Just another installment as I elaborate on the initial post.

Part 1: The Ideal Church

Part 2: Creeds and Confessions

  • Uses ecenumical creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene, Athanasius, and Chalcedonian) to celebrate and reflect on the overarching themes and truth of scripture.

Why? Well, the early creeds of the church are the only confessions we have that are truly ecenumical, or are held to by the church as a whole. The fact that the church was once in enough agreement to draft and affirm such creeds shows us as we sit within our own particular denominations that we are a small part today of a much larger painting of God’s redemptive history. We weren’t the first to believe the Gospel and be changed by it, and we shouldn’t forget that fact.

Creeds celebrate this unity, and aid us in reflecting in the overarching themes of scripture that cannot be expressed from lone passages of scripture.

It is important to provide transcendence in our worship to remind us of this overarching communion we have with Christians from the past and present. I love the fact that even though we can’t avoid differing on finer points of theology with other Christians, we at least have real unity in the content of the early creeds of the church.

But which creed of the major 4 to use? All of them, I say. The Apostle’s Creed is great in its brevity and utter simplicity. But the Nicene Creed is absolutely beautiful in how it refers to Christ’s eternal nature and substance; “very God of very God, begotten not made, being of the same substance as the Father”. As well, the Athanasian and Chalcedonian Creeds are equally significant because they focused on critical matters of the humanity, deity, and substance of Jesus. All of them testify to watershed moments in our church history when a biblical view was affirmed and thus, heresy rejected. Also by using all of these, it lets us rotate them and guards our tradtion from becoming ritualism as they force us to focus on the words and meditate on them when we employ them in worship.

  • Uses denominational creeds and confessions to further affirm theological convictions corporately, like the Westminster Confession, or the Heidelberg Catechism.

Inevitably, when we venture into more recent confessions in Church’s history they become more theologically divisive than the earliest creeds, and they pit our views of finer points of theology against other denominations or churches views.

Rather than avoid this, I think we should embrace it with a sober frame of mind. Even the simplest of believers operates on theological assumptions of some kind, so we all stand on some form of theological foundation whether we realize it or not. We’re going to have different views of election, the sacraments, perseverance, etc. We should observe the hisorical foundation of our particular branches of Christianity, test it against scripture, meditate on it, and use it as an aid in communicating the overarching themes and truths of scripture that we have inherited through scholasticis. We shouldn’t flee from our differences but study them carefully.

I’m Reformed, so I’m obviously biased towards the Westminster Confession and I don’t apologize for it either. The Westminster Confession of 1646 is arguably the most exhaustive and comprehensive statement of faith ever produced, with the Anglican’s Thirty-Nine Articles coming in a not-so-distant second place. Obviously those outside the Reformed tradition would not embrace every article of it, and even many churches who use it as their statement of faith like mine actually use a slightly revised version from 1789, but overall it has stood the test of time and in many a scholar’s opinion has not been superceded by any confession since.

As far as catechisms go, The Heidelberg Catechism is more brief and succint than the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, which is why I like it more, and it is actually divided into 52 sections that allow it to be read corporately and completed in one year by reading a section every Sabbath. 

One great part of responsive readings or recitations is that they allow the whole congregation to participate. In an age where the church is growing more consumer-minded, and “special music” or dramas take a stronger presence, the reading together of confessions cements very objective ideas in our minds through our participation and allows us to reflect on them, refer to them later, and even memorize them.

Some objections:

Some Christians, young and old, might object to creeds and confessions having a prominent place in worship. Some proclaim “no creed but Christ” which is ridiculous because at some point you have to define specifics about Christ. Some might interject that creeds and confessions are stodgy and don’t reflect our freedom in Christ, or are too exclusive. I’m not going to even touch that one. But overall, I think one of the biggest misconceptions Christians might have about creeds, especially from “missional” or “emerging” Christians; is that they turn away new Christians or “seekers” who see them as dogmatic or confining.

I would argue, to this point, that if someone is truly “seeking” then they are seeking answers, answers to questions they have, objective affirmations of a historic faith, not ooey-gooey feel-good pop culture theology. People in emerging generations crave authentic, historic, transcendent…… and not so much flavor-of-the month expressions of faith. Maybe I’m being generous here, but there is very much a sentiment among younger Christians to break out of the box our parents and grandparents built, but that doesn’t mean doing away with what our ancient spiritual ancestors have produced but connecting with it instead.

So, if people don’t explicitly disagree with creeds (which would put them outside orthodoxy anyway) but are still put off by them, then maybe we should handle them differently. Maybe have a sermon series, or a class, or even just a blurb in the bulletin explaining the nessesity, history, and content of these ancient expressions of the Christian faith so people can have a more distinct connection with the words they are reciting.