For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's Your Creed?

Just a little reflection on some comments both made and overheard today. The issue of “creeds” was mentioned, and immediately many of my Baptist brothers will stand up and cry: “We have no creed but Jesus!” Likewise, much of the modern “missional” movement has given us this same idea: it’s not about church and doctrine, it’s about being like Jesus.

I know these folks mean well, but the truth is that we all have a creed, either written or unwritten. A creed is defined simply as “a formal statement of Christian beliefs.” It’s simply stating what your belief is, where you stand.

Now, to say we have no creed but Christ sounds nice, and it’s true we do believe in Jesus. But that’s not quite adequate, and most of us would agree. What exactly do we believe about Jesus, who was He, what did He do for filthy sinners like you and me, or are we even filthy sinners? All those are questions to be asked, and our “creed” answers them.

Most of you are well aware of the Downgrade Controversy which consumed the later half of Charles Spurgeon's life; one which eventually led to his church leaving the Baptist Union. Here are some remarks Spurgeon made in regard to this controversy which address the issue of creeds:

To this it was replied that there is an objection to any creed whatever. This is a principle which one may fairly discuss. Surely, what we believe may be stated, may be written, may be made known; and what is this but to make and promulgate a creed? Baptists from the first have issued their confessions of faith…

To say that “a creed comes between a man and his God,” is to suppose that it is not true; for truth, however definitely stated, does not divide the believer from his Lord. So far as I am concerned, that which I believe I am not ashamed to state in the plainest possible language; and the truth I hold I embrace because I believe it to be the mind of God revealed in his infallible Word. How can it divide me from God who revealed it? It is one means of my communion with my Lord, that I receive his words as well as himself, and submit my understanding to what I see to be taught by him. Say what he may, I accept it because he says it, and therein pay him the humble worship of my inmost soul.

I am unable to sympathize with a man who says he has no creed; because I believe him to be in the wrong by his own showing. He ought to have a creed. What is equally certain, he has a creed—he must have one, even though he repudiates the notion. His very unbelief is, in a sense, a creed. The objection to a creed is a very pleasant way of concealing objection to discipline, and a desire for latitudinarianism.

I especially like the last line. To object to a creed is simply a way to ensure our “freedom” to do whatever we like.

Creeds are a necessary part of who we are. As the old line says, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” and creeds are simply a way of defining what it is we stand for.

Our church follows a creed, though we Baptists prefer to call it a confession. In reality it serves the same purpose, defining who we are and what we believe. And to those who claim, “no creed but Christ”, or “no creed but the Bible” they are fooling themselves, because what you believe about Christ and how you interpret the Bible is significant indeed.

That’s not to say that we put ideas of men and documents written by men on par with Scripture. That would be Catholicism. But the truth is still that as a body of believers we have a set “outline” of belief which “defines” our body, and that by definition is a creed.

So, then, for your entertainment and edification let me share with you a fun little clip which sparked much of this (I love it even if it did come from Lutherans!)

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