Who Needs Creeds When I’ve Got a Bible?

An Excerpt from What Christians Ought to Believe

The problem is that it is no good just to say, “We believe the Bible!” Noble as that might sound, it runs into several problems. The fact is that many groups claim to believe the Bible, including Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and many more. Yet you cannot help but notice that these groups do not always agree on what the Bible teaches. Most of the time these differences are fairly inconsequential, but other times the differences are absolutely gigantic. Whether we should baptize babies or only believing adults is significant, but is hardly going to shake the foundations of the cosmos. Whether Jesus was an archangel who briefly visited earth or the coequal and coeternal Son of God who was incarnated as a man makes an immense difference, with a whole constellation of things riding on it.

 

Many Christians look questionably upon traditional church confessions, proclaiming “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible!”

In today’s excerpt from What Christians Ought to Believe, author Michael F. Bird explains that creeds are not only biblical, but also critical for identifying what scripture says about God, Jesus, salvation, and the life of the age to come.

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I used to provide regular supply preaching for a warm and intimate fellowship of Christians in the Free Church tradition. I cheekily smiled to myself whenever I read their bulletin because it always had on it the words, “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.” The irony, of course, is that those words are not found in the Bible. This delightful group of saints had in fact turned their pious motto into a type of extrabiblical creed. Their genuine concern not to court controversy over creeds led to the formation of their own anticreedal creed as it were.

Hesitation about the value of the ancient creeds for modern Christians is quite understandable. If your only experience of creeds is mindless repetition, if you’ve been exposed to seemingly esoteric debates about technical theological jargon that does not appear relevant to anything, if you’ve ever been confused about how the creeds relate to what the Bible actually says, or if you think that the whole process of writing creeds and confessions just becomes divisive, then you may certainly be excused for some misgivings about creeds.

The problem is that it is no good just to say, “We believe the Bible!” Noble as that might sound, it runs into several problems. The fact is that many groups claim to believe the Bible, including Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and many more. Yet you cannot help but notice that these groups do not always agree on what the Bible teaches. Most of the time these differences are fairly inconsequential, but other times the differences are absolutely gigantic. Whether we should baptize babies or only believing adults is significant, but is hardly going to shake the foundations of the cosmos. Whether Jesus was an archangel who briefly visited earth or the coequal and coeternal Son of God who was incarnated as a man makes an immense difference, with a whole constellation of things riding on it.

If you do believe the Bible, then sooner or later you have to set out what you think the Bible says.

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