Why Do We Do That? – Reciting Creeds & Confessions
Taken with permission from Christ Church Presbyterian, Evans, GA.
Creeds and Confessions of faith have fallen on hard times in evangelical churches. Accused of creating divisions and erecting walls that keep people out of the church, many congregations have adopted a “no creed but the Bible” stance in which statements like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are deemed outdated at best and, at worst, harmful.
It is true that creeds divide: they divide truth from error, and they divide true teachers from false teachers. It is true that creeds erect walls around a church: walls of protection and clarity within which Christians may pursue the Truth of God’s holy Word in relative safety. The creeds of the church were developed to defend God’s people against heresy and to define Christian orthodoxy.
The Latin word credo means literally, “I believe.” Has there ever been a time more prone to spiritual error than our own; or a time when it was more important for Christians to know what they believe?
Of course reciting a creed cannot insulate us completely from error, and contracts don’t keep the wolves out – only the Good Shepherd can do that – but the creeds do remind us, each time we say them, of the great “nonnegotiables” of Christianity, to which we cling by faith.
We confess our faith because the Bible is confessional. Examples of God’s people confessing their faith together can be found in both the Old and New Testaments. For instance, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we find the Shema, ancient Israel’s creed, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” In Philippians 2:5-11 we can read what is widely believed to be the earliest recorded Christian creed having to do with the divinity and lordship of Jesus Christ.
The creeds we use from time to time in worship (Westminster Confession & Catechisms, Apostles, Nicene) are not the very Word of God, but they are distilled from it and true to it, and we recite them because they state in compact form all of the essentials for being a Bible-believing Christian. The creeds help us to pass along those essentials from one generation to the next, and they tie generations of believers together by laying down a specific set of fundamental truths.