The Church needs creeds. Why? Because many that have come and will come, professing the name of Christ have distorted, denied, confused, altered, twisted, perverted the precious truths of God’s Word. And we live in an age where Christians, for many reasons, remain largely uninformed about biblical truths. Creeds were needed then and most certainly now. As C. FitzSimons Allison explains:
As the story of the good news spread into the Mediterranean world, a variety of misrepresentations of and omissions from the gospel occurred. The church quite early found it necessary to set limits and to correct teachings that threatened the Christian experience, contradicted the gospel and fed on the human temptations to flight and self-centeredness. These limits are called creeds. Obviously Jesus did not go around with a blackboard with the creeds written on it, letting his disciples ask questions and explaining the meaning of his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as the relationship between his divinity and is humanity. He did not ask the disciples for assent to propositions about himself. The creeds were only gradually developed to distinguish the Christian faith from Docetic and Adoptionist twists. Those who attempted to take the faith into either of these two direction were called heretics (from haireo- to choose) who chose for themselves an interpretation contrary to that received by the faithful whose lives had been radically changed. Heretics actually made a contribution to this process by forcing the Christian Church both to set some limits on what could properly be called “Christian” and to preserve the essentials of the story of Jesus Christ so that the faithful would not be led into the destructive directions of flight or self-centeredness.*
Take for example the Heidelberg Catechism. Although not technically a creed it still has a similar function and answers some basic questions concerning essential Christian doctrine. For example question 40:
Question 40. Why was it necessary for Christ to humble himself even unto death?
Answer. Because with respect to the justice and truth of God, satisfaction for our sins could be made no otherwise than by the death of the Son of God.*
Or question 56:
Question 56. What believest thou concerning “the forgiveness of sins?”
Answer. That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long, but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
It is amazing that if those simple questions were asked today, many a believer would struggle to give a correct answer. Yet, this catechism has been around since the sixteenth century and has simplified, without diluting, answers to basic Christian doctrines. Oh, we need creeds now just as much as ever! They help protect us from strange teachings and they protect the flock from people like this and this who mock the faithful that love the Word of God.
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Ti 4:1–5). Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
* C. FitzSimons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy ( Harrisburg, PA: 1994), p. 49-50
*Ursinus, Z., & Williard, G. W. (1888). The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (219). Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company.
* Ursinus, Z., & Williard, G. W. (1888). The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (305). Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company.