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The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters Hardcover – August 19, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Catholic theologian Johnson knows that the creed, although it is recited by millions of worshippers every Sunday, is far from being well understood. He also knows, clearly from personal experience, that much of what the creed affirms-from a personal Creator to a final resurrection-is the butt of jokes at fashionable dinner parties. This book is his careful attempt to explain to perplexed Christians, with attention to their dinner-party friends, why an ancient confession of faith still makes sense in the modern world. Exploring the Nicene creed line by line, Johnson introduces readers to the history behind each phrase, both in Christian Scripture and in church tradition, and he defends its relevance to faith today. While this approach is similar to that of Catholic apologists like Scott Hahn and Patrick Madrid, Johnson diverges from them in his willingness to sharply criticize both the secular modern world and his own tradition when he sees either one denying the powerful, liberating truths that the creed expresses. Both fundamentalists and progressive Christians (liberation theologians, feminists and devotees of the "historical Jesus") get equal-time rebuttals as well. Johnson's studied vagueness on some controversial questions (such as the historical nature of the resurrection and the uniqueness of Christianity) will put off some readers, but many others will find this a compelling introduction to the essence of Christian faith.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Praise for The Real Jesus

“More than simply being a critique of the historical Jesus enterprise, Johnson’s book provides a positive statement about what it means to have a genuine, contemporary faith in the living Jesus.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“The best of the recent flow of books [on Jesus].” —Newsweek

“One of the most exhilarating religious books published in this decade.” —Christianity Today

“Passionately argued . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

Praise for Living Jesus

“Johnson demonstrates that the “living Jesus” of the biblical traditions is immensely more fascinating and significant than any of the “dead Jesus” that the quests for the historical Jesus keep producing.” —Miroslav Volf, Yale University Divinity School

“A stirring book…Informative and challenging”—The Bible Today


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion (August 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385502478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385502474
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Truth in advertising compels me to confess that Luke Timothy Johnson was a professor of mine during my undergraduate years - I took several classes from him in the Religious Studies field while an undergraduate at Indiana University; I have used his books consistently both as a student and as an instructor, and they have been of a consistently high quality in scholarship and readability.
Many of Johnson's text deal with the New Testament directly, or with issues deriving from it (explorations of Jesus, early church studies, etc.). This book, 'The Creed', combines a lot of this kind of scholarship into an overall discussion of the creeds the modern church espouses. Johnson, a life-long Roman Catholic, has had the recitation of the creed as part of his regular worship experiences all his life - first in Latin, then later in English. Many Christians Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant share this kind of experience. Often faithfulness is a response to God, but Johnson has in this text developed more along the lines of faith as belief, as giving a common sense of purpose and identity. In the preface, Johnson states his belief, his faith that the creed may be a most important element in helping the church to recover its sense of itself.
Johnson identifies the pervasive character of modern philosophical thinking from the Enlightenment through to Modernity as rather inimical to the kind of faith the creed called for when first formulated by the early church. The world is now set up in many ways in duality between belief and inquiry, and rarely to the two intersect happily. Not only is creedal Christianity a subject of criticism from outside Christian culture, but is also a controversial topic within - how are the creeds to be interpreted and applied? How vital are they?
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Keating on March 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was given to me by my father as a gift after I expressed interest in possibly pursuing an advanced degree in Christian theology or apologetics. It was an excellent choice because it deals with one of the fundamental Christian creeds - the Nicene creed. Overall, the author's presentation about the subject was strong, but I did find a few sections somewhat tangential.
The author states that his aim in writing this book is "to make the creed controversial for those Christians who say it, but do not understand it, and therefore, do not grasp what a radical and offensive act they perform when they declare these words every week in a public assembly". Oddly enough, the church I attend actually does not recite the Creed during weekly services. None the less, I was very interested to see how the author goes about fulfilling his aim.
The bulk of the book focuses on a line by line analysis of the Creed, and the fundamental doctrines it represents. Basically, the book illustrates how different the Christian view is from other religions, and the world we in which we eixts. Additionally, the author feels like the Creed should be a unifying way to help the Church find common ground. He realizes that the Body contains diverse views throughout, but he proves the point that the Creed helped unify the early church, and it can do the same today.
Additionally, the author offers analysis of various denominations approachs to certain doctrines, such as baptism, the Holy Spirit, and the accuracy of the Bible. It is these sections which are not all successful. For example, pointing out that the modern charismatic movement does a better job of including the Holy Spirit in their doctrine, but go overboard on the issue of speaking in tongues is insightful.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kathy F. Cannata on February 19, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maybe 3 and a half stars.

Luke Timothy Johnson is a moderately conservative neo-orthodox Roman Catholic. A world-class Biblcial scholar teaching at (liberal Methodist) Emory.

There are some VERY outstanding new books on the Creed: Alister McGrath's I Believe; Van Harn, ed., Exploring and Proclaiming The Apostles' Creed [2004]; Michael Horton, We Believe, and the last section of David Matzko McCarthy, The Good Life [2004]. If I bought just two, one would be Johnson's. McGrath and Horton's works are certainly more orthodox in spots. (For example, 'born of the Virgin Mary': Horton and McGrath believe that the Creed is right on that, while Johnson strongly hedges.) But Johnson makes up for shaky orthodoxy in style, precision, and clarity.

His introduction is the best part of the book. His defense of creeds, against Modernity on one hand and Anabaptists on the other, is alone worth the $10. Pleasant cover and packaging too.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mengo on August 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Luke Timothy Johnson does a superb job describing the history and early function of the Nicene Creed, then he skillfully produces compelling arguments for modern day functions of the Creed for all Christians who confess Christ as Lord. Although it may be a bit idealistic of me, I think The Creed could potentially close the gap that formed in the Church as a result of the Protestant Reformation.
A must read for all Christians who believed Jesus wanted unity in his body when he prayed in John 17.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on January 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over the pat couple of years I have increasingly become aware of the controversy that Christian Creed, and Creedal Christianity, invoke. The more fundamentalist Christians tend to think of creeds as a later development, and by extension a corruption, of the original pristine New Testament Christianity. On the other hand, theological liberals of all stripes perceive creeds as a straitjacket and a tool of control and exclusion of the heterodox views that were suppressed by the Orthodox "faction". Furthermore, secularists and atheist equate any and allegiances to creeds as a credulity, an infantile instinct that needs to be eradicated if we are to move ahead as a society. Luke Timothy Johnson in this wonderful little book goes a long way in defending The Creed against all these major detractors, and he does it with a great deal of skill, scholarship and finesse.

The early chapters of this book explore how did particular statements in The Creed come about, what were the historical and theological disputes that lead to their inclusion. However, this is not the main focus of the book, and some other works on this topic may be more relevant. The major part of the book is dedicated to taking each one of the statements in The creed (and The Creed in question is theNiceno-Constantinopolitan Creed), elaborating on its meaning, providing the relevant biblical proof-texts that support it, and providing the significance of it in our dailylives and in the world at large. It is here that Luke Timothy Johnson is at his best, and this book brought new freshness to the old statements of faith that I've been reciting in Church for many years.

This is a wonderful modern book that I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in the Christian beliefs.
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