Why ‘No Creed But the Bible’ Is a Lousy Creed

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Bert Perry's picture

My kinds have friends whose father is a pastor in the "restoration" movement (Stone-Campbell), and while I'm happy that Stone and Campbell's early work found a home among Baptists of the time, I am just as happy that those Baptist churches and believers had enough of a creed to persuade Stone & Campbell and their followers that "No Creed But Christ" was not compatible with Baptist distinctives.  In some cases, Restorationists even jettisoned the Trinity--and count me glad that Tyler is putting together approachable defenses of the same.  

After all, it's not just Stone and Campbell that waffled on the Trinity, but also big names today like Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald--and thousands/millions that follow them.  (why on earth does Moody keep MacDonald around except for ratings? )

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


1833 NHCF. I need to take a closer look at the 1689 London Baptist Confession in the near future. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Duncan, a man I immensely respect and have profited from, seems to only want to point to historic confessional standards (Westminster, London Baptist Confession, etc.)  as what we should be using. Anyone who has spent any time in an independent baptist church will recognize that they do not appeal to historic confessions, but, rather to their church's individual doctrinal statement. Are these churches confessional?

I would argue yes, to the extent that the church leadership views that statement as a standard (i.e. is it used to determine the basis of fellowship for membership, near complete adherence required for leadership, etc.). Most of these independent churches' statements are taken from the historic confessions and modified here and there to reflect their nuanced theological viewpoints. What this does, in my opinion, is help to keep the confessional standard in its right place. Unfortunately, the historic confessions can, at times, become too elevated. For instance, Duncan recommends preaching through the confessions. That, in my humble opinion, elevates the confession too much. I would rather teach a doctrine biblically and then demonstrate how our church's doctrinal statement communicates that doctrine.

The danger of a nuanced doctrinal statement is the elevation of nonessential doctrines to essential status. This is particularly seen in Eschatology. Most independent, baptist churches have an eschatology that is decidedly pre-mil/pre-trib. Some even go so far as to define dispensational theology as the lens through which they view scripture. That goes too far and could potentially limit the impact a church could have or at least it could keep sincere people out of the fellowship of membership within the church.

Phil Golden

TylerR's picture


I think you are quite right about the doctrinal statement. It would probably be a good idea to use a church's doctrinal statement as a springboard to preach through various doctrines in a short but comprehensive way. Like, for example,

"Our church doctrinal statement has this to say about election . . .  (read the statement) . . . this is what we believe and are unashamed about. Let's look at the doctrine of election from the Bible to see why we believe this." 

Next week:

"Our church doctrinal statement has this to say about baptism . . .  (read the statement) . . . this is what we believe and are unashamed about. Let's look at baptism from the New Testament to see why we believe this." 

This would be a good way to do a quick "systematic theology" for church members. The trick would be how to not get bogged down. I think you'd have to present a positive case ("why we believe this"), rather than an apologetic ("this is why we don't believe that"). I did this once for the doctrine of the church, and got bogged down in apologetics. I'd do it quicker and a bit differently now! A quick run-through of doctrines, with a circle back to controversial issues or questions after the series was over. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

pvawter's picture

I agree that the church doctrinal statement can be a useful teaching tool. I have taught through ours over the past 3 years (100 lessons in all), and it has been very well received. It has provided me with the opportunity to ground our doctrinal statement in Scripture beyond simply appealing to proof-texts tacked on to the end of each section. The only time I felt bogged down was when we studied the section on angels and demons, and that was mostly because I wanted to dispel many of the un-biblical ideas that people have about them.