- ReadMIBC CHURCHLIFE19 July 2021
CREEDS, CONFESSIONS, CATECHISMS
Strong conviction has a desire to be proclaimed (Luke 6:45). As disciples, we have a command from our king to make known the faith that is within us, and to make ourselves known as followers of Christ, and to lead others to Him by the influence of our testimony.
This is the origin of the Creed. They emerge from the deepest recesses of the church’s conviction. It’s often considered that creeds are forged in the midst of controversy. There would have been creeds even if there had been no doctrinal controversies. But Schaff thinks otherwise, “There would have been creeds even if there had been no doctrinal controversies.” For example, we see the earliest creeds in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23-26), the Baptismal confession (Matt 28:19), and several other paragraphs of high Christology (i.e., Col 1:15-20; 1 Cor 15:15). Now the church is not founded on creeds, but on Christ. Yet it is men and women who confess Christ, and in this duty, we model Peter who confesses “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mat 16:16). James reminds us that faith without works is dead, and so we could also say, faith without confession is dead.
Although confessions existed in scripture before the major controversy of the early church fathers, when controversies did arise concerning the meaning of scripture, it became necessary to provide formal definition and clarification to help in the public teaching of the church, and to help guard against error. In this way, the collective work of creeds was gradually enlarged.
- ReadMIBC CHURCHLIFE15 June 2021
CREEDS, CONFESSIONS, CATECHISMS
In the last newsletter, I started to write about creeds, confessions, and catechisms and began to answer the question “why do we have creeds?” A primary answer is to articulate our beliefs. But we can take a step further back and ask, “what does it mean to believe?”
Many people today would use the word ‘believe’ to describe their feelings or to describe their hopes and desires. But when we consider the word from a Biblical perspective, ‘believe’ or ‘faith’ implies God’s gracious work on our behalf, and our acceptance of trusting in our savior, which involves our heart, mind, and will. Our beliefs should govern our entire lives. However, some Christians have relegated this ‘belief’ to only a small aspect of their life, such as private worship. But a belief that captures our heart, will, and mind will flow into all areas of life. This overflow of faith is the essential nature of faith itself. We believe, confess and proclaim. Belief captures and animates all of our life, not simply one percent of it. James tells us this in his letter:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27)
The point being, if our mouths and our lives don’t demonstrate what we believe, then we are deceiving ourselves in our hearts. In fact, James uses a word that often has negative baggage, namely, ‘religious.’ James uses the word to describe the all-encompassing ‘Christian faith and life.’ Rightly understood, the definition of ‘religion’ is ‘what we believe along with how we live it out.’ Herman Bavinck writes, “Religion must not just be something in one’s life, but everything.
What we believe influences what we think, how we act, and the desires that drive our reason for acting. Christians who minimise their faith, to a private or intellectual faith, are attempting the impossible. Either they don’t possess true faith, or they will soon find that their belief must flow into all areas of their life. Religion cannot remain merely in a vertical relationship between ‘me and God,’ it can’t help but express itself with ‘me and others.’
Christian doctrine (teaching), by nature of originating from the creator, by nature encompasses all of our lives and is set forth in the pages of scripture. Creeds, therefore, help to summarise the doctrine, devotion, and practice of the Christian religion. All of Christ for all of life!
- ReadMIBC CHURCHLIFE7 June 2021
CREEDS, CONFESSIONS, CATECHISMS
While my theological convictions rest thoroughly within the distinctives of the Baptist tradition, one of the aspects of church history that I often mourn in modern baptist practice is the loss of creeds, catechisms, and confessions. It’s largely a loss within the last several decades, as these articles of faith have all been used by Baptists in the past. The most well-known of these is the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith and The Baptist Catechism. Recently, I’ve had a number of discussions with people about the use and benefit of these articles of the faith. So I thought I’d write about how these documents have benefited past Christians and can benefit us today.
WHY DO WE HAVE CREEDS
A foundational question that everyone needs to answer is “what do you believe?” Regrettably, in our post-Christian and postmodern (even post-truth age), the question has been changed to “how do you feel?” But the Christian life is first and foremost guided by truth, never by feelings. In God’s wisdom, He created us not only with the capacity to believe truth but with the capacity to explore, examine and express our beliefs. However, not all ‘truths’ are equal. C.S. Lewis wrote in his most excellent book, "The Abolition of Man," “An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations … is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.” Someone with an undiscerning mind between ultimate authority and lesser authorities, will as Paul says “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).
Christians have used creeds because everyone believes something, and even more to the point, everyone believes something about God (Rom 1:19). If everyone believes something about God, the question is then, “what do we believe about God?” To which we say “I believe” or in latin “credo” (creed). Augustine famously said in ‘Confessions’ “our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” To rest in God, we need to know and believe something about God, whether that be something verbal or written, formal or informal, Christians throughout the ages have endeavored to articulate what we believe, and the truth in which our heart and hope rest. Young children demonstrate that we are creedal by nature, they know they are loved by their parents, and so when they can speak, naturally articulate a phrase like, “mummy, I love you.” The question is not, “are we creedal”, but rather, what do we “believe in our creeds?”
Now that my girls are getting older and more savvy using technology, I have been aware of the need to install filtering software on our computers. Audrey, in a recent conversation, made me aware of software called 'Canopy.' The Gospel Coalition has written an article on why it may be more beneficial than other software available, namely, that it actively filters our images and videos within websites, not simply websites. We are currently trialling it and so it may be beneficial to you if you are aware of the same need.
LOGOS FREE BOOK OF THE MONTH
There weren't too many books that caught my attention on this month's free and discounted books. On the Academic page, I personally picked up "The handy guide to New Testament Greek." There may be a few other books that interest you.
On the general readers, there's a free book titled "Redeeming Money" by David Tripp, that may interest some people, along with a book on sanctification, Christian community, and church history.