The creeds are a teaching instrument. Some churches are exposed to very little doctrine. These short creeds summarize concisely the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Once we repeat them over and over, week by week, they become part of our being. They are brief and succinct. They contain orthodox statements that we never forget.
Being a retired Presbyterian Church in America minister I now have the opportunity to speak at various churches in the PCA. I have attended a variety of worship services from traditional to contemporary. It’s been a learning experience for me. There is a great deal of variety in PCA worship services.
There is one thing that greatly concerns me about most of the worship services that I attend. There is no congregational confession of the Apostles’ Creed (or even the Nicene Creed or others like the Westminster Creed). It seems that we have become creedless in both traditional and contemporary worship services. In a sense, it almost appears that the Apostles’ Creed has died a death by mere silence.
When there is an absence of the congregational reading of the Apostles’ Creed (and others) in our worship services, it concerns me for the following reasons.
- We lose the opportunity for the congregants to publicly profess the fundamentals of their Christian Faith each Sunday using their own tongues. Reading the words publicly encourages a greater participation of the congregation in the worship service.
- The creeds are a teaching instrument. Some churches are exposed to very little doctrine. These short creeds summarize concisely the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Once we repeat them over and over, week by week, they become part of our being. They are brief and succinct. They contain orthodox statements that we never forget.
- We disconnect ourselves from our history. In our attempt to be modern and contemporary, we have detached ourselves from church history. The creeds originated from the early stages of the Christian Church. They have a long and tried history. They have endured for many hundreds of years. It is overwhelming to know that as we repeat the creeds, not only do we fellowship with other members of the congregation, but we also fellowship with a long line of Christians down through the ages, some who gave their lives for the beliefs that we confess.
- We lose an opportunity to teach our children as they grow up in the church. Our children may be the worst casualties. There is little doctrine taught in the church and at home. Sunday School literature is often full of simple biblical narratives or moral maxims. I am afraid that we are cheating our young people by not ingraining these basic theological truths into their hearts and minds. It’s a sad state of affairs when our children are disconnected from both the history of the church and basic Christian doctrine. When the creeds are professed publicly our children retain them for the rest of their lives. They become familiar with orthodoxy from an early age.
Maybe I am mistaken and the Apostles’ Creed (and others like the Nicene Creed and Westminster Creed) has not died a death by silence. I can only hope that I am wrong.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.