By John Hubbuch
Like the Magi in search of the savior, I have been searching for a Christian in Oak Park this Christmas season. To be sure, there are lots of Oak Parkers who, when asked, will tell you they are Christian, but then there were lots of false prophets and self-identified messiahs back in biblical times.
Self-identification is fraught with problems. A person can call himself a democrat and support a dictatorship. A "historian" can deny the Holocaust, and a "scientist" can deny global warming and evolution. So in my search for an Oak Park Christian, rather than rely on self-identification, I sought a more arguably objective standard — the Apostle's Creed.
The Apostle's Creed is like a mission statement for Christianity. It sets out specific things you have to believe in order to be a Christian. Mind you, I'm not arguing whether the tenets are true or not — you just have to believe them.
The creed is simple:
1) I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
2) And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
3) who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
4) suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell.
5) The third day he rose from the dead.
6) He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
7) From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
8) I believe in the Holy Ghost;
9) I believe in the holy catholic (universal) church: the communion of saints,
10) the forgiveness of sins,
11) the resurrection of the body, and
12) life everlasting.
It should be noted that there are lots of things not included in this list of "must-believes." They include Adam and Eve, Jews in the Wilderness, Samson, David and Goliath, the wedding feast at Cana, the loaves and fishes, and the Last Supper. And many, many more.
My Christian friends tell me that these are all just stories and need not be taken literally. Fair enough. But I assume that the 12 beliefs set out in the Apostle's Creed are the real deal, and to be a Christian, you must believe them or you're not a Christian. They are more than just stories. They are what separate Christians from Muslims or Buddhists or even Shriners.
Most of my "Christian" friends seem to me to not be real "Apostle's Creed Christians." They are humanists, mystics, seekers, Good Samaritans, pantheists, spiritualists — lots of different things.
They're just not Christians because they don't really believe certain tenets of the Apostle's Creed. In particular, they don't really believe in the Holy Ghost, the Resurrection, the Ascension and, to a certain extent, life everlasting.
It is obviously quite presumptuous of me to tell anyone who is a Christian and who is not. Whatever it takes to to get you through the night. My study was prompted because I couldn't figure out how my friends could call themselves Christian when they did not truly believe what I thought were the central beliefs of Christianity.
Maybe I've got this all wrong. Maybe it doesn't make any difference. Maybe you can believe whatever you believe just as long as you believe you are a Christian. Fair enough.
Merry Christmas. The Son of God is born in Bethlehem. Whether you believe it or not.