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The old fundamentalist creed runs “We have no creed but Christ, no confession but the Bible”. At first glance this has the appearance of a profound truth. Upon further reflection, it quickly dissimulates into an empty, self-contradictory slogan.
It is obvious that much of evangelical Christendom remains profoundly ignorant of the teachings of the Bible. This ignorance is celebrated as a strength, which is somewhat embarrassing. Let’s explore the notion, “no creed but Christ, no confession but the Bible” a bit further.
The first thing which is immediately apparent is that this pithy statement is itself a creedal statement. The Latin “credo” means “I believe”. A creed is nothing other than a concentrated, distilled summary of what one believes. Therefore creeds are inescapable. Even anti-creeds such as “no creed but Christ, no confession but the Bible” are statements of doctrine and what an individual or a particular church believes.
Secondly, the statement “no creed but Christ, no confession but the Bible” represents a profound stubbornness against the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once grumbled, “It never ceases to astonish me that those who boast so much about relying upon the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit pride themselves upon ignoring what the Spirit has taught the Church over two thousand years.”
Formal creeds and confessions are summaries of what Christians of that day believed to be the Bible’s teaching. That is not to say that all statements in all creeds are, therefore, necessarily faithful to the Bible. That is not the point. Creeds are, after all, not inspired; nor are they infallible. Insofar as the Christians of the day were wrestling with, and humbly submissive to, the absolute and final authority of the Word of God, the historical Christian creeds and confessions are summaries and statements of what a generation of Christians believed the Bible to teach. Moreover, insofar as each successive generation of Christians and churches adopt historical confessions as faithful statements to Christian doctrine creeds become reflections of what generations of Christians believe.
This is how particular creeds become authoritative and normative for Christians. Confessions do not subordinate Scripture to the higher authority of the Church. Rather, they derive their authority from the Scriptures themselves. But insofar as they represent the collective confession of generations of Christians, they hold a much higher authority than what an individual Christian may happen to believe. Confessions represent higher authority than an individual’s convictions about what the Scripture teaches.
If a particular individual Christian were to hold a particular doctrine or teaching which has not been held nor believed by the Church over two thousand years, one presumes that the particular believer has “got it wrong”. Not necessarily so, but almost certainly so. The burden of proving the new doctrine from the Scriptures becomes, in such cases, overwhelming.
Finally, creeds and confessions become extremely helpful short cuts to understanding Scripture’s teaching. Every generation of Christians does not need to go back to “square one” and begin again.
The doctrines of evolutionism imply that the contemporary is superior to what went before. The modern Christian aversion to historical confessions and creeds seems to rely more on evolutionism’s triumphalism concerning the present rather than sound biblical doctrine.
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