Why do many Christians foolishly argue against creeds, confessions, and catechisms as if they threaten the authority of Scripture?

“Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

It makes little sense to me to argue against creeds. There are Christians who foolishly state, “No creed but Christ” or “No creed but the Bible.” Rather than giving a nod of approval to the necessity of creeds which explain what exactly is believed, they simply reject creeds as if accepting and confessing creeds is somehow compromising the preeminence and authority of Scripture as our rule of faith and life. I would say that creeds are inescapable. They are simply necessary. We cannot propagate the law and the gospel without creeds. Why do I say that? Scripture can be read and heard to say various things. To ensure a correct hearing and believing of a passage of Scripture, God has provided ministers/teachers/shepherds to give the meaning of the passage read. Scripture necessitates explanation. This is seen in Acts 8:26ff with the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch needed someone to explain Isaiah to him, which Philip was glad to do. When Philip taught him, Philip was speaking in credal language.

Nehemiah 8:7–8 (ESV)

Every time a preacher ascends the pulpit to read and explain God’s Word, He is speaking creedally. It is inescapable. The moment he begins to explain the meaning or sense of the Scriptures, he is giving his creed. He is saying, “I believe that this Scripture means this, and here is why I believe it means this.” Explanation is absolutely necessary. God intends it to be done.

Check out the name Duffy Strode. He was a child preacher who appeared on Oprah years ago. On the Oprah show, Duffy stood up and shouted Scripture. They called it preaching. Then, Oprah (and the audience) asked a fair question. They asked Duffy to explain what he just said. In other words, they asked Duffy the kid preacher to explain what he said. He wouldn’t do it. Perhaps we could say, he couldn’t do it. The point of preaching is to give the meaning or sense of the Scriptures so that people can understand and believe.

Creeds exist to explain the truth of God’s Word so that people can understand and believe. In no way are creeds meant to supplant Scripture. Quite opposite. Creeds are meant to be helpful summaries of Scripture to foster a deeper understanding of Scripture. Creeds, by very definition, state, “I believe this is what Scripture means.”

Notice how the Levites in Nehemiah 8 loved and served the people. They not only read the law, but they kindly helped the people understand the sense of the law. They explained the Scripture so that people would understand the Scripture.

You may hear Reformed Christians talk a lot about the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, Westminster Standards, and creeds such as the Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedonian Creeds. They are not making the case that confessions, catechisms, and creeds should replace Scripture. Quite the opposite. Reformed Christians use confessions, catechisms, and creeds to clearly articulate what they believe Scripture teaches. They are being honest to say, “Here is what we all believe is the sense of Scripture.”

I am very thankful that my church is a confessional church. We are anchored to what Christians confessed in ages past which makes us much less inclined to follow the theological trends and fads of today which are oftentimes reappearances of significant theological errors of ages past. Spirit-filled confessional churches are an immense blessing to the world.

If you are not in a confessional church, a church that anchors its doctrine to the ecumenical creeds, Reformed confessions and creeds, even confessions like the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith or the Book of Concord 1580, consider asking your ministers/pastors/elders why your church is not confessional? Question your church leaders as to why doctrinal bullet points on a website are sufficient. Could your church’s doctrine change significantly if you got a new pastor? Maybe God will use your humble, loving, and wise counsel to help your church anchor to a clear, compelling, and true confession or creed.

About the author

Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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