The historic creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene, Athanasian) and confessions (Belgic and Westminster) of the church have been used and cherished by Christians for hundreds of years. The reasons for such use and cherishing vary, but here are three:
Doctrine. The creeds and confessions function as a doctrinal framework for our faith. In other words, they give us summary way to say, “This is what we believe.” The creeds and confessions are either a summary of what the whole Bible teaches in general (Apostle’s), or they are a summary of what the whole Bible teaches on any given subject (Nicene, Athanasian, Belgic, Westminster). Practically speaking, the creeds and confessions help us answer the question, “What do you believe about x, y, or z?” And not only that, but the creeds and confessions also help us separate biblical and true doctrine from unbiblical and false doctrine.
Discipleship. In addition to giving us a summary way to say, “This is what we believe,” the creeds and confessions also give us objective biblical and theological standards into which we can grow. In other words, the creeds and confessions provide us with a way to say, “This is what we believe.” The creeds and confessions aid in our discipleship because they provide the ideal, if you will, categories for our faith. A quick way to gauge how biblically and theologically literate we truly are is to test how well we understand the church’s historic creeds and confessions. Since the creeds and confessions purport to be faithful summaries of either the whole Bible or of parts of the Bible, then we can call ourselves biblically and theologically literate (i.e., we know what’s going on and can read it to understand the meaning) to the extent that we understand the creeds and confessions.
Unity. Finally, the creeds and confessions give the church objective biblical and theological standards for unity. In other words, the creeds and confessions give us a way to say, “This is what we believe.” They provide us with helpful tools to connect to not only other contemporary churches, but also to the historic churches. What we’re doing when we use creeds and confessions is saying, “We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel; rather, we are intentionally uniting ourselves to thousands of other Christian brothers and sisters throughout the ages by means of unified theology.”
So creeds and confessions help us with doctrine, discipleship, and church unity. Those aren’t the only reasons they can be useful, but those three reasons certainly should be enough for us to strongly consider how we might best employ them in our own church contexts, not only for the good of our people, but also for the glory of God.
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