Saturday, July 2

Historic Church Documents: What are Creeds and Confessions?

I'm declaring July to be Historic Church Documents Month here on the blog. I posted a couple of the creeds and confessions back in December, and this month I'll post from more of them. Instead of posting whole documents, I'll post interesting quotes from them and give links to the whole thing so you can read more if you are interested.

The word creed comes from the Latin word credo meaning "I believe." Creeds and confessions are documents prepared by the church or segments of the church in response to various issues or situations that have arisen throughout history and have caused difficulty within the church. They are simply declarations of what the church (or a segment of the church) believed. Sometimes they are specific to a groups' belief on a certain issue, and sometimes they are more all-encompassing, and try to give a statement of the groups' beliefs on every important issue.

They are not inspired like scripture is, and stand under the authority of scripture; and several of them point this out. There are some who argue, then, that it's silly to have them at all, since scripture is "the only infallible rule of faith and practice." The best creeds, of course, accurately reflect what scripture teaches. And even when one doesn't, it's useful for us to consider carefully the responses various church groups made to particular issues that arose in their historical situation.

Even groups that are against having creeds and confessions often have something like a creed and confession under a different name. They may not be binding upon the adherents, but they are intended to give statements of the collective wisdom of the group on certain issues. And even the statements "No creed but Christ" and "Scripture is the only rule of faith and practice" are really credal statements--short creeds, but they're creeds nonetheless.

There are statements in scripture that are creedlike and may have been creeds. How about 1 Timothy 3:16?
And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation:
He was revealed in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.(NET)
It certainly reads like a creed, doesn't it? Of course, this one would be an inspired creed, authoritative because it's found in inspired scripture.

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