Author: Ron Graham
No Creed But Christ
—On creeds and confessions
Most denominations in Christendom have a creed. A creed’s main purpose is to document the "articles of faith" held by a denomination. A denomination's articles of faith are points of doctrine regarded as necessary for all members of the denomination to believe. The denomination may even regard as heresy any disagreement with the creed.
We ask the question, Why have creeds —is not Christ and his word all the creed we need?
1 More and More Creeds
Creeds are sometimes called confessions of faith. The word "creed" means faith or belief. The word comes from the Old English creda which in turn probably comes from the Latin credo "I believe". Creeds include catechisms which are in the form of questions and answers.
Some very brief and simple creeds existed before there were many denominations. Among the earliest and simplest is the Apostles’ Creed, so called not because the apostles wrote it but because it is supposed to sum up their doctrine.
The origins of the Apostles’ Creed seem to date back to about 200 years after Christ, and the creed in its present form to AD600. If you wish, you can read the Apostles’s Creed now
Later creeds, written when denominations were becoming widespread, were comparitively lengthy and complicated volumes.
A typical statement of one of the many "articles" in such creeds is this sixty-two word sentence: "Those of mankind who are predestinated unto life , God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without anything in the creature as a condition or cause moving him threreunto."
Article upon article, page upon page, volume upon volume of such stuff has been churned out by the founders, heads, and councils of churches. I once heard a sermon against the use of creeds, in which the preacher had brought with him all the books and documents in his library that were published by various denominations as official statements of their faith and doctrine.
The preacher started stacking the books and documents one upon the other, starting from the floor and naming each one as he placed it on the stack. By the time he had finished, the pile was almost up to his chin. And that consisted only of what he had collected in his own library. He apologised that his library was somewhat short on creed books!
2 Adding Creeds to the Word of God
- The seed. God’s word is "the seed" of the kingdom (Luke 8:5,11). Creeds are not the seed of the kingdom. They are the added seeds of denominations and divisions which pollute the true seed.
- The pure milk. One is "born again... through the living and abiding word of God" (1Pet 1:23,25). God’s word is "the pure milk" by which one grows up to salvation (1Peter 2:2). Creeds are not the pure milk. They are the flavourings added to the pure milk by various denominations.
- The sword. God’s word is the "sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). Creeds are not the sword of the Spirit. They are ineffectual arrows, axes, knives, and spears, fashioned and added by denominations.
3 The Sufficiency of the Scriptures
One of the contradictions of the creeds is that many of them have an article to the effect that the Holy Scriptures are the sole and sufficient rule of faith. That being true, why have creeds?
"All scripture", wrote Paul to Timothy, "is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Timothy 3:16).
We should therefore be content to use the scriptures and let them do their work without interposing any man-made creed.
4 The True Confession of Faith
The true faith is that which "comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). The true confession of faith is "the good confession" that Jesus Christ is Lord (1Timothy 6:12, Romans 10:9-10,17).
Is such faith and confession not enough, that we need creeds, catechisms, and confessions of faith written by men?
Let those of us who would be simply Christians renounce all creeds written by men, and go back to the word of God alone, as our sole and sufficient rule of faith. Let us take up the sword of the Spirit and not weapons of our own making. Let us confess no creed but Christ.