Why Christians Need Confessions, Part 7
Why do Christians need creeds and confessions? “5. It is an argument of no small weight in favor of Creeds, that the experience of all ages has found them indispensably necessary.” (Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions; an 1824 address to the students of Princeton Seminary.)
Even in the time of the Apostles, “—men, calling themselves christians, and professing to preach the religion of Christ, perverted his truth, and brought ‘another gospel,’ which He had not taught.” (Miller)
These early Christians were taught, not just to be content with a general profession of belief in the religion of Christ, but to “examine and try them” to see whether or not their teaching was agreeable to the “form of sound words” which they had been taught by him. The Apostles themselves encouraged that those who taught others should be examined in their teaching. “Here was, in effect, an instance, and that by Divine warrant, of employing a Creed as a test of orthodoxy:” (Miller)
As the history of the Church progressed we see Creeds and Confessions more formally drawn out and extensive. Irenaeus (second century), Tertullian, Origin, Cyprian, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and Lucian the Martyr (third century). By the fourth century we see the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. speak directly against the heresy of Arius. Arius danced around words and phrases claiming to believe in the Bible, but it wasn’t until this council drew up a Confession of Faith and asked Arius and his disciples to subscribe to it that they refused.
Many in all ages claim to profess their belief in the Bible, but what they believe is a matter of debate. The Bible doesn’t give us the option of a “this is what the Bible means to me” interpretation. God delivered His Words to man through the pages of Holy Scripture and we do not have the freedom to interpret them how we wish. I love to quote the words of a friend of mine, Pastor Jason Wallace from Salt Lake City, Utah, “If you come up with a new and novel interpretation of the Bible that the Church has not believed for 2000 years, you are probably the one who is wrong.”
“When the friends of truth in all ages and situations, even those who were most tenacious of the rights of private judgment, and most happy in the enjoyment of christian liberty, have invariably found it necessary to resort to the adoption of Creeds in order to ascertain for themselves, as a social body, and to communicate to others, for their benefit, their sense of the Holy Scriptures; we are naturally led to conclude, not only that the resort is neither so “unreasonable” nor so “baneful” as many would persuade us to believe; but that there is really no other practicable method of maintaining unity and purity in the church of Christ.” (Miller)
In other words, without Creeds and Confessions there is no unity and purity in the Church.