I grew up in a church with very little liturgy. As a result, the words “Apostle’s Creed” meant very little to me until recently. Of course, the term ‘creed’ was familiar, I had taken enough church history for it to ring a bell, but when it came to the actual content of the creeds I was clueless. Therefore, when I was required to read Affirming the Apostle’s Creed for a college class, I was both excited and a little wary. I wasn’t sure what I was about to encounter. I was afraid, due to my lack of previous knowledge, most of the book was going to go far over my head. Thankfully, that fear was unfounded.
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 Spirit,
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 Spirit;
The holy catholic church;
The communion of saints;
The forgiveness of sins;
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting
Packer’s book starts out with a presentation of the Apostle’s Creed. His main goal with the book is to reveal the importance of the Creed to the modern Christian’s life. Packer uses an analog of a road map: the Bible is a topographical map holding every detail of the land, a necessity for the Christian Walk. The Creed is an equally important map, but less detailed: showing a bird’s-eye view of the land, focusing on the path and revealing how it differs and parallels with other paths. To show how the Creed provides this aid to the Christian, Packer devotes a chapter to dissecting each phrase in the Creed. Packer explains the wording of the phrase, the reasoning behind each phrase, and why this phrase is important to orthodoxy.
He doesn’t spend a lot of time on each phrase, only a few pages, resulting in a fairly short book that is easy to read. It is well written, containing deep truths that are important to the Christian Life. At the end of every chapter, Packer references a few Bible passages to be used for further study and several questions for thought and discussion. This means the book is valuable as more than just a tool for individual learning: it can also be used in a small group setting for discussion on the basics of theology.
Packer dissects and reveals beautiful theology out of these simple phrases
The beauty of the Apostle’s Creed is that it pierces the heart of Christianity. All that it holds are the basics. Every Christian can use it to describe their faith. Packer digs deeply into these phrases, revealing the complexity within. Packer explains how the simple phrase, “creator of heaven and earth,” places an emphasis on the Who of creation, instead of the How. Packer reveals how the phrase “suffered under Pontius Pilate” emphasizes the historical truth of the crucifixion, the humbling nature of the criminal death, and the alleviation of God’s wrath toward humanity. Packer dissects and reveals beautiful theology out of these simple phrases, but inevitably he also firmly reveals himself as a conservative protestant. This is not bad, but Packer’s unnecessary digs at Catholicism and somewhat condescending tone toward non-Christians could leave a bad taste in the mouths of those outside of his denominational camp.
Such nitpicks, however, are not enough to discourage reading this book. The thoughtfulness and theological expertise that Packer brings to the table makes the book well worth the short time it takes to read, whether you are a seasoned creed expert or a novice like me.
Published on 22 October, 2015. Last updated on