3 Reasons Every Christian Needs to Use the Creeds

Article by Timothy Massaro, staff writer for Core Christianity. He is the Social Media Manager for the White Horse Inn. (original source here)

When we think about the Christian faith, most people today rarely think about creeds, liturgy, or confessions, let alone see them as essential to their relationship with God. Our hesitation concerning creeds is understandable, especially when they are disconnected from our worship and love of God. People often see them as cold, mindless doctrines that have nothing to do with Jesus. But this is not how they were created nor how they should be used.

In the creeds of the early church, we find something of a hidden secret a treasure chest overlooked by many. We find a way to instruct ourselves and our children in the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Let’s look at each of these three points to see why every Christian needs to use the creeds in their personal and corporate worship.

1. Creeds are instructive because they are biblical.
When we think of the great Christian creeds (the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed, for example), we often put them in opposition to the Bible. What we often do not realize is that the Bible itself leads us into making creeds and is filled with creedal statements.

In the Old Testament, we see Israel confessing its faith in God as it worshiped him in what is called the Shema: Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:4-5). This daily statement of faith is intertwined with the command to love God. Who God is and what he has done to save his people is tied to our response in faith and love. Credo, from which creed is derived, after all simply means, I believe.

The early church inherited this tradition and confessed before the world what it believed. Many of these confessions and creeds found their way into the New Testament writings (cf. 1 Thess. 4:14, 2 Cor. 5:15, Rom. 4:25, Rev. 2:8). These statements were circulated in the early church to confess what they believed. Who God was, who Jesus was as the God-man, and what he came to do were essential to their worship and life as the church.

We rightly say that Scripture is our ultimate authority. When the church becomes aware of what it believes in opposition to false teaching concerning how we come to a saving faith in God, we must clarify our beliefs. We must write them down. The Apostle Paul did this and placed many of these statements into the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:3-5, 11:23-26; 2 Thess. 2:15). Jesus himself tells the church in the Book of Revelation to carry on this biblical tradition and believe what they have received and heard from the apostles the eyewitness testimonies of the risen Lord (Rev. 3:3).

The church looks at Scripture as its ultimate authority and cannot but respond in faith concerning what she believes. She believes, confesses, and declares to the world what God has done for her in Jesus Christ. To neglect this great treasure is to attempt to reinvent the wheel and miss what Christians for millennia have been doing as part of their faithful witness to Jesus. Study the creeds to know they are true.

2. Creeds are summaries of redemption and lead us to worship God.
While the creeds were formed in the heat of controversy, it was often the case that worshipping God in church, what was said, sung, prayed, and spoken, became the fountain from which people recognized truth from error. Worshipping God, and understanding what was necessary for our salvation, drove our church fathers to write down why salvation had to look and be a certain way. Without each person of the Godhead being fully God, the early church knew there could be no salvation. We could not worship God rightly. Without Jesus being fully God and fully man, we have no hope. Worshipping Jesus as Lord drove them to confess their faith against error.

The earliest creeds, therefore, became the very life-blood of Christian worship and the way to praise God for all his wondrous deeds.

He appeared in the flesh,

was vindicated by the Spirit,

was seen by angels,

was preached among the nations,

was believed on in the world,

was taken up in glory (1 Tim. 3:16).

This is still our pattern today. As we come to know more and more about God, our worship and love for him are purified by Gods Word and Spirit. This is specifically what Christ came to do. He brought us to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). He is the one who forms and shapes us to speak all the words God has given us to say, declaring to the world the works of God (Ps. 71:15, 105:1, 145:6; Heb. 10:5-10). Creeds are meant for worship, to be sung, recited, and memorized so the word of Christ may dwell in us richly. Put them into your worship services to meditate on God.

3. Creeds are guardrails for our faith and doctrine.
When our beliefs are written down and we have them informed by those who have gone before us, we safeguard ourselves from our generations peculiarities and from the tyranny of leaders who would abuse their authority. Like roads on a highway, they keep us from driving onto terrain that will destroy our tires or, as Paul says, to prevent us from shipwrecking our faith (1. Tim. 1:19).

When we fail to write down what we believe and why, we open the door for peoples unspoken traditions to tyrannize us. When traditions are unspoken, they ironically take on supreme authority. Because no one can read them, no one can question them. When they are written down, they compel us to see if they are in fact biblical. When they are known by the smallest child to the oldest saint, they can lead us to worship the triune God as he has revealed himself.

In the creeds, we find a way to worship God with the saints of all ages, hearing the echoes of worship through the centuries. We find a people from all nations, tribes, and tongues worshipping the triune God for the redemption he has purchased in Jesus. We have a foretaste of the new creation he has ushered into this world and will one day bring to completion. In the creeds, we see time-tested paths to tread that keep us looking to Jesus every day as we seek to know him more and more. Use them to guide your love for the triune God.

“The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Truman – A Review

Article by Tom Hicks – original source here.

With Christianity on the wane in Western culture, some leaders have urged Christians to deemphasize secondary doctrines in order to stand united on gospel essentials. Our numbers are too small, they say, for Christians to continue nit picking at each other on long disputed matters of theology. Let me suggest, however, that doctrinal minimalism is the wrong approach, especially at this time. While all true Christians should stand united for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and against the rising specter of secularism, this is not the time to sideline secondary doctrines of the faith. Now, more than ever, we need robust, thoroughly biblical expressions of Christianity. We need an encyclopedically confessional faith.

Consider briefly three reasons this is true. First, when Christianity was small and under pressure in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote the church of Rome a detailed theological letter that included carefully articulated secondary doctrines. Paul believed that rich theology is needed for healthy Christians and churches during troubled times. Second, because the culture continues to assault the gospel, we need the Bible’s whole theological support structure, if the gospel is to remain intact. Secondary doctrines provide the necessary intellectual and ecclesiastical supports of the gospel. Third, when the surrounding culture is most decidedly opposed to the faith, evangelism and disciple making must be theologically robust, if conversions are to be sound, since converts will be coming from worldviews that are radically different from that of Scripture. These converts will also need well-developed theologies to think and live Christianly in our post-Christian society.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I offer the following review of Carl Trueman’s book, the Creedal Imperative. Trueman’s work summons the churches, particularly the churches of the Protestant and Reformed tradition, to embrace thoroughgoing creedalism. This delightful volume is well-written, witty, historically precise, and deeply applicable to our contemporary situation. While Trueman’s book is full of cultural commentary, historical perspective and theological discussion, here are some of his arguments for creedalism that I found most helpful.

1. Creedalism confronts our culture’s suspicion about words. We live in a culture in which pictures, feelings, and sound bites are often believed to convey more meaning than carefully crafted words. Our postmodern age doubts whether words can carry objective meaning. But God chose to reveal Himself by the inscripturated words of the Bible. Like the Bible, confessions of faith convey God’s truth through words. Creeds insist that words are suitable vehicles for the communication of objective truth.

2. Creedalism confronts our culture’s anti-historical bent. Because Western culture is so deeply influenced by evolution, it’s reluctant to value the wisdom of ages past. Westerners believe that new ideas are better than old ones. But creedalism asserts that true wisdom is as old as God’s own mind and that the sages of the past have more to offer than the innovators of the present. Another reason for Western culture’s anti-historicism has to do with the fact that Westerners don’t view human nature as constant across time. What does someone in the 17th Century have in common with me? But Scripture teaches that human beings have the same fallen nature across time and that the same old gospel reconciles us to God.

3. Creedalism confronts our culture’s anti-institutionalism. Western society is basically anti-authoritarian and therefore distrusts all institutions, including the institution of the church. Our society tends to trust, not those who are actually skilled and knowledgable to speak to important issues, but those who are young and popular, like Lady Gaga. But the Bible clearly declares that the church is a “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15), and that it supports the truth by way of confession: “great indeed we confess is the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16). God calls pastors and churches to teach the whole counsel of God and enforce orthodoxy by way of their God given authority under Christ and His Word.

4. Creedalism is required by the Bible. In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul says, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Commenting on these verses, Carl Trueman writes, “Conspicuously, Paul does not simply say to Timothy, ‘Memorize the Old Testament or the Gospels or my Letters’ any more than he ever defines preaching as the reading of the same. The form [pattern] of sound words is something more [that is: a pattern of words that explains the content of Scripture, as in creeds]. Anyone who claims to take the Bible seriously must take the words of Paul to Timothy on this matter seriously. To claim to have no creed but the Bible, then, is problematic: the Bible itself seems to demand that we have forms of sound words, and that’s what creeds are” (75-76).

5. Creedalism prevents innovative and inferior theological formulations. Some pastors and teachers, who call themselves “biblicists,” approach the Bible independently and innovatively without consulting the careful work of historical theology. They do this, even though teachers and pastors have been hard at work formulating doctrine, throughout the history of the church, so that the full meaning of Scripture is clear while errors are avoided and excluded. Trueman wisely warns the “biblicist” pastor, “Do not precipitately abandon creedal formulations which have been tried and tested over the centuries by churches all over the world in favor of your own ideas. On the whole, those who reinvent the wheel invest a lot of time either to come up with something that looks identical to the old design or something that is actually inferior to it. This is not to demand capitulation before church tradition or a rejection of the notion of Scripture alone. Rather, it is to suggest an attitude of humility toward the church’s past which simply looks both at the good that the ancient creeds have done and also the fact that they seem to make better sense of the testimony of Scripture than any of the alternatives” (107).

6. Creedalism alone allows for the most open critique of theology. Those who claim to have “no creed but the Bible” actually do have a creed. They have an opinion about what the Bible teaches on doctrines such as predestination, the will of man, assurance, baptism, the nature of the church, etc. The only difference between someone who claims “no creed but the Bible” and a “creedalist” is that the creedalist writes his creed down so that it can be examined and critiqued by Scripture. Trueman writes, “What he [the non-creedalist] really should have said was: I have a creed but I am not going to write it down, so you cannot critique it; and I am going to identify my creed so closely with the Bible that I am not going to be able to critique it either” (160).

7. Creedalism avoids authoritarianism. According to Trueman, non-creedalist “biblicists” are actually “more authoritarian than the papacy” (161). Since non-creedalist pastors and teachers will not write down what they believe so that their beliefs can be critiqued, they may teach their churches whatever they personally come to believe the Bible says even if that changes over time. For non-creedal teachers, primary authority is located in their own personal interpretation, rather than in the church’s written and agreed upon creedal interpretation, which is open to public scrutiny.

8. Creedalism is in the best position to guard the supreme authority of Scripture. Orthodox creeds assert the Scripture’s supreme authority, which protects the church from elevating a creed to the level of Scripture. Anyone who attempted to give the creed more authority than Scripture could be corrected both by the Scripture and by the creed itself. Moreover, “once the creed or confession is in the public domain, mechanisms can be put in place to allow for it to function in a subordinate role to Scripture” (161).

9. Creedalism is a biblical basis of congregational worship. Because creeds are concise and careful summaries of biblical teaching, they are foundational to worship. A church must be accurately instructed about the nature of God and His works in order to praise Him properly. Trueman writes, “The identity of God has priority over the content of Christian praise” (143). A congregation that knows an orthodox creed is well-equipped for praise. Creeds may also be recited and sung in corporate worship services.

Sola Scriptura

Early formal Reformed attestation to Sola Scriptura (original source here):

The Genevan Confession was credited to John Calvin in 1536 by Beza who said Calvin wrote it as a formula of Christian doctrine suited to the church at Geneva. More recent scholarship attributes it to William Farel but in all likelihood Calvin did have considerable influence on the document. Indeed the records of the Senate at Geneva indicate that the confession was presented by both Farel and Calvin to the magistrates who received it and set it aside for more detailed examination.

I. The Word of God

First we affirm that we desire to follow Scripture alone as rule of faith and religion, without mixing with it any other thing which might be devised by the opinion of men apart from the Word of God, and without wishing to accept for our spiritual government any other doctrine than what is conveyed to us by the same Word without addition or diminution, acccording to the command of our Lord.

Don’t Be Caught without a Confession

Article by Dr. Michael Reeves. president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in Oxford, England. (Original source here)

Christians have always written and cherished summaries of their beliefs. The Bible records the earliest of these confessions of faith (1 Tim 3:16). Then, the early post-Apostolic church produced definitive statements of essential Christian belief, such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, still considered benchmarks of orthodoxy. In the centuries that have followed, Christians have continued to produce confessions: the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562), the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), and so on. The church has never been without a confession or creed.


However, for all their defining importance in Christian history, confessions of faith have met with mixed reactions from Christians. While many believers have used confessions enthusiastically, others have claimed that confessions replace a vital relationship with God with a desiccated list of doctrine, replacing the Spirit with the letter, leaving only a husk of dead, dull orthodoxy. However, to understand confessions this way is to mistake the recipe for the pudding. Confessions, like recipes, are descriptions of the vital ingredients in the Christian life of faith, not to be confused with the reality itself. That does not mean the description is unimportant: different ingredients will make a different pudding. But, if you try to eat the recipe card rather than the pudding, you will be sadly disappointed.

There is a deeper, more sinister reason for our distrust of confessions. It started in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve refused to listen to God. Ever since then, mankind pretends that God has not spoken to us. If we admit that God has spoken, we must also admit that we knowingly disobey Him—an admission that we are not the lords and gods we daily pretend to be. Vagueness about what the Bible teaches and a lack of specificity in matters of theology maintain this Edenic error. Without confessions of faith, we are speculating in the dark, denying that God has spoken His revealing light into the world (John 1:1–5). Undisturbed by the harsh light of divine revelation, we are free to dwell in the shadows, fashioning idols to our hearts’ content, crafting a self-made religion out of comforting experiences, moralism, or whatever we choose.

History is replete with this tendency. Consider an example. In seventeenth-century England, a group of theologians called latitudinarians, tired of the never-ending theological debates that flowed from the Reformation, sought a Christianity shorn of most of its doctrine. Doctrine became a dirty word. For them, Christianity was essentially morality—the less doctrine it had, the more people could agree and unite. The problem was that this unity was built around the standards of morality rather than Christ.

In many ways, the latitudinarians were heralds of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment skepticism toward all doctrine epitomized by Edward Gibbon. In his monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon looks despairingly at the doctrinal disputes of the early post-Apostolic church as nothing but irrelevant bickering. For example, Gibbon dismisses the Arian controversy’s debate over whether Christ is truly God (homoousios) or merely an exalted creature (homoiousios) by saying, “The difference between the Homoousion and the Homoiousion is almost invisible to the nicest theological eye.”1 For Gibbon, it was an immaterial debate over the single letter i. Yet the argument was over far more essential matters. The controversy was about whether Christ is God, whether He is to be worshiped as God. That single i divided orthodoxy from heresy, with one side claiming Christ as Creator, while the other saw Him as nothing more than a created being. Gibbon’s blithe indifference to doctrine could just as easily argue that the difference between Christianity and Islam is merely one of numbers: one (Allah) or three (Father, Son, Spirit). We know, however, that doctrinal precision matters.


When natural, Edenic inclinations and mainstream Western intellectual history stand together against confessions, it is easy to see how a love for confessions has become an unthinkable offense. God’s revelation, objective truth rather than subjective sentiment, offends modern culture.

That is precisely the intent of a confession—it refuses to go along with the pretense that God has not spoken. A confession asserts that God has spoken clearly and specifically. Holding to a confession is an act of humility, admitting that we are not, as we would wish, the final arbiters of truth. Instead, in our confessions we proclaim that God has given us absolute, nonnegotiable truth. Confession is our obedient response to what God has spoken. It is an acknowledgment that God is God, and that we are not. Continue reading

Six Ways a Church Should Use a Confession of Faith

Article by Jeff Robinson (original source here)

Particular Baptist churches planted in the tumultuous soil of 17th century England grew up and bore fruit under a nasty set of doctrinal and methodological accusations, including that they subscribed to libertarian free will, denied original sin, that their pastors baptized women in the nude, and were opponents of church and crown.

Perhaps their most virulent and colorful opponent, Daniel Featley—a separatist persecutor deluxe—derisively dismissed our Baptist forebears, writing in a venom-filled pamphlet, “They pollute our rivers with their filthy washings.” Such was Baptist life under Charles I.

These nefarious charges and numerous others arose from leaders of the state church and led to decades of grinding persecution for Baptists. Seven churches returned fire, but not by brandishing the sword of steel or by hurling theological invectives. The seven carried out their war for truth by wielding the sword of the Spirit. The product was the most comprehensive expression of orthodox Baptist theology ever written—the Second London Confession of 1689.

The signers of that venerable confession lived and moved in an age in which most local congregations wrote confessions of faith for a number of reasons, one of them to demonstrate their commitment to the historic Christian faith. Additionally, they sought to manifest their solidarity with the prevailing forms of Calvinistic orthodoxy as well as to expound the basic elements of their ecclesiology. The Second London Confession also aimed at refuting popular notions associating Particular Baptists with the radical wing of the Anabaptist movement on the continent.

Of primary importance, they saw biblical warrant for the practice of confessionalism in texts such as 1 Timothy 3:16, where the apostle Paul’s inspired pen produced a brief but beautiful display of the mystery of godliness:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Fast-forward to 2016 and many Baptist churches continue to have statements of faith “on the books” as a part of their foundational documents. Yet, I’ve found that many churches do not know how useful the confession can be beyond establishing subscription to certain core doctrines. This raises a fundamental question: How should a local church use their confession of faith? Here are six ways a church might use a confession of faith. I owe at least four of these to my friend Sam Waldron’s fine work, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Evangelical Press). Confessions of faith should be used:

1. As an affirmation and defense of the truth. The church of the living God is called to be the pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). It is to “follow the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) and to “earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Insofar as a confession reflects the Word of God, it is useful for helping the church discern truth from error. Many of the great confessions in church history have affirmed biblical truths while simultaneously condemning unbiblical expressions of the same. Paul called Timothy to guard the good deposit entrusted to him (2 Tim. 1:14), and likewise, faithful Christians are called to keep a close watch over it. A part of this stewardship is clearly articulating the truth and defending it in the face of error. A more recent example of this is the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Southern Baptists, rightly, revised their confession, adding article XVIII to address areas where feminism had begun to encroach on the church and Christian family.

2. As a baseline for church discipline. In 1 Timothy 5:16, Paul famously admonished Timothy to “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” As a matter of stewardship, church purity, and love to neighbor, a faithful pastor, a faithful elder board, a faithful church member must keep a close eye on the life and doctrine of those within their congregation. Church discipline (Matt. 18:15-18) is a key part of this. The confession of faith forms the baseline for determining whether or not a church leader or member has strayed from orthodox belief or orthodox living. It provides an objective standard for both accusation and restoration in church discipline.

Andrew Fuller wrote of the care that must be taken in church discipline and the role of the confession if that pursuit:

“If a religious community agrees to specify some leading principles which they consider as derived from the Word of God, and judge the belief of them to be necessary in order to any person’s becoming or continuing a member with them, it does not follow that those principles should be equally understood, or that all their brethren must have the same degree of knowledge, nor yet that they should understand and believe nothing else. The powers and capacities of different persons are various; one may comprehend more of the same truth than another, and have his views more enlarged by an exceedingly great variety of kindred ideas; and yet the substance of their belief may still be the same. The object of the articles is to keep at a distance, not those who are weak in the faith, but such as are his avowed enemies.”

3. As a means of theological triage and Christian maturity. Which doctrines must be believed for one to be considered a genuine follower of Christ? Which doctrines represent denominational distinctives? Which doctrines are tertiary and may be relegated to the category of “good men disagree?” A solid and effective local church confession takes an unambiguous stand on doctrines that should mark the genuine Christian. It also rings clear on denominational distinctives. But a wise and well-articulated church confession also avoids unnecessary sectarianism by refusing to take a hard line on so-called “third-tier” issues such as the timing of Christ’s return, specific details of the millennium, preferred English Bible translations, and those similar.

4. As a concise standard by which to evaluate ministers of the Word. The apostle Paul told Timothy to entrust the great truths of God to faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2). Faithful men are faithful to sound doctrine, faithful to the Scriptures. When calling a new pastor or a new elder, the church’s confession provides the doctrinal standard by which his fitness is to be judged. It also provides a crucial baseline by which to measure his theological solidarity—or lack thereof—with the body that is considering him for ministry.

5. As a doctrinal basis for planting daughter churches. Churches typically speak of potential offspring as “having our DNA.” A confession of faith establishes a key part of the genetic structure that is to be passed on. As a historical example, the Charleston Association used a slightly revised version of the Philadelphia Confession as the doctrinal standard for church plants across the Southeast. My family remains involved in church in north Georgia planted by Charleston under the Philadelphia Confession in 1832.

6. As a means of establishing historical continuity and unity with other Christians. The framers of the Second London Confession aimed to show that Particular Baptists were not given to theological novelties, but stood with two feet firmly planted in the historic Christian tradition. They subscribed to the Trinitarianism of the early creeds, the Christology of Chalcedon, the five solas of the Reformation, and much more that comprises evangelical orthodoxy. Local churches do the same when they proclaim where they stand on these core theological doctrines.

A healthy church is one that knows what it believes, preaches what it believes, teaches what it believes, sings what it believes, prays what it believes, confesses what it believes, and seeks, by God’s enabling grace, to live what it believes. In other words, a healthy church is a confessional church.

Ancient Christian Creeds

Article: John Gill, the rule of faith and baptist catholicity by David Rathel (original source here)


I recently read a Baptist theologian bemoan the fact that every systematic theology he read by a Baptist author featured no serious engagement with the great tradition. This theologian further stated that every lecture he attended while a student at a Baptist seminary was similarly deficient. I cannot speak for his experience, but I suspect he is not the first person to make such claims. Baptists are not exactly known for their catholicity.

One can fortunately find in the history of our movement examples to the contrary. The Orthodox Creed used by the General Baptists commended the Apostles’ Creed as well as the Athanasian Creed, and numerous Baptist doctrinal statements have employed the Trinitarian grammar provided by the Patristic Era. The church covenant still in use at the New Road Baptist Church in Oxford, England, reads, “We denominate ourselves a Protestant Catholic Church of Christ.”

As we explore how some of our Baptist forefathers appropriated the historic tradition, I believe that the works of John Gill, an eighteenth-century Particular Baptist minister, deserve more conversation than they presently receive. His writings display a surprising degree of interest in the larger Christian tradition. His use of the tradition serves as yet another instance of a spirit of catholicity present in the history of the Baptist movement to which contemporary advocates of Baptist catholicity can point. I offer here but one example from Gill’s work—his use of the rule of faith—to demonstrate this fact.


Gill begins his systematic theology with a defense of the need to give an orderly account of theology, acknowledging that what he entitles “systematical divinity” has become unpopular during his lifetime. To offer a justification for such a project, he relies primarily on biblical texts that appear to present Christian convictions in an organized fashion—he highlights in particular Heb. 6:1–2—and references such works as the Apostles’ Creed, Tertullian’s use of the rule of faith, Origen’s On First Principles, and Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata as examples of earlier attempts to present Christian belief in an arranged manner. The tradition, he believes, serves to legitimize the task of systematizing theology by providing numerous historical precedents.

It is Gill’s reference to Tertullian’s use of the rule of faith—the regula fidei or the analogy of faith—that merits closer examination. He makes a significant digression at its mention. Gill explains the rule of faith is not the “sacred writings” though it is “perfectly agreeable to them;” it is “articles and heads of faith, or a summary of gospel truths” that one may collect from Scripture. He believes that texts such as Rom 8:30—one that contains a “rich summary and glorious compendium and chain of gospel truths”—and 1 Tim 1:16 give it legitimacy. In his judgment, they present or at least allude to an organized body of Christian teaching.

Gill believes that Tertullian’s paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed offers a helpful summary of the content of the rule of faith. While not making the rule of faith and Tertullian’s paraphrase synonymous, he does connect the two closely together when he writes that “such a set of principles these [i.e., the Creed], as, or what are similar to them and accord with the word of God, may be called the analogy of faith.” After quoting the Creed in full as it is presented in Tertullian’s On the Veiling of Virgins, he explains that, though the Creed was not authored by the apostles themselves, it was “agreeable to their doctrine, and therefore called theirs.” It was “received, embraced, and professed very early in the Christian church.” Continue reading

This We Believe

Article by by Carl R. Trueman (original source here)

Many evangelical Christians are instinctively suspicious of the whole idea of creeds and confessions, those set forms of words that certain churches have used throughout the ages to give concise expression to the Christian faith. For such people, the very idea of such extra-scriptural authoritative statements of faith seems to strike at the very heart of their belief that the Bible is the unique revelation of God, the all-sufficient basis for our knowledge of Him, and the supreme authority in matters of religion.

Certainly, creeds and confessions can be used in a way that undermines the orthodox Protestant view of scripture. Both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches invest such authority in the declaration of the institutional church that the church creeds can seem to carry an authority that is derived from the church’s approval rather than conformity with the teaching of Scripture. Evangelicals are right to want to avoid anything that smacks of such an attitude. Yet I would like to argue that creeds and confessions should fulfill a useful function in the life of the church and in the lives of individual believers.

First, Christians with no creed simply do not exist. To declare that one has “no creed but the Bible” is a creed, for the Bible nowhere expresses itself in such a fashion. It is an extra-biblical formulation. There are really only two types of Christian: those who are honest about the fact they have a creed and those who deny they have a creed yet possess one nonetheless. Ask any Christian what they believe, and, if they are at all thoughtful, they will not simply recite Bible texts to you; they will rather offer a summary account of what they see to be the Bible’s teaching in a form of words which are, to a greater or lesser extent, extra-biblical. All Christians have creeds — forms of words — that attempt to express in short compass great swathes of biblical teaching. And no one should ever see creeds and confessions as independent of Scripture; they were formulated in the context of elaborate biblical exegesis and were self-consciously dependent upon God’s unique revelation in and through Scripture.

Given this fact, the second point is that some Christians have creeds that have been tried and tested by the church over the centuries, while others have those that their pastor made up, or that they put together themselves. Now, there is no necessary reason why the latter should be inferior to the former; but, on the basis that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, there is surely no virtue in turning our backs on those forms of sound words that have done a good job for hundreds of years in articulating aspects of the Christian faith and facilitating its transmission from place to place and generation to generation. If you want to, say, reject the Nicene Creed, you are of course free to do so; but you should at least try to replace it with a formula that will do the job just as effectively for so many people for the next 1,500 years. If you cannot do so, perhaps modesty and gratitude, rather than iconoclasm, are the appropriate responses to the ancient creed.

Third, the creeds and confessions of the church offer us points of continuity with the church of the past. As I noted above, there is no need to reinvent Christianity every Sunday, and in an anti-historical, future-oriented age like ours, what more counter-cultural move can we as Christians make than to self-consciously identify with so many brothers and sisters who have gone before? Furthermore, while Protestants take justifiable pride in the fact that every believer has the right to read the Scriptures and has direct access to God in Christ, we should still acknowledge that Christianity is first and foremost a corporate religion. God’s means of working in history has been the church; the contributions of individual Christians have been great, but these all pale in comparison with God’s great work in and through the church as a whole. This holds good for theology as for any other area. The insights of individual teachers and theologians over the centuries have been profound, but nothing quite matches the corporate wisdom of the godly when gathered together in the great councils and assemblies in the history of the church.

This brings me to my fourth point: Creeds and confessions generally focus on what is significant. The early creeds, such as the Apostles’ and the Nicene are very brief and deal with the absolute essentials. Yet this is true even of the more elaborate statements of faith, such as the Lutheran Augsburg Confession or the Westminster Confession of Faith. Indeed, when you look at the points of doctrine that these various documents cover, it is difficult to see what could be left out without abandoning something central and significant. Far from being exhaustive statements of faith, they are summaries of the bare essentials. As such, they are singularly useful.

Evangelicals should love the great creeds and confessions for all of the above reasons. Yet we should ultimately follow them only so far as they make sense of Scripture, but it is surely foolish and curmudgeonly to reject one of the primary ways in which the church has painstakingly transmitted her faith from age to age.

Why do Reformed churches use creeds and confessions?

Short article by Joe Vusich

1) They help Christians make sense of the Bible by highlighting what is important and summarizing its essential message (if the Bible is the world, the creeds and confessions are the road maps).

2) They help the faithful memorize the essential beliefs of the Christian faith (especially regarding the work of the Triune God to save us).

3) They promote universal and apostolic unity (connect us to the past and to other churches by summarizing what true Christians around the world have confessed since the days of the apostles, not just what we believe in our local congregations).

4) They provide specificity to our faith and help distinguish us from false teachers and sects (the original purpose of the Nicene and Athanasian creeds).

5) They provide structure for Christians to publicly confess their personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (the original purpose of the Old Roman Creed, which eventually expanded to become the Apostles’ Creed).

6) They are useful for apologetics (equip Christians to give succinct answers for the hope that is within them).

7) They delimit church power (establish where the doctrinal authority of the church begins and ends, and make that authority transparent to all).

8) They clarify the content of our faith to those who may ask (“these are formal summaries of what we believe and teach”).

9) They provide distilled, well-tested theological judgments that fence our thinking and help us not to stray from the biblical faith.

10) Confessing creeds is a biblical practice. The Old Testament saints daily confessed, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5); and the New Testament church was founded on Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-18). Early Christian churches began formulating faithful summary statements of the faith even while the apostles were still alive; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:16.

Why Creeds?

sproul877Article by RC Sproul: Avoiding Theological Anarchy (original source while the creeds are norma normata (“a rule that is ruled”).

Historically, Christian creeds have included everything from brief affirmations to comprehensive statements. The earliest Christian creed is found in the New Testament, which declares, “Jesus is Lord.” The New Testament makes a somewhat cryptic statement about this affirmation, namely, that no one can make the statement except by the Holy Spirit. What are we to understand by this? On the one hand, the New Testament tells us that people can honor God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. That is to say, people can recite creeds and make definitive affirmations of faith without truly believing those affirmations. So, then, why would the New Testament say that no one can make this confession save by the Holy Spirit? Perhaps it was because of the cost associated with making that creedal statement in the context of ancient Rome.

The loyalty oath required by Roman citizens to demonstrate their allegiance to the empire in general and to the emperor in particular was to say publicly, “Kaisar Kurios,” that is, “Caesar is lord.” In the first-century church, Christians bent over backward to be obedient to civil magistrates, including the oppressive measures of Caesar, and yet, when it came to making the public affirmation that Caesar is lord, Christians could not do so in good conscience. As a substitute for the phrase, “Caesar is lord,” the early Christians made their affirmation by saying, “Jesus is Lord.” To do that was to provoke the wrath of the Roman government, and in many cases, it cost the Christian his life. Therefore, people tended not to make that public affirmation unless they were moved by the Holy Spirit to do so. The simple creed, “Jesus is Lord,” or more full statements, such as the Apostles’ Creed give an outline of basic, essential teachings. The creeds summarize New Testament content.

The creeds also used that summary content to exclude the heretics of the fourth century. In the affirmation of the Nicene Creed, the church affirmed categorically its belief in the deity of Christ and in the doctrine of the Trinity. These affirmations were seen as essential truths of the Christian faith. They were essential because without inclusion of these truths, any claim to Christianity would be considered a false claim.

At the time of the Reformation, there was a proliferation of creeds as the Protestant community found it necessary, in the light and heat of the controversy of that time, to give definitive statements as to what they believed and how their faith differed from the Roman Catholic Church’s theology. Rome itself added her creedal statements at the Council of Trent in the middle of the sixteenth century as a response to the Protestant movement. But each Protestant group, such as the Lutherans, the Swiss Reformed, and Scottish Reformed, found it necessary to clarify the truths that they were affirming. This was made necessary, not only because of disagreements within Reformed parties, but also to clarify the Protestant position against frequent misrepresentations set forth by their Roman Catholic antagonists.

The seventeenth-century confessional statement known as the Westminster Confession is one of the most precise and comprehensive creedal statements growing out of the Reformation. It is a model of precision and biblical orthodoxy. However, because of its length and comprehensive dimension, it is difficult to find two advocates of the Westminster Confession who agree on every single precise point. Because of that, churches that use the Westminster Confession or other such confessions, usually limit requirements of adherence by an acknowledgment of “the system of doctrine contained within.” These later Protestant creeds not only intended to affirm what they regarded as essentials to Christianity, but specifically to clarify the details of the particular religious communion that would use such comprehensive confessions of faith.

In our day, there has been a strong antipathy emerging against confessions of any stripe or any degree. On the one hand, the relativism that has become pervasive in modern culture eschews any confession of absolute truth. Not only that, we have also seen a strong negative reaction against the rational and propositional nature of truth. Creedal statements are an attempt to show a coherent and unified understanding of the whole scope of Scripture. In that sense, they are brief statements of what we historically have called “systematic theology.” The idea of systematic theology assumes that everything that God says is coherent and not contradictory. So, though these creeds are not created out of pure rational speculation, nevertheless, they are written in such a way as to be intelligible and understood by the mind. Without such confessions, theological anarchy reigns in the church and in the world.