THE SEEDS OF CREEDS

PMW 2021-006 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.

Though they are not on a par with Scripture itself, the ecumenical creeds are important instruments for securing, promoting, and defending the Christian faith. They are designed to secure the faith by outlining the broad doctrinal borders of true Christianity by defining the basics of what historic Christianity believes. They promote the faith by succinctly summarizing it so that the whole Bible does not have to be read and explained in order to present the gospel of salvation to unbelievers. They defend the Christian faith by exposing corruption entering into some of its basic biblical doctrines by means of confusion or heresy.

On a smaller scale, church confessions (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith) secure, promote, and defend the basics of Presbyterianism. Church confessions outline the distinctives of a particular body of Christians, whereas the ecumencial creeds outline the distinctives of the Christian faith as a particular worldview among men.

The concept of creeds arise in Scripture itself. Certainly no law in Scripture explicitly commands “Thou shalt frame creeds.” Nevertheless, the impetus and mandate for creeds derives from good and necessary inferences deduced from Scripture.

We can demonstrate this in a variety of ways, three of which will suffice for our present purpose.

First, the biblical call for a public affirmation of faith

The call for a public affirmation of faithserves as the prime impetus to creedalism.

The essence of Christian duty is to be a witness (Acts 1:8). This requires publicly defining the exact identity of that to which the Christian is witness. Obviously reciting the entire Scripture record at a given opportunity of witness is not possible. Furthermore, only God can look into the hearts of individuals to ascertain their innermost faith (1 Sam. 16:7; Luke 16:15). Thus, for others to know of an individual’s personal faith it is necessary to put it into words. “With the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:10). Hence, the necessity of a creed in defining the content of belief.


Lord of the SavedLord of the Saved
(by Ken Gentry)

A critique of easy believism and affirmation of Lordship salvation. Shows the necessity of true, repentant faith to salvation.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Second, mini-creeds are found in Scripture

Mini-creeds are preserved in the biblical record of apostolic Christianity itself.

The very seeds of a full-blown creedalism are sown in the apostolic era via terse statements of faith which are widely employed. Perhaps the most familiar of these rudimentary creeds is the recurring one embedded in such texts as Acts 10:36; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; and Philippians 2:11: “Jesus is Lord.” This eminently important statement embodies — “encreeds,” if you will — a particular way of viewing Jesus Christ. It is fundamentally necessary to hold as one’s credo: “I believe Jesus is Lord.”

Third,the apostolic church used creeds

Within the biblical record we find early ecclesiastical assemblies re-casting already known truths to ensure their accurate preservation and transmission.

Acts 15 is the locus classicus in this regard. There the Church restates “justification by faith” in response to a Christian-Pharisaic pressure demanding the circumcision of Gentile converts (cf. Acts 15:1).

After noting several such situations in Scripture, nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian theologian James Bannerman observes:

“Such, within the age of inspiration itself, are the remarkable examples we have of the necessity, growing out of the circumstances of the Church and its members, that arose at different times for recasting the doctrines of Scripture in a new mold, and exhibiting or explaining it afresh under forms of language and expression more precisely fitted to meet and counteract the error of the times.”

Thus the concept of creedalism is a Scriptural one that in no way diminishes the authority of Scripture or implies its inadequacy.


The Truth about Salvation By Ken Gentry

A study guide for personal or small group Bible study. Deals with the Christian doctrine of salvation from a Reformed theological perspective. It opens with a study of God as loving Creator, the shows how the first man fell into sin. Shows God’s righteousness requires that sin be dealt with. Presents Jesus as both God and man so that he can be man’s Savior. Includes review questions and questions for further study.Twelve chapters are ideal for one quarter of Sunday School.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


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2 thoughts on “THE SEEDS OF CREEDS

  1. Jason Elliott January 21, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Thank you for this interesting post, Dr. Gentry. Do you think that Ephesians 4:11-16 could also be an appropriate defense for creating creeds? There are so many “non-denom” churches these days that have no standards and are all over the place theologically. Congregations with the name “Presbyterian” or “Baptist” almost seem meaningless any more.

  2. Kenneth Gentry January 22, 2021 at 10:24 am

    I do believe this passage supports the idea of creedalism.

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