How ‘No Creed But the Bible’ Subverts the Bible

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josh p's picture

I am more and more convinced that churches should teach through their doctrinal statement in an extra service. I once read a lengthy passage from my church’s doctrinal statement in Sunday school and asked if anyone knew where it came from. Not one person knew.
Creeds are imperative. Where have I heard that before...

TylerR's picture

Editor

Trueman's book The Creedal Imperative is a good book. I need to read it again. 

There is a line to be drawn, though. We can't teach people that we exist in a cultural vacuum, as if we're the first people to ever think about these things. In recent discussions at my church about proposed additions to our doctrinal statement, people asked where a lot of the language was coming from - because it certainly wasn't written in modern vernacular. I briefly explained the importance of creeds and confessions, and their limitations (they aren't infallible, but they can be very handy summary statements of what the Bible systematically teaches on given subjects, etc.). 

My church has no cultural history of creeds or confessions, even though a local church statement of faith is, defacto, a confession! 

I don't want to teach a slavish devotion to confessions, but I do want people to appreciate what great men from the past have given us. However, I do hold the great Christological confessions of the post-Nicene era to be very, very, very important. The theological language in them is critical, and shouldn't be altered. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Andrew K's picture

TylerR wrote:

Trueman's book The Creedal Imperative is a good book. I need to read it again. 

There is a line to be drawn, though. We can't teach people that we exist in a cultural vacuum, as if we're the first people to ever think about these things. In recent discussions at my church about proposed additions to our doctrinal statement, people asked where a lot of the language was coming from - because it certainly wasn't written in modern vernacular. I briefly explained the importance of creeds and confessions, and their limitations (they aren't infallible, but they can be very handy summary statements of what the Bible systematically teaches on given subjects, etc.). 

My church has no cultural history of creeds or confessions, even though a local church statement of faith is, defacto, a confession! 

I don't want to teach a slavish devotion to confessions, but I do want people to appreciate what great men from the past have given us. However, I do hold the great Christological confessions of the post-Nicene era to be very, very, very important. The theological language in them is critical, and shouldn't be altered. 

I believe R. Scott Clark and some others in the traditionally Reformed community believe that churches should regularly be producing modern and contemporary confessions. He laments that such is not the case, and claims that it was the original intention of the Reformers. I.e., that those who produced the Westminster Standards, for example, understood that they were responding to and formed by contemporary issues and had no understanding that their documents were to be the final word in Reformed Christian orthodoxy. 

If this practice of producing modern, theologically-astute confessions were active, it would go some ways in keeping people and churches from the very thing you mention: "slavish devotion to confessions."

TylerR's picture

Editor

After the most recent church meeting we had about the proposed revisions to the doctrinal statement, everyone said they liked the additions (which were largely excerpts from the 1689 LBCF, the 1618 Belgic, and the 1833 NHCF), but they requested the wording to be updated. They also asked for several good clarifications that the originals left vague or ill-defined. I was surprised, but I understand the request. I understand what the framers were getting at in these confessions, and can "translate" the concepts, but the congregation wants things spelled out explicitly. So, we'll be re-writing those sections in modern language, and clarify things for a modern audience.

The entire proposed revision will look quite different, but the content will be the same. I'm looking forward to it. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jim Welch's picture

When I began my ministry here in Montrose, CO, I took the churches Articles of Faith; and organized them into 10 lessons.  In the Sunday School hour, I teach through these lessons on a rotating basis.  Our church encourages new attendees to go through my class.  I have done this for almost all of my 18 years of ministry.  

Results?  New comers know what we believe and why we believe it, we have had several 'seekers' come to faith in Christ, some come to understand what we believe and seek out another church.  

I recommend it.  We call our class Firm Foundations.  (and yes I picked the name before the FBF changed their name, ha!) 

josh p's picture

Jim,
That is an awesome idea. I can imagine how somehing like that would be a huge benefit for new Christians and seasoned believers alike. Our church has been going through our doctrinal statement on Wednesday evenings for a while. It’s interesting to see where people have theological “holes” (myself included).

Ron Bean's picture

Consider some churches I have known.

Church A: Their doctrinal statement was the New Hampshire Confession of Faith and yet the church was strongly anti-Calvinistic.

Church B: Their entire doctrinal statement was the BJU Creed: "We believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God."

Church C: Their Creed was "What the Bible Says is So" allowing their position to change with each new pastor. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan