On Having No Creed but the Bible

Image of The Creedal Imperative
by Carl R. Trueman
Crossway 2012
Paperback 208

I just finished reading a marvelous little tome by Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative, and cannot help but exclaim its merits. It is, in a word, an apologetic for the discipline of systematic theology, but more than this, an apologetic for publicly chronicled and shared systematic theology, subscription to which serves as the standard of ecclesiastical fellowship.

Carl Trueman is, of course, a Presbyterian, and he and I do not subscribe to the selfsame doctrinal standards. This does not detract, however, from his argument, because the creedal imperative for which he argues is not one of specific content, but one of principle. Trueman naturally favors his own creedal/confessional standards, but argues that even a flawed confession can be superior to none at all. To that end Trueman magnanimously appends to his work a bibliography of confessions and polity manuals from several ecclesiastical traditions.

That creeds are sometimes treated as independent, a priori sources of authority is an unfortunate reality. But this reality does not detract from their value as a posteriori summaries of biblical teaching. Indeed, Trueman argues, the development of such summaries is a matter both of (1) biblical propriety and (2) ecclesiastical necessity.

After spending a chapter detailing and dismantling the cultural case against creeds, Trueman establishes in his second chapter the philosophical and biblical foundation for creeds. It is here that Trueman makes his most preposterous claim, viz., that creeds and confessions are biblical, so it is well worth slowing down to summarize (and applaud) his argument: Read more about On Having No Creed but the Bible

Hold the Superlatives, Please


Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”: make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do my job for me.” (C.S. Lewis)

Lewis helps us to recognize a lot of modern Christian songwriting for what it is: laziness. No doubt, many of these songs are vast improvements on the Bliss and Crosby cliché-mill. Certainly, it’s a breath of fresh air to be singing about the faith without a constant nautical theme: waves, anchors, lighthouses and ships ahoy. And any serious Christian will be thankful for an injection of sound theological ideas into the gelatinous world of evangelical conviction.

With all that said, I find Lewis’ sentiment played out before me in not a few modern songs. These songs seem to try to gather as many superlative adjectives as possible that will fit the metre of the song. These are then piled on top of one another, and the result is a rapid-fire of high-concentrate adjectives. The resulting lyrics are something like: “Indescribable majesty, incomparable glory, unbounded mercy, immeasurable beauty…You’re the highest, greatest, most wonderful, most awesome”—you get the idea.

Yet for all this, the effect is palpably flat. Instead of soaring into the heights of praising God as the ultimate Being, one sings these super-hero adjectives with a sense of dull oughtness: yes, I should feel God’s surpassing value, but I don’t. Perhaps if I keep singing these superlatives with sincerity, I will. Read more about Hold the Superlatives, Please

Approaching the King: A Parable

Once upon a time there reigned a powerful, brave, and noble king. As an intrepid warrior he had freed the subjects of his realm from the tyrannical rule of an invading monarch. Reigning now with integrity and compassion, the good king secured peace for his subjects and with tireless self-sacrifice provided everything necessary for their prosperity. The domain flourished under his faithful rule. Needless to say, his subjects highly esteemed their king.

One day several village children naively decided to journey to the king’s palace in order to pay him a visit. With childish enthusiasm they began to plan their grand expedition. When the discussion turned to how they should present themselves to their liege, they realized they knew nothing of the protocol for approaching a king at court. Everyone had a different idea, and they began to argue among themselves as to whose approach was the right one.

An older girl from the village happened upon the chaotic scene. She scolded each of the children for claiming his or her opinion was the truth. They needed to respect one another’s viewpoint, she explained. “Each of you is free to form your own opinions on how to approach the king, but you simply cannot insist that everyone else must accept your approach as the only way. If you approach the king with respect and sincerity,” she assured the children, “he will gladly welcome each of you on your terms.”

Heeding the girl’s sage advice, the children embarked on their journey. They were all content to hold their subjective opinions and were pleased to extend to each of the other children in the group the freedom to devise his or her unique approach to the king. Ironically, the children never thought to investigate what the king himself thought about the matter. Read more about Approaching the King: A Parable