If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. [Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)]
On the days his restaurant is closed, a French chef friend works in his kitchen to make gallons of demi-glace. Hundreds of pounds of veal bones get roasted along with carrots, celery and onions. After deglazing the roasting pans with wine, he adds tomato paste, seasonings and water and simmers the concoction. At some point, he strains out the solids and continues simmering (and straining) the hot broth. More than twenty-four hours later, his stock has a rich brown color and a gelatinous consistency. After all of that simmering, less than one gallon of thick sauce remains for every ten gallons of liquid he added. Chef packages and sells this richly concentrated sauce to other restaurants that use it as the “mother sauce” or backbone of their own sauces.
I thought of my chef friend’s sauce reduction when reading about the Apostle’s Creed. The author compared our Christian creeds to a demi-glace: a creed is to the Bible as a demi-glace is to meat broth. In our creeds, the message of the Bible is reduced to a few precise and succinct paragraphs just as the meat broth is reduced to an intensely flavored thick liquid in a demi-glace. The odd bits have been strained out and all that remains is a clear concentrate. A Christian creed, however, still needs Scripture for a full spiritual meal and a demi-glace doesn’t make a meal without meat and potatoes. Nevertheless, both a creed and demi-glace condense the essence of their sources into something easy to understand and use.
As a matter of preference, some chefs use beef or chicken instead of veal or add bacon fat, but it’s still a demi-glace. I’m a vegetarian and wouldn’t use veal (or any other animal) bones. Although I could make a broth using only vegetables, reduce it by 90%, and make a thick sauce, without any meat, it wouldn’t be a demi-glace. In the same way that meat is required for a true demi-glace, certain ingredients are required for one’s beliefs to be called Christianity. For example, it’s not Christianity without the belief that Jesus was both true God and truly human or that He died and rose again. As Christians, we have unity in our creeds’ essential beliefs. Like those chefs who prefer beef bones or add bacon, Christians have liberty in non-essential beliefs such as the day we worship, the meaning of predestination or the use of alcohol.
Before graduating from Le Cordon Bleu or the Culinary Institute of America, a student chef must know the essentials of a good demi-glace. Fortunately, there are no entrance exams or finals in our churches (nor should there be). Nevertheless, when we no longer reside in this world, there just might be an entrance exam in the next. We’d better know and believe the essentials when that time arrives.
In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. [Rupertus Meldenius]
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. [Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)]
Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. [Hebrews 13:15 (NLT)]