Creed

Jesus’ only explicit command was this:  “A new command I give you: Love one another … By this all men will know that you are [Christians], if you love one another” (John 13:34-5).  Jesus prayed to His Father “that all [Christians] may be one so that the world may believe that You have sent me … May [Christians] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”  (John 17:21,23)

The Common Creed of Christianity:

The Vast Common Faith of (Eastern and Western) Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and (Western) Conservative/ Evangelical Protestant Christianity (and ‘Messianic Judaism’ [1]) Which is the Basis for Christian Unity in Our Diversity “So That The World May Believe”

(and so that Christians can most credibly & effectively together guide Western Civilization into not losing its human rights and freedoms which depend historically & logically on Christian principles)

(To be read before we discuss our differences, to keep our lesser differences grounded in the context of our greater common faith so our differences are not falsely exaggerated)

 The One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God created humanity in His Image intending to have a loving family relationship with humans described in the Bible as adoption (Romans 8:15), such that every human life without exception is supremely and equally precious to God and therefore all humans must be free from all government coercion in matters of belief in order that they may FREELY seek and hopefully find this wonderful truth about human existence (the Christian “Pro-Life” Principles which historically and logically undergird all human rights and democratic freedoms); humanity lost its original relationship with God through sin but God so loved humanity that He made reconciliation possible through the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes Christians members of the one Body of Christ the Church (which may be described as God’s adopted family); Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the  dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy [2] of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.

This above “common creed” encapsulates the core of the Gift of Truth God gave to the world for its salvation, it encapsulates the essential or fundamental Christian teaching of all the Ecumenical (worldwide) and other major Councils of the Undivided Early Christian Church, Councils which both the Catholic Church (in its 26 Western and Eastern Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ or Patriarchates united under the Head Pastorship of the Pope – the Roman Catholic Church is only the largest) and the Eastern Orthodox Church (in its 16 ‘Sister Churches’ or Patriarchates more loosely united in the very beautiful Byzantine/Greek Rite Christian worship) consider to have established the irrevocable norms of Christian faith in the early centuries of Christianity, and it also encapsulates all the details of the early 20th Century “Fundamentals” tract series which began the Protestant Fundamentalist movement as well as the details usually included in the many conservative and Evangelical Protestant creedal “statements of faith” (the early 20th Century Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements were “doctrinally conservative,” orthodox responses to the huge “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox trend within the earlier Protestant “mainline” churches).  Those Protestant “mainline” denominations and congregations which are going increasingly “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox may or may not still preserve with certainty all of these ancient fundamental beliefs of orthodox Christianity (orthodoxy means “right teaching,” as opposed to unorthodox or heretical teaching).  The above common Christian beliefs are the wonderful, life-changing, saving truths of Christianity which “turned the world upside down” in barbaric times and transformed the ancient world with God’s Love, laying the historical and logical foundations for all the later human rights and democratic freedoms which developed nowhere else in the world but in Western Christian Civilization – common truths which still make Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christians (and ‘Messianic Jews’) brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and most certainly instruments of God’s salvation in the world (despite our misunderstandings and disagreements over some of our different secondary doctrines, differences which each side sees in the light of the above common fundamentals we are already agreed on, meaning our differences are never as big as they seem).  This vast Common Core Christian Faith must be acknowledged before we ever discuss our differences, so we may discuss them fruitfully in family love.  And on the basis of this vast common faith currently divided Christians must work together in family love to preserve human life, religious freedom, and democracy itself which are all seriously threatened since Christianity was rejected as Western Society’s moral guide.

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This “Common Creed” is intended as something that ideally should be read and understood as our vast common core of agreement before we ever engage in dialogue with Christians outside of our own group about our differences in belief, to help ensure that the differences do not get exaggerated in our minds to the point that they seem irreconcilable or even heretical.  Anything a different kind of Christian than you (from the above list) believes, they believe in a way that they understand is compatible with this  huge fundamental core of traditional Christian faith each side holds in common.  It is the purpose of loving dialogue to on the basis of this vast common faith listen to each other and come to discover just how some of the things which seemed so different and which may have divided us in the past are in fact compatible with our vast common faith, such that we can at least “agree to disagree” on some secondary matters without any concern that those who disagree are “heretics” or “unsaved.”  Better yet, through such loving dialogue, really listening to each other and engaging each other as loving Christian brothers and sisters who happen to disagree,  we may be able to together come to new, more subtly nuanced or precise formulations on currently disputed points, definitions which perhaps incorporate the strengths of both perspectives and perhaps eliminate weaknesses of each.  This is in fact what happened in the early Ecumenical Councils in which the different Sister Churches “pooled their resources,” shared their different insights with each other until they came up with new and better definitions (like “Jesus is fully God and fully man,” incorporating together the insights of the Antiochian School on the true humanity of  Jesus and those of the Alexandrian School on the true Divinity of Jesus).

The “Doctrinally Liberal” Streams of the Protestant “Mainline” Denominations Which Do Not (Or Do Not with Certainty) Hold All of the above “Common Creed” Still Have Basis for Dialogue but Lack the Extremely Profound Basis of Unity of the above Churches

I do not wish to simply write off the huge “doctrinally liberal” portion of historical or “mainline” Protestant Christianity, especially since many self-described “liberal” Christians are not actually unorthodox or heretical but simply not as certain about the Christian fundamentals as they should be.  Many “liberals” have genuine saving Christian faith in Jesus and personal loving relationship with Him; many are genuinely in touch with the above orthodox Christian Mysteries with their proven historic power to transform lives and societies for the better, despite the modern confusion of many others within their churches mostly thanks to certain unfortunate 16th to 18th Century ideas of the Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment eras.  Nevertheless, the lack of absolute certainty about all the above traditional, essential, fundamental tenets of spiritually powerful, historically world-changing, orthodox Christianity even at the highest denominational level means the “liberal” mainline Protestant churches lack the solid major foundation towards re-building Christian unity which the Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/ Evangelical Protestant churches possess, and thus my books and materials which promote the rebuilding of Christian unity in diversity as in the Undivided Early Church are addressed primarily to these churches which are currently formally separated but which are already most profoundly united in the above common saving Christian faith (whereas Protestant “liberals” have no consistency even amongst themselves, as to which bits of historic and powerful Christianity they will accept or reject).  It is my hope that as the Catholic, Orthodox, and doctrinally conservative Protestant/ Evangelical Christian churches which are confident about the above traditional Christian orthodoxy gradually unite in ever more beautiful loving expressions of Christian unity in diversity modeled after the Undivided Early Church (even while our formal divisions remain), that the “doctrinally liberal” Protestant churches which question, doubt, or outright deny fundamental aspects of traditional Christian faith will become ‘jealous’ and will consider once again embracing traditional Christian orthodoxy with certainty in order to be part of this beautiful and enriching communion Jesus intended for His Body the Church (and I hope that the many more-or-less “nominal” or “in-name-only” members of all fundamentally orthodox Christian churches, members who have been unduly influenced by the greater culture’s secularist ideas and lifestyles, will similarly become motivated to really practice their church’s orthodox Christian faith).

Reversing Satan’s Victory Against the Church’s Unity

(adapted from the Forward to So That The World May Believe)

Jesus prayed “that all [Christians] may be one. . .so that the world may believe (John 17:21)

In His prayer in John 17:21-23, Our Lord Jesus linked the world’s belief in Him to the unity of Christians, and indeed, the most phenomenal Christian missionary successes ever occurred in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church, wherein the brutal ancient pagan world was “turned upside down” and whole societies were transformed by the Love of Jesus Christ, the portions of the ancient cultures which embraced Jesus becoming the different butmutually enriching ‘Sister Churches’ which together made up theone Universal Church of Jesus Christ which thus collectively called itself the Catholic Church, Catholic being Greek for Universal (this early Catholic/ Universal Church initially was made up of members of the Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek cultures) .

Satan’s most victorious counter-attack against this one Bride and Body of Jesus Christ, the Church, was to get most Christians from all of the currently divided sides to forget that for a thousand years the Undivided Early Church was one Universal (Catholic) Communion of different orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches,’ united in the fundamental tenets of traditional, orthodox, personally-saving and world-transforming Christian faith which the different Sister Churches had precisely clarified and defined together (against many heretical challenges to it), at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of all the different Sister Churches which each theologized about and celebrated their common Christian faith in different ways.

The greatest monument to Satan’s greatest victory against the Christian Church is the very notion, still rampant among today’s divided Christian Churches, that other Christians’ differences in theology (the study of what God has revealed, not Divine Revelation itself) and differences in practice are “automatically” inferior or wrong, even when those other Christians still share the Undivided Early Universal (Catholic) Church’s clearly articulated fundamentals of faith in just what God has revealed in the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, the fully Divine yet also fully human Second Person of the Holy Trinity who is Love, who lives in our hearts, and in the Written Word of God, the Bible.  The vicious wound Satan has inflicted upon the Christian Church today is seen in a Christian Church which is profusely divided mostly over the kinds of things which did not divide, but mutually enriched, the Undivided Early Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion of different orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches.’ Today Christians typically cannot even see that the very few actually substantial misunderstandings and disagreements between most of today’s divided churches are relatively small, since most of the different sides see their distinct lesser doctrines in the light of their vast common, saving Christian faith – that essential, fundamental faith of the Undivided Early Church (listed above), which gives us an exceptionally strong basis for real, loving dialogue towards eventually finding mutually agreed-on resolutions to our current disputes, and towards the long-term reunification Jesus wishes for His Body the Church “so that the world may believe.”

Ask yourself these questions: Do I usually assume other Christian churches/ denominations/ movements/ groups than mine are inferior or wrong wherever they differ from mine, usually without bothering to find out if they affirm the same traditional essentials of saving Christian faith that I do, and usually without bothering to really try to understand their different secondary doctrines and practices and just how those other Christians see their differences as consistent with the same fundamentals of Christian faith that I hold?  Do I ever consider that other Christian churches than mine might better preserve at least certain aspects or characteristics of the Undivided Early Church than mine does, such that we canlearn from and enrich each other as did the Undivided Early Church’s different Sister Churches?  Do I actively seek and pray for the loving Christian unity Jesus prayed for “so that the world may believe”?  If the answer is “yes” to the first question and “no” to the last two, as is very common, then your attitude is part of Satan’s victory in keeping the Body of Christ divided and thus much less effective than it should be against the Kingdom of Darkness Jesus Christ our Head came to conquer with His Love.

This website hopes, by God’s Grace, to be the antidote to such attitudes.  This website (particularly in its 3-Volume ‘textbook’ on Ecumenism entitled So That The World May Believeoffers real hope for the long-term resolution of the current misunderstandings and disputes between the various Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant (and even “Messianic Jewish”) churches which already share a vast treasure of the Undivided Early Church’s saving Christian faith and which already resemble the Undivided Early Church’s different but united ‘Sister Churches,’ as will be easily seen once the habits of uncharitable and divisive thinking Satan has successfully sown in the Church are finally abandoned.  This website and the free books herein contain many prayerful conclusions of my scholarly research of the history of God’s People from Adam, lovingly made by the God who is Love, to Jesus Christ the “New Adam,” to His Body the Church since, from the Undivided First Millennium through to the Protestant Reformation and on to today’s Ecumenical Movement (and Vatican Council II’s exceptional but largely unknown contributions to it).  Particularly in the three-volume book So That The World May Believe I offer many suggestions of how to best understand that long family history of God’s People from Adam to today, and I offer several practical suggestions towards re-instituting the lost unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church “so that the world may believe.”

If some readers afterwards still disagree with my suggestions of just how the Christian unity Jesus prayed for might one day actually be accomplished, I will have succeeded in my main purpose if they at least have been motivated to pray for the unity Jesus prayed for and motivated to lovingly dialogue with other Christians than “their group.”  I will have succeeded in my main purpose if readers are motivated to think about unity in diversity like the Undivided Early Church lived it, motivated to regularly think about re-establishing unity and motivated to talk about it with their Christian brothers and sisters in different churches, different denominations, different movements and other different groups, “so that the world may believe” according to Jesus’ prayer for us.  The loving brotherly attitudes towards each other on the basis of our vast common faith are more important than immediate agreement as to just how we should proceed towards practically reuniting the Church, because full reunification will certainly take very many years however it proceeds, but living Jesus’ command to “love one another” so that the world may know we are really Christians (John 13:34-35) is something that we can start doing NOW, so that RIGHT NOW we can really start to display Jesus’ Love in the world through our unity in love as Christians, His Body.  We must first master unity in love even while our formal divisions remain, before any serious attempt at formal reunification can begin, “so that the world may believe” as Jesus prayed.

The First Step to the “Complete Unity” (John 17:23) Jesus Desires for His Church Is in Fundamentally Orthodox Christians (Eastern & Western Catholic; Eastern Orthodox; Western Conservative/Evangelical Protestant; ‘Messianic Jews’) Seeking and Mastering Unity in Visible Love for Each Other on the Basis of Their Vast Common Faith Even While the Formal Divisions over Unresolved Lesser Issues Remain

From So That The World May Believe Volume III Chapter 7

To aid this first goal of loving each other for the love of our Lord and for the love of the world He loves, in the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II), the Catholic Church has officially declared at its highest level of authority (cited fully in Volume III Chapter 3) that

“[non-Catholic] Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us [Catholic Christians] in the Holy Spirit,” “and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers” because “it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in baptism [see Mark 16:16] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”

So, as indicated in Volume III Chapter 3, despite some Catholics unfortunately still having to “catch up” with their Church on this point, the huge Catholic Church now officially models the loving ecumenical attitude all churches need in order for Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity to ever be granted, that even though “our” Church denomination (whichever it is) believes that “other” churches which do not agree with some of our secondary doctrines and practices are missing something, those “other churches”

have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation,” [other Christian churches than “ours” indeed have] “access to the communion of salvation.”

And therefore harshly critical and unloving attitudes towards other Christians with whom we already share so much are not appropriate Christian attitudes, and indeed, they are attitudes which cripple the effectiveness of the one Body of Christ the Church in the world by masking the love of Jesus in us.

As we continue to seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit of love, Catholic Christians (Eastern and Western) and non-Catholic Christians (Eastern Orthodox and Western Protestant/Evangelical Christians united in the same vast common and fundamental Christian beliefs, including ‘Messianic Jews’) will gradually get better and better at truly loving and ecumenical attitudes towards each other, attitudes which will greatly aid the Christian mission to the world which will then more easily see Christian love “for one another” long before we even get close to the formal structural Church reunification which we must take to be part of Jesus’ prayer for our “complete unity” (John 17:23).  We must first strive to master the unity in visible love for each other even while we remain formally divided into separate churches and church communions, which must be the first step before we ever even attempt full formal Church reunification (as different ‘Sister Churches’ in one Universal Christian Communion, following the Undivided Early Church model described in detail in So That The World May Believe Volumes I and III).  The closer we fundamentally orthodox Christians, whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant/Evangelical (or ‘Messianic Jewish’), get to first unity in visible love and later to full formal reunification, the world will more and more take notice of the sublime beauty of the Christian Church as we come closer together as one loving worldwide Christian family like Jesus prayed for, devoid of the hatred, ignorance and judgments of the past.  Not only will the unbelieving world take notice of our beauty; those “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox Christians (liberal Protestants and those of the “Lesser” Eastern Churches), upon seeing those Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant/Evangelical churches which are already united in the above vast common fundamentals of traditional, orthodox Christian faith, start to really “love one another as [Christ] has loved [them]” (John 13:34) and display all the more supernaturally-life-changing power and Christian beauty in the world, the deficiencies of their unorthodoxy will become all the more apparent to them and ideally they will become jealous of the beautiful unity of the orthodox Christian churches, and seek to become more orthodox themselves so they may join this wonderful communion in Christ’s love, adopted into the Loving Family of the Trinitarian God who is Love.  Large numbers of liberal Protestant Christians are not so much unorthodox as they are lacking in the certainty they should have about the fundamentals of orthodox Christian faith, so these will be the most likely to adopt Christian orthodoxy when the gradually reunifying orthodox churches lose their hatred and bigotry over lesser-order differences, stop fighting and start loving each other so as to better display to all the beauty of orthodox Christianity.

Something similar happened in the 4th Century.  There were large groups of “Semi-Arian” Christians, temporarily even the majority of Christians, who were uncertain whether to believe either

1) the orthodox position of Jesus’ full Divinity, “one in being with the Father,” defined, clarified and proclaimed by the 325 AD 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicea (as a function of the Church being the living Body of Christ) and championed by Alexandrian Catholic Patriarch Saint Athanasius (who was exiled 5 times by Arian Christian rulers for his orthodoxy though sheltered by the Roman Catholic Patriarch, the Pope) or

2) the heretical position of the Arian Christians, who denied the full Divinity of Jesus, and who claimed the Council had no authority to settle the dispute since the Bible on its own did not contradict the Arian heresy (with its sophisticated and thorough use of Scripture) as the Council’s newly clarified  traditional interpretation of the Bible did.

These uncertain Christians had often adopted a compromise “middle position” between the two and thus were called “Semi-Arians” by those who were firmly orthodox.  The uncertain or in-between majority of  “Semi-Arians” were eventually converted to orthodox Christianity, particularly through the ministry of Alexandrian Patriarch Saint Athanasius (who also first put together the New Testament Canon as we know it in 367 AD) and the later ministry of the “Cappodocian Fathers” (Saints Basil the Great, Gregory of Nanzianzen, and Gregory of Nyssa), who were able to articulate and explain and demonstrate the beauty of the orthodox position.  Today’s “mainline” Protestant denominations (including the one I was raised in) have plenty of modern-day Arians who deny Jesus is God and even more modern-day “Semi-Arians” who are unsure if Jesus is God (the Catholic and Orthodox Churches do not have this problem, though as all churches in our highly secularized society they do suffer from “nominalism,” having many more or less “in name only” members).  We must remember the victory of the Early Church over both paganism and over the Arian heresy (both of which have been revived in our day).  Showing unorthodox, uncertain, or nominal Christians, and the whole unbelieving world, the beauty of essential Christian orthodoxy through our Christian “love for one another” because of it should become our goal as Christians, “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21).

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© 2009 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO

[1] This is a significant and important movement of Jewish Christianity, Jews who accept Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah, which combines the Jewish and Protestant Christian traditions, including all the common Christian fundamentals, in an attempt to restore the lost Jewish cultural expression of Christianity which was practiced by all the first Christians, who were Jews.  Within the Catholic Church there is a similar Association of Hebrew Catholics.  Although the original “Jewish Rite” of Christianity died out after the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews by the Pagan Romans, it was not at all (as many Gentile Christian readers mistakenly assume) ended earlier by the Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem which simply stated that Gentiles did not need tobecome Jews in order to be Christians.  Acts 16:1-5 and Acts 21:17-26 prove that Jewish Christians remained culturally Jewish Christians after the Acts 15 Council just as Gentile Christians started developing their own distinct legitimate cultural expressions of Christianity (which became the Roman, Greek, Syrian, and Egyptian Gentile Christian culturally-based ‘Sister’ Churches which together with the Jerusalem Church were known as the “Pentarchy” of Early Church Patriarchates or Provinces which together (at the Early Ecumenical Councils) clearly articulated and established the common fundamentals of traditional orthodox Christianity amid the turmoil of the early Christian controversies with heretics.  Much more on the place of the Jewish Rite Christianity which is being newly re-established in our time will be found in various books published on this website (notably in The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’ and So That The World May Believe Volume I: Rediscovering the Early Church’s Unity in Diversity).

[2] Liberal Protestant Christianity questioned whether the Bible was wholly inspired by God and incapable of error (or inerrant), as traditionally affirmed, on the basis of some seeming contradictions between the Bible and science or history.  Some late 19th Century Catholic “modernist” scholars took up these Liberal Protestant objections to the Bible’s inerrancy and so Biblical inerrancy was soundly reaffirmed for all Catholic Christians by Pope Leo XIII in 1893.  A helpful ancient Christian principle is that Scripture is without error in all it intentionally affirms.  Some critics of the Bible accuse the Bible of making errors in science.  Though Scripture may occasionally incidentally use “scientific” terms common to the period in which it was written which were necessary for the original readers’ comprehension, in such cases the Scripture, a religious text, no more intends to affirm a scientific truth than a newspaper which declares what time the sunrise will be intends to affirm that the sun moves around the Earth and is therefore said to “rise.”  The pre-Copernican terms of sunrise and sunset remain in common usage because they usefully describe the appearance of things relative to our Earth-bound position, even though they do not describe the now well-known scientific reality that the Earth moves around the sun and the sun is technically not “rising” at all.  Making use of common terms is not an error.  Other seeming problems with the Bible’s inerrancy disappear once one recognizes the literary form or genre a particular Bible passage was written in, and in many instances, later historical or archeological finds have proven the Bible historically accurate in places where critics had previously accused the Bible of being historically inaccurate.