Creed and Personal Identity

Creed and Personal Identity


124 Pages


In eight chapters, David Harned explores the theology of the Apostles' Creed, taking the position that the creed, in fact, provides us with a master image for self-understanding, and that controlling image is "child of God." The creed is seen as being important for personality formation and the development of "character," rather than as either a statement of beliefs or a loyalty oath.
Harned's ninth and final chapter is intended for those who wish to pursue further the question of master imagery for the formation of a Christian Sense of Identity.



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Published 13 May 2020
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EAN13 9781532692376
Language English
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Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 Creed and Personal Identity The Meaning of the Apostles’ Creed By Harned, David Baily and Hein, David Copyright©1981 by Harned, David Baily ISBN 13: 978-1-5326-9235-2 Publication date 4/23/2020 Previously published by Fortress Press, 1981
This book by the American theologian David Baily Harned was first published in 1981, at the end of a fifteenyear stretch of significant scholarly productivity and just before a hiatus of equal duration caused by Harned’s fall from professorial grace into highereducation administration. Then, in 1997, appeared his winsome and widely praised study of the neglected virtue of patience, a book reissued by Wipf and Stock in 2015. Creed and Personal Identityis a bit of an outlier in the Harned corpus. Its predecessors were ventures in the field of theological ethics. A Yale College graduate who went on to earn B.D., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Yale Divinity School and the Yale University Graduate School, he was influenced by Julian Hartt, H. Richard Niebuhr, Robert L. Calhoun, and other Yale faculty of that imposing era. But his work also bears anities with and draws directly on the writings of Karl Barth, Austin Farrer, John Macmurray, and Harned’s favorite novelists, including William Golding, Iris Murdoch, Graham Greene, William Faulkner, and Albert Camus. David Harned was never a member—conscious or otherwise—of a school of thought, let alone of a distinct group within the discipline of theological ethics. Indeed, he mainly taught courses in the history of Chris tian theology and institutions, not ethics; this firm grounding is evident throughout the present book. He did not particularly like to attend academic conferences; he typically did not engage in scholarly debates in either his main text or his footnotes; and, when I asked him why he did not write more reviews of other theolo gians’ books, he immediately replied that he’d much rather spend his free time taking a walk around the neighborhood with his beloved wife, Elaine. In fact, a large part of the motivation behind writingCreedwas his desire to tip his hat and say thanks to his teachers and colleagues not in New Haven but in Scotland, particularly Tom Torrance and Bill Shaw. Creed and Personal Identityis David Harned’s only essay in straightfor ward systematic theology. In relation to the larger body of his writings, it stands alone and apart. Or does it? Not entirely. His love of literature flowed into all of his teaching and writing. The first ocehours conversation I ever had with him was not about the subject of the day’s lecture—Aquinas or Kierkegaard or whoever—but about his reference to a novel I’d first attempt ed to deal with in high school, William Faulkner’sThe Sound and the Fury.
Many years later, I can still remember David’s referring to Dilsey’s aware ness of time and the natural rhythms of the human heart—except that he put it more dramatically and much more memorably than that. Not surprising ly, then, even in this study of the Apostles’ Creed, words and concepts important in his earlier books on theological ethics find gainful employment: master image, imagination, narrative, story, metaphor, identity, selfhood. Like many other excellent writers, David Harned thought of teaching, not scholarship, as his principal activity. Anyone who has benefited from the wisdom of a great teacher, via classroom or conversation or challenging essay, will be both thankful and chagrined—the latter because, if we have any selfawareness at all, then we realize, sometimes years after the act is accom plished, how much we’ve not only learned but also lifted from our mentors. That is, we’ve grabbed hold of and put to use a felicitous phrase or a splendid insight that leapt to mind without simultaneously recalling its source. As a result, we failed to acknowledge our indebtedness. We trusted that the occasional “I’ve learned a great deal from you, and your thinking is reflected in all my work” would suce. And in my specific case, chagrined because now, as I reread Creed and Personal Identity, I remark at least three instances of the student’s having learned—and lifted—from his master: In an early essay on Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Christology forCross Currents(1984), I used the theme of theMunus Triplex, an understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ developed in chapter four of this book—although I, as a freshman at the University of Virginia, must have first heard this phrase in David’s lectures on John Calvin. Certainly from Creed I borrowed the crucial phrase “identity avowal” when, in 2005 in theMississippi Quarterly, I did eventually publish an essay onThe Sound and the Furyin which I was eager to make clear how Dilsey’s and her fellow congregants’ interaction with the preaching of the Reverend Mr. Shegog functioned in just this way. The meaning and value of the Apostles’ Creed as an identity avowal was quite real—and daily realized—in my own family when I was a young child, as I mentioned to David when this book first came out: my twin brother kneeling on one side of our mother, I on the other side, my saintly but cautious mother perhaps not confident that even the Apostles’ Creed would keep her sons from scrapping, and the three of us together reciting the Creed before bedtime. I wonder how many households continue such a practice as this one; perhaps it seems quaint today, as young children are either read to or left to their digital apparatuses.
Recently, in the quarterly journalModern AgeI wanted to (2018), describe how concrete particulars rather than abstract precepts alone—in this case, the words and deeds of American leaders who influenced the outstanding career of General George C. Marshall—serve as powerful touch stones for discernment; and the term “heuristic device” fromCreed and Personal Identitycame to mind. These three instances are from just this one little volume on the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed. Farther afield lie borrowings aplenty: For example, in 2015 inModern Age, I would not have got very far with my analysis of the patience of George Washington had I not learned from David Harned that patience means not only waiting but also perseverance and relinquishment. Some of these cases of scholarly acquisition I was aware of at the time and properly acknowledged, but not all. What would David have said about my sins of omission? Not unlike the English philosopher Michael Oake shott, he would have reminded me that the best scholarly work always means participation in a larger conversation, sometimes with conscious awareness of our influences but frequently without. He himself often joked that his History of Christian Thought lectures were simply the notes he took during courses oered by the great Robert Lowry Calhoun. More—or equally—seriously, he regularly armed: Truly we possess nothing of value in this life that we have not received from others. And finally, toward the end of his life, I heard him say: “The last book I want to write”—that is, the one he did not finally get around to writing—“is an essay on the virtue of gratitude.” So David would not be bothered by, would completely understand, indeed would smile charitably upon his student—who remains a little chagrined, humbled by his example, deeply grateful, still learning. David Hein Senior Fellow George C. Marshall Foundation Lexington, Virginia