Catholic church. Once I realized that this was an ecumenical confession, and once I understood what ‘catholic’ meant, I became only too happy to affirm this language as the best language for the identifying the true Church of Jesus Christ; it is universal indeed, since Christ is for all (even if all aren’t for Him!), and His life and reach are as expansive as His Word that sustains all of reality. 

But what I wanted to highlight here, even more than the above, is how the language, in some functional kinds of ways has fallen on hard times; and of course I am referring to Heremeneutics (the theory of one’s Biblical interpretation). The church universal, is not just a present reality, it recognizes that the church is composed of what the ancient church called the ‘church militant’ and the ‘church triumphant’; the former being the contemporary church who is on earth presently, and the latter identifying all those saints who have died, and are currently in the intermediate state waiting for the consummation of all things. The problem I see occurring, somewhat, is that the church catholic, and the catholicity of biblical interpretation, in particular, has been dust-binned; as if the Lord of the Church, has not been speaking freshly throughout the church’s history; as if He is only doing so currently. Thus the consequence is that even if some Christians realize they cannot totally denigrate the history of interpretation (which some wish they could, and they do privately), their is a functional kind of pooh-poohing of the church catholic, as if in the evolution of the church’s progression, we have out-paced them and their insights; i.e the past is just seen as made up of some pre-critical Hellenized Christian interpreters who really didn’t get what Scripture was really talking about, and thus we don’t really need to listen to them … we can approach the catholicity of interpreters with a sentiment of “oh, that was cute, but they didn’t get it like we do with our critical and postcritical insights.” 

The remedy to this attitude is what Matthew Levering has called Participatory Biblical Exegesis.

 

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