Growing up with a dad who worked in a bicycle store was about as good as having a dad who ran a candy store. At least I thought so. I remember coming home from school one day to find a large box by our door. I pulled it inside and called Dad at work. “There’s a box here for you.” He told me to open it up and inside was a chrome Hutch BMX frame.
Dad told me that the frame was for me because somehow he had received an extra. It was now mine and we were going to build me a new BMX bike from the frame up. It wasn’t that I didn’t already have one — my trusty Mongoose was in the garage — but to my young mind, I was moving up. I was going from an off-the-rack bike to custom built. Everybody had a Mongoose, but only serious riders had a Hutch.
Soon we were picking out parts and bringing them home. I realized, even then, I was getting stuff that hadn’t sold well at the store, but I didn’t care. It was different, which made it that much more cool to me. My new bike had slightly narrower tires than the typical BMX bike and I willingly took a Uniseat, which was a narrow piece of plastic permanently attached to a fiberglass seat post. It was made to be lightweight, not comfortable, and it fulfilled both.
When we were done, I had a bike that was the envy of all the neighborhood and it all started with a frame. Before the frame, all the components were in the bike shop, but we had no place to hang them. Since I had nothing to put them on, there was no point in getting them.
The historic creeds of the church function in much the same way, especially the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds. They provide a frame upon which to hang more expansive explanations and ancillary doctrines. This is actually pretty important.
Going back to bikes for a minute, take a piece of paper and try to draw one from memory and then compare it to an actual bike. How did you do? Apparently, this is harder than riding one. It’s hard to believe this is so difficult, but perhaps I had an unfair advantage growing up in a bike shop. I’ve worked on dozens of bikes in my life and I still do all my own maintenance to this day.
Part of the difficulty for some to draw a bike might be their focus on the bike’s components. We interact with the things attached to the the frame, and not the frame itself, so most of the drawings have nothing more than wheels, a seat, and handlebars. Some even left off pedals, but it is the frame that is most consistently wrong in all of these drawings.
When you get the frame wrong, the whole thing doesn’t work right. If you gave those same folks a sketch of a frame, they could probably finish the drawing pretty well. The same goes for theology. If we have an orthodox “frame,” it is easier to put the whole thing together in a coherent way. It is not a guarantee, but it gives us the critical piece — the piece that holds the other parts together.