N.T. Wright’s Problem with the Ancient Creeds

NTWIn his book How God Became King, the prolific N.T. Wright takes on the ancient and great creeds of the church.

The great creeds, when they refer to Jesus, pass directly from his virgin birth to his suffering and death.  The four gospels don’t.  Or, to put it the other way around, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all seem to  think it’s hugely important that they tell us a great deal about what Jesus did between the time of his birth and the time of his death.  In particular, they tell us about what we might call his kingdom-inauguratng work: the deeds and words that declared that God’s kingdom was coming then and there, in some sense or other, on earth as in heaven.  They tell us a great deal about that; but the great creeds don’t.

Is Wright asking too much of these great creeds of the church?  How and why did they come about?  Wright’s chief objection with the creeds is what he terms the “missing middle”: Why did Jesus live?

Furthermore, Wright believes that this “missing middle” is “one major part of the reason why Christians to this day find it so hard to grasp what the gospels are really trying to say.”

On the one hand, I do admire and appreciate Wright’s mission to get the Western church to grasp what the gospels are really trying to say.  But on the other, I believe Wright has missed it here.  First, I really do believe Wright is forcing his modus operandi on these creeds.  Second, a great number of Christians don’t even recite these ancient creeds, so the “missing middle” charge does not apply.

At any rate, while acknowledging that the creeds have been controversial from time to time, Wright recognizes their functionality as “a sign and symbol of Christian faith and life.”

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7 Responses to N.T. Wright’s Problem with the Ancient Creeds

  1. Lon Hetrick says:

    interesting thoughts from both Wright and you. I agree with your conclusions. I do think it would be awesome if Apostle’s Creed–which we recite frequently–contained an additional clause or two like,

    “…born of the virin Mary, [fulfilled the law of God, announced the kingdom of God], suffered under Pontius Pilate…

  2. Jon Hughes says:

    It’s a terrific idea. Can we get in this bit too: “recapitulated the history of Israel”? We could call it the Amplified Version 🙂

  3. Colin says:

    Nice one Lon.

    Just read this particular book. Found its passion for the kingdom compelling. An extra clause in the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds would draw this out – but I can live without it!

  4. Tony says:


    Speaking of ancient creeds, I am looking for a good Church History book. I am considering The Story of Christianity (Gonazales), Church History (Everett) and History of World Christian Movement (Sundqvist). Have you read any of these? Any others I should consider?

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