Why Christians Need Confessions, Part 6
Why do Christians need creeds and confessions? “4. Another argument in favor of Creeds publicly adopted and maintained, is that they are friendly to the study of Christian doctrine and of course, to the prevalence of Christian knowledge.” (Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions; an 1824 address to the students of Princeton Seminary.)
Miller makes the argument that those who are enemies of Creeds state that all those who believe the Bible ought to, without further inquiry, unite; to maintain ecclesiastical communion; and to live together in peace. However, the only way to overlook these doctrinal differences is to become indifferent to the truth. “…in other words, by becoming persuaded that modes of faith are little or no practical importance to the church,…” (Miller)
When we begin to be indifferent to the truth we then neglect the study of it. You may have all heard the phrase before, “a mile high and an inch deep.” Unfortunately there is a shallowness in Christianity where men have stopped studying the theology of the Bible in-depth. Many modern Bible studies drift into self-help groups that could in essence do the same thing with or without the Scriptures. Much of the rejection of Creeds and Confessions in our modern world is not a rejection of a Creed per se, but it is a rejection of the authority of the Word of God. To claim to love Christ and His bride, the church, and only having a smattering of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is to ignore the other 62 books of the Bible that God has given to us for our good.
“The fact is, when men love gospel truth well enough to study it with care, they will soon learn to estimate its value; and when they learn to estimate its value, they will soon be disposed to “contend for it,” against its enemies, who are numerous in every age; and this will inevitably lead them to adopt and defend that “form of sound words” which they think they find in the sacred Scriptures.” (Miller)
Not all who claim that “the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and manners” are standing on solid and safe ground. To claim that we all believe the Bible does not equate with a unity of belief. In the controversy which led to the founding of the OPC, those in the PCUSA all claimed that they were holding to the truths of Scripture, and that they were subscribing to the same Confession of Faith, but just what each side meant by those words was vastly different.
The concerns that Miller addressed to the students of Princeton are just as concerning in the Church today 193 years later. May God give us all a desire to study and to contend for the faith “once for all” delivered to the saints. If you have never read completely through the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, I encourage you to take some time and do that. This is the standard of doctrine to which your church adheres. We believe that this is an accurate summary of what the Scriptures teach.
2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” We are to grow in grace AND knowledge. To do that, we need to devote ourselves to the study of God’s Word. I have heard many people say, “Of course I believe the Bible is true,” but then if you ask them if they have read all the way through it, most have not. God has given us His Word; may we learn to love it more and more.