Questions on necessary belief.

These questions are directed primarily @ those folks who would self-identify as Christians. However, anyone from any faith background (or lack thereof) is welcome to add their thoughts.

St. Augustin in, “On Faith and the Creed,” addresses how new believers ought to be taught the faith. Faith, although personal, is also corporate and traditional in the sense that it is something that is handed down and taught/demonstrated. At any rate, Augustin addresses what he considers “matters of necessary belief,” (Chapter 1 of A Treatise on Faith and the Creed).

I’m currently taking a course @ seminary called ‘Teaching the Faith’ and in our tutorial today this talk of “necessary belief” came up.

My question to you is, what are the “core” or “fundamental” beliefs that you would deem “necessary belief”? Why do you consider these things fundamental? In addition, what are these beliefs “necessary” for? For salvation? For true belief?


  1. This is a difficult question with a difficult answer(s). I think that people need to understand a central Christological message that Christ came to live a certain kind of life (this “certain” life is a distinct and complex subject in and of itself) to a certain group of people (Jews), and that we are to live a “certain” kind of life among a certain group of people. That we are to serve them, love them, die for them, etc, is all part of the faith. It is necessary, in this sense, that people know the kind of life they are called to, and believe they are to live this life.

    This sounds vague, but it is nonetheless important.

  2. jt* said:

    I hear you and would agree. If that is necessary, as you say, then what is it necessary for?

    How would you go about teaching that particular way of life? Are there prescriptions or beliefs that give it shape? Is it defined by anything in particular?

  3. Those are good questions Jonathon.

    They are necessary for entering into a Christian community (the church as it exists). Until you are willing to let go of the individuality that is the myth of the American empire (so to speak), you are part of the American empire. When you let go of that individuality, and embrace Christ, as he died bodily and was dead, and who rose again bodily and is alive. We ourselves bodily die and are dead, and we rise again and are alive as part of the community (as shown originally in the community of the triune God).

    It is necessary to shed our false belief in American empire, and to embrace the alternative community of Christ and live the kind of life that Christ lived as best we can in our own context.

    Perhaps, to quote Jeff Lebowski, “the dude abides.” We abide in our specific time and in our specific place as Christ abided (not sure of the tense) in his time and place. I can’t think of universal ways to say this because it may be different in different places (esp. cross-culturally).

    I don’t know if that helps.

  4. Also I am a big fans of the creeds. I think they help us, when we understand them without our modern western tendencies, to be Christians.

  5. jt* said:

    I think I understand what you’re getting at. I too find the creeds helpful (or, essential). I think particular beliefs are necessary if one is to be shaped and renewed in the fullness of Christ. The Christian tradition is just that, a tradition. It’s something (teaching/life) that is passed on from one to another and in order to develop as a disciple into a more full (awkward wording) human being there are particular things we need to try and grab hold of.

    I used to think that particular beliefs were necessary *for* salvation. Although I no longer hold this belief, I do think that it’s important what you believe because that informs how you act and who you become and, in a larger sense, it becomes the story in which you live. This, I think alludes to your point on abandoning the empire to follow Christ. It’s living in the midst of a different story.

  6. Matthew said:

    I have two answers to this question, one of which was answered already, but it never hurts to get it in there. This first answer is:

    Credo in unum Deum,
    Patrem omnipoténtem,
    Factórem cæli et terræ,
    Visibílium ómnium et invisibílium.
    Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum,
    Fílium Dei Unigénitum,
    Et ex Patre natum ante ómnia sæcula.
    Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine, Deum verum de Deo vero,
    Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri:
    Per quem ómnia facta sunt.
    Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem
    Descéndit de cælis.
    Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto
    Ex María Vírgine, et homo factus est.
    Crucifíxus étiam pro nobis sub Póntio Piláto;
    Passus, et sepúltus est,
    Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras,
    Et ascéndit in cælum, sedet ad déxteram Patris.
    Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória,
    Iudicáre vivos et mórtuos,
    Cuius regni non erit finis.
    Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem:
    Qui ex Patre Filióque procédit.
    Qui cum Patre et Fílio simul adorátur et conglorificátur:
    Qui locútus est per prophétas.
    Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
    Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatorum.
    Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum,
    Et vitam ventúri sæculi. Amen.

    That’s the more ancient answer. The very contemporary one is this: it’s not sufficient to simply believe the Creed in your head. We have to *experience* in our own collective and individual lives the message and power of what the Creed states. This is it’s most important claim to authority, and sometimes I would hold that in this post-modern world (which I would say does not reject but rather redefines what “truth” means), this is it’s only claim to authority. And contrary to the view that this is some airy-fairy, subjective and easily divergent path to God, the reality is that this is what He’s wanted all along: relationship with us, and relationship among us. It is chiefly and/or only in the context of this relationship that the Creed takes its place as truth.

  7. JT said:

    Matthew, I agree fully. One of the issues I take with the western evangellyfish church is that for a long time the primary emphasis has been placed on *belief*. Not that I have a desire to discredit true belief, but it’s not enough. Like you allude to, these things ought/must take shape in a community that is in it together. That is our witness to a world that is watching. Not what we say. Not what we say we believe. But what we actually do.

    I think the evangelical church was partially reactionary to ‘works’ centered faith, but you can’t have one without the other. I heard someone say recently (I forget where), that actions give authority to our words, and the words give a foundation/context (reason?) for our actions. I think that makes a lot of sense.

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