“No creed but the Bible!”
“Deeds not creeds!”
Catchy sayings. Biblical? Partially. The revelation of Holy Writ reveals the inspiration, the inerrancy and therefore the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible also reveals that we’re not saved by deeds or good works(Ephesians 2:8-9) but nonetheless saved unto good works(Ephesians 2:10). James actually says that the proof or evidence of a living, saving faith is good works(James 2:14-26). Simply stated a said faith is a dead faith. Show me what you believe.
But the thrust of these 2 catchy sayings is to downplay and negate the importance of creeds. The Westminster Confession. The Heidelberg Confession. The Belgic Confession. The Nicene Creed. The 1689 Baptist Confession. Confessional Christianity is that which believes in creeds and confessions. But why? Let me suggest two reasons.
First of all, the creeds and confessions are important because they were forged during times of heretical teaching in church history, thus serving to crystallise theology.
One particular example is Arianism(325). Arius used Hebrews 1: 5-6 to try to prove that the Son was generated from the Father and thus had a beginning; the first being created by God. The Council of Nicea was called to discuss this controversy. The focus was clearly on the 2nd person of the Trinity. The Council concluded that Christ was “of the same substance” as the Father.
“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made;”
To combat the heresy perpetrated by Arius, God raised up a man by the name of Athanasius, who vigorously defended the Deity of Christ.
“The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.”
Athanasian Creed(4th Century)
Now let me remind you that Arius used Scripture to come to his heretical position. And that is why the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed were so vital in crystallising what Scripture meant by the term “begotten”. Without this crystallised thinking of the creeds, we can be easily tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, a mark of spiritual children, not the spiritually mature.
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Secondly, creeds and confessions are important because heretical teaching in church history is cyclical.
Many of the heresies that the early church faced have come around full circle. One such heresy from the early church was Sabellianism, which in essence denied the Trinity. Today it has come around again through false teachers like T.D. Jakes, who by the way has made inroads into evangelical circles thanks to so called conservative and Reformed pastors like James MacDonald. It is known as modalism because the teaching says that God appears in one of three modes, Father OR Son OR Holy Spirit. So there is a denial of the Triune God as revealed in the Bible.
I recall engaging a modalist in conversation once. I asked him who Jesus was addressing on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” or “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I begged the question further in asking who Jesus was talking to when He prayed for example in the Garden of Gethsemane or in His High priestly prayer recoded in John 17. I said to him that if I believed his modalistic view of God I would naturally conclude that Jesus was schizophrenic. I admit I was in rare NoCo mode that day.
To not be a confessional Christian who reads and studies some of the great creeds and confessions of the Church is to be ignorant of the heresies during which the creeds were forged and is to be susceptible to heresies that attack your spiritual life “by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”