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Archive for July 13th, 2008

“I don’t hold to any creeds. I just believe the Bible.”
I’ve heard this statement more than once from very sincere people who are desperate to hold fast to the faith “once, for all delivered to the saints.” As a Protestant, and a Reformed believer at that, I vigorously hold to and defend the doctrine of Sola Scriptura: The BIBLE is the sole, infallible rule of faith and practice. Everything God wants us to know about Him is contained in the 66 books of God’s Holy Word. Everything about the way He wants to be worshipped is found in the Bible.

So what use is there to a creed, a confession, or a catechism when we have the Bible?

Creeds, confessions and catechisms are simply statements of faith- summaries of what a particular church believes the Bible teaches.The modern-day equivalent would be the “statement of faith” of any given church.Creeds, confessions, and catechisms are tools we can use to understand our faith more clearly. They are completely and totally subject to the Word of God. It is NOT NOT NOT the other way around.

I think so often that we Protestants are absolutely terrified of looking “Roman Catholic” that we eschew anything that’s older then our own denomination or anything that could be deemed “traditional”. We forget that we are part of the “invisible church” which is the number of true believers from the beginning of time. From Adam and Eve who first believed the Promise to the churches today- we are all one church. We can learn from our past as well as our present.

Creeds.net defines creed in this way:

“Creed \’kreed\

[ME crede, from OE creeda, from Latin credo (“I believe” the first word of the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds), from credere to believe, trust, entrust; akin to OIr cretid “he believes”]

1: a brief authoritative formula of religious belief
2: a set of fundamental beliefs
3: a guiding principle

The Creeds and Confessions produced by the Christian Church over the centuries are not inspired additions to Scripture nor in any way replacements for the words of Christ and his apostles or the prophets which preceded them. Instead these human documents are carefully considered and usually thoughtfully worded responses to various issues, heresies and historical situations that have troubled the Church and the world over the centuries. Creeds are statements of faith that are true and authoritative insofar as they accurately reflect what Scripture teaches. Those linked here have been found useful either by the entire Church or by important segments and/or denominations of it over the ages. They are thus helpful “measuring sticks” for orthodoxy. Canons but not the canon.

Some have said the creeds are man made and hence should be ignored in favor of Scripture. Should we then dispose of all sermons, Bible study texts, commentaries, doctrinal outlines, books on theology, devotionals, et cetera? Certainly not! The creeds do not masquerade as Scripture and many specifically point out that it is the Scriptures themselves which are “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Yet as Christians is it not valuable to consider how the Holy Spirit has spoken to our brothers and sisters over the millennia as they have struggled with various issues, poured over the Scriptures and often fasted and prayed heartily with their fellow Christians in the light of the inspired texts? Surely, to quote the pulpit prince C. H. Spurgeon to his students,

“you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound the Scripture without the assistance from the works of divine and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition . . . . It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.” (Commenting and Commentaries)

Even if we reject some of their insights at least we should pause to consider what they have gleaned from Holy Writ and how their historical situation influenced their Biblical interpretations. Let us remember the words of Peter when he said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21 KJV)

-www.creeds.net (bolding is mine)

This is such a great discussion of the importance and value of creeds. Readers might be surprised to learn that creeds can be found in the Bible. Take, for instance, the Sh’ma, the first ancient creed of the Jews: “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” That is a creed. It is a statement of belief that the Lord is One.

Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ in Matthew 16 is yet another creed (it is also a confession, but that’s another post for another day.) He is making a statement that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is simply stating what he believes.

Creeds unite us with other believers. Each and every week, my husband, children and I stand up in church and state with every other believer in the room what we believe about God- we state the Apostles ’ Creed. We are united in a common belief about these things, and not just with people in our own church, but with believers all over the world who confess the same beliefs. The Lord’s Day is a time of corporate worship and we confess together what we believe corporately.

Another GREAT use for creeds is as a teaching tool. I am charged by God to teach my children the Faith. I am also charged to make disciples. The Apostles’ Creed is a great jumping off point for teaching the basic truths of the Christian faith: “ I believe in God, the Father”. Well, who is God? How is He our Father? I have an earthly father- so who is this “God, the Father”? “Maker of Heaven and Earth”- God made heaven and earth? I thought creation was just a bunch of random evolutionary processes over millions of years, says the new believer. You can use the creed to summarize these basic truths about God. It’s easy for a child or an adult to memorize.

Creeds also put a hedge around the Christian faith. They are written statements of belief that separate us from all those groups who claim to be Christian, but who distort or pervert one or more of the basic doctrines of Christianity. Any Mormon out there can pick up his Bible and prove his view of baptism or Jesus Christ just by using the Bible. There are Mormons who devote their LIVES to proving Mormonism from the Bible alone. So how do you know that your church is different and that what it is teaching is TRUE? Well, one helpful way is to turn to a creed. If you believe, as I do, that the historic creeds of the Christian faith fence the faith, then you’ll see everyone who holds to them inside the fence and everyone who denies the truths contained within them as outside of the fence. In other words, you’ll find it easier to identify brothers and sisters in the Lord if they can affirm these truths. Just look at the statement of faith in your own church. If a prospective member agrees with that statement, they will be approved for membership. If they disagree with the statement, they won’t be approved for membership. The church’s doctrine and the congregants won’t jive and one or the other will feel pretty uncomfortable if the relationship continues.

The search, of course, is ALWAYS for what is TRUE- not where you feel you fit in. And how do we measure what is true? The only infallible source is God’s Holy Word- the Bible.

I would encourage anyone who is suspicious of creeds to look at them and test them against Scripture. There are three “ecumenical” creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian), meaning that the doctrine contained in them is held by all Christian churches without dispute. If you’re not sure if your church teaches something in these creeds, or if you think anything in these creeds is wrong, send me an email or comment and I’ll see if I can answer your question.

Creeds are simply a summary of belief- a statement of faith. Just because it’s old doesn’t make it Roman Catholic. Why am I going to reinvent the wheel and write something new about basic Christian doctrine when its already been spelled out for me a thousand years ago or more?

For further reading:

Are Creeds Necessary?

A Plea for Creeds

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Well, is it? The author of Keeping the Home seems to think so, as she points out in this blog post. She has a lot of pictures of pagan symbols and compares them to distinctly Catholic images, including things that the Pope carries with him. I think she fails miserably to make the case in her blog post, but at the same time, I think it’s a good question.

It’s a plain fact that Christians and Pagans use many of the same symbols. But symbols are representative. Christians and Pagans may use the same ones, but with very different meanings attached. Pagans worship the God and Goddess whom, according to their beliefs, appear in nature. For them, nature is part of deity. Thus, nature plays a huge part in Pagan art and symbolism. We Christians, however, take a different view. We see God reflected in His creation. If we put an acorn on a staff, it isn’t a symbol for God, but a decoration reflecting the beauty found in His creation. So, if you want to say that the use of a symbol found in Pagan art on the Pope’s staff equates Catholicism with Paganism, I think you’ve missed something, and are far from proving your case.

Most Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, celebrate certain holidays like Christmas and Easter. Different schools of thought have different ideas about when Christ’s birth was, but most scholars agree that it was unlikely to have been in late December. The late December holiday was, for Pagans, the rebirth of the Sun God, when light came back into the world, and the days began getting longer. We Christians borrowed the holiday and changed the symbolism. We still see light coming into the world, but now instead of it being the sun, it is the Son of God, bringing the light of salvation to us. Most of us bring a tree indoors, and may even be aware of it being symbolic of everlasting life (because it’s evergreen). But far fewer of us are aware that the decoration and use of a Christmas tree is an ancient pagan tradition.

Easter is the most ancient Christian holiday. But Easter is the name of a Pagan goddess whose symbol was the hare (rabbit) which was a sign of fertility. It’s fitting that we should celebrate the Resurrection in the Spring, for as the Earth begins to spring to life again, so do we find eternal life in Christ.

If we condemn Catholics as Pagan because of some shared symbols (with very different meanings attached), it seems only fair to condemn Protestants who decorate Christmas trees, or celebrate Easter. It seems only logical that after 2000 years of incorporating Pagans into the faith, we would adopt some of their symbolism. And, I don’t think it’s necessary to apologize for it. Because we’ve changed the meaning. The symbols now reflect the God who created them as opposed to simply being objects of worship in and of themselves. It seems to me that we should rejoice in that!

But what really makes me a Christian and not a Pagan? That I can, and do, believe:

in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

A Christian who denies the truth of these words perhaps does not fully understand them. Perhaps that’s a subject for another post.

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Sorry, but I couldn’t resist this Monty Python clip. Nothing X-rated about it, just a bit irreverant… please don’t take this as Catholic-bashing… just poking fun at stereotypes. 🙂

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