Thursday, March 25, 2010

Creeds

That first transcription of random thoughts on an airplane when half the paper has disappeared was not very useful... Neither is this one.

How can we read the history of statements of belief? Can we accommodate other creeds and other histories? I think I was watching Macbeth about this time. So there is a marginal note: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow till the last syllable of time.

This is a thorny question and tends to produce schism and conflict. Is there a positive formulation of an answer? Not really. Humans seek power and words allow enforcement of power. But perhaps - this question is a positive formulation: What do the creeds address and what might they invite? On the other hand, what if we spend our analytical time stepping around things we don't "believe"? I suppose one could say this stresses or stretches our willingness to receive and live with "questions", but that sounds like a cop-out to me today.

Examples: Deuteronomy 6:4 is more of a command than creed but there are many layers in the 6 words. Cynthia Miller offers 5 different ways of translating them:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד
Which would you choose? Hear O Israel:
יְהוָה  is our God. יְהוָה is one.
As for יְהוָה our God, יְהוָה is one
יְהוָה our God is one יְהוָה
יְהוָה is our God, יְהוָה alone
Our one God is יְהוָה ,יְהוָה
Every time we sing these words with the Sunday school, I get a different sense from them.  יְהוָה our God, יְהוָה is one - is how I usually translate for the children. This has, by the way, little to do with 'monotheism'. Why we were taught monotheism as 'advanced'? Because our teachers had no idea what or who they were talking about. Holding correct doctrine while you allow your power to be abusive is not really useful.

The other extreme of examples of creed is at a site like that of Doug Chaplin and his page on the 39 articles. There is a fascinating history here and Doug raises a lot of excellent questions. Not simple though.

Anyway - I believe in that God who is one. One in the sense for me that I perceive multifarious things which will be redeemed in unity.

Ref: ed. Cynthia Miller, The Verbless Clause in Biblical Hebrew. Linguistic Approaches (good essay by Randall Buth in it.)