What triggered your insight that what we believe is important for how we respond to God in faith?

I was helped by the emergence of cognitive psychology, which is very close to my reading in ancient Greco-Roman moralists. They share the understanding that people act and feel on the basis of what they think.

I began to understand that creedal statements do not simply report events, but they construct the world in a way that guides experience and practices. The subjectivism that emphasizes how one feels about something is clearly inadequate to sustain the life of a community.

To illustrate that, I recently heard an Episcopal bishop explain that theology played no part in his support for the sexuality decisions of the Episcopal General Convention. It was just his pastoral experience.

He is to be faulted on one important point, which is that pastoral experience itself has to be constructed theologically. If one has an understanding, for example, of pastoral experience as discerning what God is doing in the world and this is understood theologically as ongoing revelation, well then there's some support for saying that people's experience might count as a source of revelation. But it is precisely the failure to even apprehend that sort of thing and to think theologically, which is connected to the lack of spine in contemporary theological thinking.

In your earlier writing about Jesus, you made a point of writing as a scholar inside the church. How does your earlier writing relate to what you've now written about the Creed?

In two ways. First, I wrote a book last year with Bill Kurz called The Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship. I devoted three chapters to how the vast majority of people in Christian History read Scripture in contrast ...

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Editor's Bookshelf
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
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