Shuck and Jive

Saturday, August 19, 2006


What are you doing, Earth, in heaven?
Tell me, what are you doing, Silent Earth?

--Giuseppe Ungaretri

I love this photo taken from the Apollo spacecraft. The world saw on their television screens in 1969 that the universe had flipped. Earth was heaven and heaven was Earth. Joseph Campbell discussed the implications for us in his essay, "The Moonwalk--The Outward Journey."

Of course, we knew this before 1969. We knew that Earth was not the center of the universe. Since Copernicus and Galileo, we knew that the universe of the ancients had vanished. But until we saw Earth rise from the perspective of our closest heavenly body, the moon, many of us could not feel the impact.

Where is heaven? Where is God? What is the meaning of it all? We are still reeling. We may for some time. Still, we dutifully recite the Apostle's Creed, a creed created when heaven and Earth were still in their "proper places."

A creed, that was created when heaven and Earth looked like this:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living 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 life everlasting.


How have you reconciled this?
Do you say the creed?
Have you given up on the creed?
Have you found a way to say it?
What do you mean when you say it?
If it has meaning for you, what is it?

Many Blessings,


  1. Have I landed on another planet? How is it possible that you can be an ordained Presbyterian minister and hold the views you do? Thank goodness I'm surrounded by well-grounded people who know "hogwash" when they hear it.

    As to the Apostle's Creed, I say it all the time, and believe it. What's your problem?

  2. That's a great drawing. :)

    "Descended into hell". "Ascended into heaven." Clearly that creed was conceived and written from a view of the universe that is quite different from what we know it to be today. The idea that hell is something that you "descend" to, or that heaven is something that you "ascend" to, comes from another time and place, and that terminology makes no literal sense anymore. Of course, a lot of the Bible doesn't make any literal sense either, but I have to admit that while the Bible is full of poetic metaphorical, or fictional language, a creed is in my view something different. It is supposed to be a literal expression of a truth claim, isn't it?

    I'll be honest. I can't actually reconcile this creed with what I believe. I know that Marcus Borg, for one, has said that he has no problem reciting creeds that he doesn't take literally. But it is not something I can do. I don't feel that I can be honest to myself by doing it.

  3. A Creed I can say with honesty:

    I believe in the capacity for a God-presence in us all;
    I believe in Jesus Christ, whose God-presence shown so brightly that his followers could find no other way to describe him;
    I believe that following the teachings of Jesus can lead us to heaven on earth;
    I believe in Jesus Christ, infused with a holy spirit, born of a young woman named Mary and raised by her and her partner named Joseph and who opened his arms to the world, making all of us his brothers and sisters;
    He taught us many important things, lived among the righteous and the sinners, suffered his death in the name of peace and reconciliation, died, and was buried;
    He appeared in the hearts and minds of his followers as "risen" and his teachings have lived on for over two-thousand years;
    He taught us to be just in our judgments and to remove our own blinders before we attempted to remove the spliters in the eyes of others;
    I believe that he lives on in the spirits of all those who enact his prayers for the world;
    I belive that he would like all of us to live as one with each other making manifest the holy God-presence within in communion with all those who have gone before us and all who may come after;
    and I believe that forgiveness is at the heart of his message and speaks to the spiritual and psychological resurrections that are possible for all us in this life everlasting. Amen

  4. Listening to NPR yesterday, I heard an excerpt on Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Jewish Theologian who was excommunicated 350 years ago from the Jewish community in Amsterdam for his heretical views on God and the Bible. Most importantly, Spinoza articulated disdain for the classical view of a supernatural deity.

    Spinoza argued against the classical separation of God and the world in favor of a pantheistic model which essentially conflates God and nature. Spinoza believed that the anthropomorphic characteristics of God described in the Torah were harmful to understanding God’s true nature.

    The language of the Apostle’s Creed is a product of the time it was written. It describes a worldview which by all modern standards is archaic and simply wrong. However, there is importance in reciting such a Creed even if we do not buy into its worldview. Spinoza did not reject Judaism solely because he disagreed with its portrayal of the nature of God, rather, he thought out his own view of the nature of God, what made sense to him.

    In an age in which blind faith still rules supreme over common intuition and logic, it is important to remember theologians such as Spinoza, who believed so truly in his own beliefs that he was willing to be excommunicated from his community in order to stand by what he believed.

    What does the Apostle’s Creed mean to a modern Christian, influenced heavily by the worldview that Spinoza began to develop and is somewhat more holistically developed in Whiteheadian Process Thought?

    Good question. I’m struggling to figure it out as we blog. A revised version based upon my own beliefs would go a bit more like this:

    I believe in God, the Father, mother, lover, friend,
    the Creator,
    and in Jesus Christ,
    born of Mary,
    who was crucified.

    Wow, If that was what I had to learn as a child I would have had a much easier time of it. When I really sit down and look at it, there is little in the Apostle’s Creed that I actually believe, be it historical or theological.

    So is it important? I still say yes, why I don’t really know. Maybe it is because it is part of the tradition, maybe because it’s supposed to. Maybe it’s because there is truly meaning in the creed, albeit not literal. As long as there are descendants of the Christian tradition, I believe that the Apostle’s Creed will have meaning to them. Regardless of its primitive worldview.

  5. Just to be accurate, that is not a photo from the Apollo program. It probably is not a photo at all, but a drawing.
    The earth, seen from the moon, is much, much smaller. Also, as an amateur astronomer who has looked at the moon thousands of times, the craters on the drawing don't match the actual surface of the moon, so far as I can tell.

  6. Anonymous:

    Good call on my confusing a photo for a drawing. It did look at little too perfect! I changed to one I believe is accurate from the NASA site.


  7. Person in the Pew:

    You are welcome to hop in your spaceship and fly back home if you don't like it here. Start your own blog, if you don't like mine.

    Mystical Seeker:

    Thank you! I wrestle with this issue, which is why I brought it up. I say the Apostle's Creed when it comes up in church. I say it for two reasons (at least):

    1) It is my heritage. I am part of the family of folks that have said this creed over the centuries.

    2) It has some value theologically, if not literally. I think our task is to try to determine what they were saying in the early centuries of the church when they used phrases like "ascending" and "descending". I think Borg and Crossan find value in the language as a language over/against Caesar as I have mentioned in other posts.

    So, I say it because I am part of the team. But, it is long past time to seek the core of what we can affirm and put it in terms that are understandable today.


    Awesome creed! Thank you for the thought you put into that. I love the spiritual and psychological resurrections. I also think we need to affirm political resurrections too.

    Borg and Crossan in their latest book, "The Last Week" say that Chrisitians often affirm Jesus as their "personal savior" which is good. But Christians are also called to affirm Christ as our "political savior" as well.

    Going forward:

    Thanks for the good word about Spinoza. I Like your thoughts. I want to work from within, which requires of me the hard work of continually translating which further requires digging deep into what our ancestors were really saying with the concepts and symbols available to them.

  8. How have you reconciled this? I cannot.

    Do you say the creed? No longer and do not miss it @ 1st pres.

    Have you given up on the creed? I guess so, 40-50 years ago

    Have you found a way to say it? No

    What do you mean when you say it? Don't go there.

    If it has meaning for you, what is it? One problem I have is the judging part. Seems to be a confloct w/ John 3:17. Another point is that I suspect that millions of people recite it purely by rote, not pondering any of the meanings contained. And lastly "descended into hell" doesn't appear in my translations.

    Many Blessings,