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Presbyterian Creeds and Confessions

The Creeds and Confessions of our church were forged in conflict, bloodshed, heresy and differing theological ideas. This disorder spawned strong desires to produce a clear and consistent statement of faith. The creeds and confessions were products of their historical times, oft time written to address specific social issues, yet designed to last for generations to come.

The banners for the creeds are alternately displayed on the banner stand at the front of the church.  FPC’s set of the banners of the Reformed Tradition were made by members of the congregation. The description of the creeds and their symbols follow. 

THE NICENE CREED

As the church developed in the first and second century, many different opinions rose about the nature of Christ and the meaning of the “good news” of the gospel. Some views were consistent with the original gospel; others were distorted and often heretical. It became obvious that a clear and concise statement of faith was necessary for the survival of the true church. The Nicene Creed was a response to that need.

The Nicene Creed is considered the first creed of the early church. It was centuries in development. Work began at the First Ecumenical Council called by Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome. The council met in Nicea in 325. The formulation of the creed began in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. It was not finished, however, until the epochal assembly at Chalcedon approved it in 451.

For centuries the Nicene Creed has served to unite Christians of all nationalities and denominations to a high understanding of the meaning of Christ and the Trinitarian nature of God.

Nicene Creed Symbols

♦ Cross/Sword. Symbol for the Emperor Constantine and successors. The cross is central because the doctrine of Christ is central in the Creed.

♦ Green Triangle And Three Symbols. Depicts the Doctrine of the Trinity formalized in the Creed.

♦ Hand. Symbol of God the Father.

♦ Chi Rho Monogram. Symbolizes Christ and often-appeared on helmets and shields of soldiers serving under Constantine.

♦ Dove. Symbol of the Holy Spirit.

♦ Crowns. Depict the rule and glory of God.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

The Apostles’ Creed is better known in America than is the Nicene Creed although they are similar in content. The origins of the Apostles’ Creed are not precisely known. It doesn’t have the academic pedigree of the Nicene. Yet the creed serves as a simple reminder of the essential matters of the Christian faith. In its simplicity, the creed reflects the faith of the New Testament Church. The creed expresses the beliefs for which people died. These beliefs survived through the more sophisticated Middle Ages and have become dear to millions of Christians within our western civilization.

Apostles’ Creed Symbols

♦ Brown Color. Symbolizes the rigor and persecution of early Christians as well as the monastic tradition of the early church.

♦ Purple Arches. Served as a reminder of the entrances to caves or catacombs where Christians met in secret. The arches also remind of the shape of Gothic church windows.

♦ Anchor Cross. The security in Christ as found by the apostles, many of whom were fishermen.

♦ Fish. The universal symbol of the Christian faith. The fish was often a secret code mark for early Christians in times of persecution.

♦ The Chalice. Signified the Lord’s Supper instituted on the night of Christ’s betrayal as well as the fellowship of the early Church.

♦ Upside Down Cross. Peter, it is said to have been crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy of a death like his master’s.

 HEIDELBERG CATECHISM

Lutheran teachings and forms of worship received favorable response in many parts of Germany in the 16th century. However, in Southwest Germany, a period of Presbyterian fervor arose under the leadership of Frederick III, Protestant elector of the Palatinate (a German province with Heidelberg as its capital.) Frederick commissioned the writing of a catechism, (a series of questions and answers used in teaching new Christians). Olivianus and Ursinus, two young theologians, wrote the catechism in 1563. They wrote a warm-hearted, appealing but still Biblically sound statement of faith. The Heidelberg Catechism is widely used in German and Dutch Reformed traditions. It has also been used in many translations around the world.

Heidelberg Catechism Symbols

THE THEOLOGICAL DECLARATION OF BARMEN 1934   (GERMANY)

Under Hitler, National Socialism in Germany, attempted to gain control of the local churches, In so doing, the government tried to become the conscience of the German people.  Many German Christians, along with others outside the church, quietly bowed to Nazi pressure.

As the Nazi influence grew, other German Christians rebelled.  Lutherans, Reformed Christians, and Union Church leaders gathered at an emergency meeting in Barman to voice opposition, find strength in each other, and to form a new force against Nazism.

The “Theological Declaration of Barman 1934” arose from the frustration and fears of that historic meeting.  The Declaration spoke to the immediate situation on the basis of the centuries-old doctrines of the sovereignty of God, authority of scripture, and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind. The declaration became the basis for Christian witness throughout the war years.

Today, “Barmen” stands as a warning against militant Christianity in the church.

The Theological Declaration of Barman Symbols

The SWASTIKA crossed out and CROSS rising constitute a protest and witness against tyranny, and any effort to take the role of God and control of the church.

The FIRE speaks of the suffering and death that follows from the defense of the faith against tyranny.  The cross survives such persecution and the crisis of war, rising out of the flames.

 

 

 

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