The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Faith

I have long enjoyed expositions of the Apostles’ Creed, so when I saw Ben Myers’ book on the shortlist for the Australian Christian Book of the Year, I was keen to read it. The book in the Christian Essentials series comes as a nicely designed small format hardback.

In his 130 page treatment of the creed Myers connects the creed to its roots as a confession of faith on the lips of those being baptised. Myers favours quotations from patristic writers, and sees the creed as both a ‘summary of Christian teaching as well as a solemn pledge of allegiance’ (p. 5). Breaking down the creed into 22 gobbets, this book is a series of gentle, 3-5 page meditations on the words from ‘I’ to ‘Amen’. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Jesus’ conception and birth, and his interesting last chapter on the sense in which we say ‘Amen’ to the creed. But whatever new and arresting thoughts a reader might discover in its pages (and there are many), the one thing that I imagine would be sure to raise the eyebrows of many Essentials readers, should they take up this book, is Myers’ universalism.

Universal salvation is a recurring and growing theme of the book. It begins unobtrusively, for example in the chapter on Pilate: ‘The salvation of the world can be dated. Certain people were there when it happened.’ (p. 62) (not just ‘salvation’, or the salvation of the church or of God’s people, but of the world). Later, we read that ‘As Jesus rises, the whole of humanity rises with him’ (p. 82). The Holy Spirit ‘broods over each of Christ’s followers, renewing the human race one at a time and drawing all into a common family’ (p. 101). The church is a ‘representative microcosm of what God intends for the whole human family.’ (p. 105). Belief in the forgiveness of sins means that we believe that ‘if we should ever turn away from grace, if ever our hearts grow cold and we forget our Lord and become unfaithful to his way, he will not forget us. His faithfulness is deeper that our faithlessness. His yes is stronger than our no.’ (p. 116).

Evangelical readers will be unpersuaded that the suggestions of Isaac the Syrian, or Origen, can be our grounds for belief on these matters, and moreover, will be unpersuaded that the Apostles’ Creed teaches universalism. But the questions ‘Who will be saved?’ and ‘Will they be many?’ will press itself upon us always. Myers mixes it into his exposition without comment. Perhaps the best response is to read our Bibles with those questions in mind. Can there be weightier questions?