“In our Church, nobody is required to believe anything. You can choose what you believe about God.” So said a young man of my acquaintance. He was very happy with his Church, and by what he was saying probably felt very empowered that he could choose what he would believe without being made to fit into somebody else’s mold. He reminded me of a time years ago when “writing your own personal Creed” was a common exercise in confirmation classes. And what’s wrong with that?
Well, let’s be clear. You can believe what you want, but beliefs are not just ideas, they are commitments. Commitments are actions of the soul, and actions have consequences. Let’s say that you’ve won a ride on a rocket ship. There are several rockets being built right now for contest winners, and you get to choose which one you’ll blast off on.
The first rocket ship was designed by physicists and built by engineers. This team has built successful rockets before. The second rocket ship was designed by a successful race car team and built by auto mechanics. Their previous attempts have all crashed, but they’re working on their guidance system, and they’re sure that by the time you get on board, they’ll have the bugs worked out. The third rocket ship was designed by someone who has made an extensive study of “ancient astronauts” and built by a guy who has twenty years’ worth of old Popular Mechanics magazines in his garage. Their model is all ready to go, but they haven’t attempted a test flight yet.
All three teams of builders are using the same 150,000 lbs of liquid oxygen to fuel their rockets. Once you’re strapped into the seat on top of the engine, they're going to ignite all that high explosive and send you on your way. Which team do you want to fly to the heavens with?
The point of the Creeds or the Articles of Religion is not to put people into some kind of headlock and require them to sign on the dotted line in order to belong. The point of the Creeds is to demonstrate that we know what we’re doing. Our team has built these things before, and there are those who have made the trip who report that they reached their destination safely. You don’t have to understand how it works — that is, you don’t have to be a physicist or a theologian (mixing my illustrations here) yourself, but at some point you’re going to have to decide if what they’re telling you is reliable.
Of course, you could just make it up. Who’s to say that your idea of God isn’t a wonderful idea? Make up your own doctrine, and your own way to heaven. Sounds wonderful, inspiring even. But the question is, will your jury-rigged rocket get you there or blow up on the launching pad?
Every time we stand up to recite, “I believe . . .” we’re saying we’ve chosen one particular design team to guide us to heaven. Their model rests upon truths that have stood the test of time and has shown that it works. But, hey, believe what you want. I hear those cool fins on the third model make all the difference.