It makes me cringe when my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ rant and rave about how we should not assent to any creeds or confessions as Christians. Probably the most common phrase heard regarding this topic is "no creed but Christ!" Interesting. No creed but Christ. That statement is in the Bible nowhere. Soooo...that's called a creed. In one quick phrase, their conviction is both stated and refuted.
Today, through a link sent to me and some subsequent menu clicking, I came across an About Us section on a Christian Web site that claimed:
"The Bible is our authority. No man made confession, or creed, or doctrinal statement of any kind has any authority above the Bible" (http://ebiblefellowship.com/about/)While I agree that nothing has any authority above the Bible (just one of the many reasons why I am no longer a Catholic), the implication here is that creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements themselves should all be abandoned.
There were other things on the site that just made me shake my head as a Christian (they predict that the world will end on May 21, 2011 -- I'm not going to even begin to discuss that here). However, this supposed "non-creedal" position, while at the same time specifically stating their creed, was just flabbergasting to me. Considering they link to an Online Trinity Hymnal (see the footer), it is my assumption that they also hold to Trinitarian beliefs, as do I. The problem here is that the only way to come to the conclusion of a Trinitarian God is by a systematic study of God's Word and then come to a doctrinal position that the Trinitarian view is taught within God's Word. But wait, they don't hold to any "man made...doctrinal statement[s]."
The problem seems to lie in a misunderstanding of the purpose of creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements. It seems to me that "non-creedal" (I put it in quotes, because this position is not actually what it claims to be) Christians think that creedal Christians put their creeds, confessions, and doctrines above the Bible. Though the temptation to do this may certainly be there, the temptation to sin in regards to creeds et al. does not make the creeds themselves sinful. After all, when you walk into a bank, that bank has money in it. Stealing is a sin. So does the temptation you may have to steal the money in the bank make the bank itself sinful? Of course not. Creeds are a quick summary of Christian beliefs. They are always subject to testing by God's Word, and where they conflict, God's Word always wins.
The better creeds and confessions that have been passed down through history have been derived through a great deal of studying the Scriptures by sometimes hundreds of Godly men. For example, as a member of a Bible Presbyterian Church, I subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. There are a couple things that I would possibly word differently, but overall, they are an incredibly helpful set of summaries of the faith. Creeds such as this are filled with relevant and appropriate Scripture references. They are derived from the Scriptures. They may be "man made," but are nonetheless quick summaries of what God teaches through His Holy Word. They do not contradict Scripture, but affirm it.
I would love to hear a "non-creedal" Christian witness to someone without using beliefs that they have come to realize through their study of Scripture. After all, those paraphrased and summarized beliefs that they hold to, those are creeds, confessions, and doctrines.
In reality, there is only one way for the "non-creedal" Christian to fill up their About Us or their What We Believe page. Everything between the brackets below would need to appear on those pages:
[ ]...anything more than that is a creed.