A Surprising Act of Humility

Most Christians agree that it is better to be selfless rather than selfish. After all, Paul tells us that we ought to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). The first commandment points in a similar direction: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). “Putting God first,” to say it colloquially, is an inherently selfless act because we are counting God as more significant than ourselves. And this is a good thing. It is good, I think we would all say, to act humbly.

Now let’s consider what is perhaps a very surprising act of humility: local churches adopting and using the historic creeds and confessions of the universal church. I say surprising because it’s not immediately obvious why adopting and using hundred- and thousand-year-old documents is an act of humility. But here’s how Rev. Danny Hyde puts it: “a person who says ‘I have no creed’ and, ‘I just read the Bible,’ ends up interpreting Scripture according to his or her own particular beliefs. Creeds and confessions limit our selfishness and unite our hearts in unselfishness to the Church that has existed throughout the ages” (Hyde, The Good Confession, 17).

In a practical sense, adopting the creeds and confessions is one way for us to be humble because in doing so we are implicitly counting others as more significant than ourselves. We are in essence saying, “the Church’s historic interpretation of the Bible, as well as her historic theological explications, are more important than our own individualistic interpretations and explications.” In other words, the creeds and confessions keep us from “doing what is right in our own eyes” (Judges 21:25) with the Bible and theology. The creeds and confessions combat, therefore, our selfishness and individualism.

(I do not mean to imply that our individual interpretations and explications are always wrong, or are never of any value; nor do I mean to imply that the Church has always fully agreed or that its intrepretations and explications are always faithful to Scripture. I mean only to say that abandoning the creeds and confessions in favor of our own individualistic intrepretations and explications, which seems to be the norm today, is unhelpful at best.)

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