Why are Creeds and Confessions Helpful If We Have The Bible?

In the post modern church a creed or confession is frowned upon. “Give me the Bible, that is all I need” is a common response to the mention of creeds. Funny as that statement may sound, it in itself is a creedal statement. Another reply might be “I do not want to bind anyone’s conscience.” But these and similar reactions do not take into account the role of the creed or confession. They dismiss the creed as a tool that fights against Scripture or attempts to replace Scripture.

Creeds and confessions have not always had this stigma assigned to it, in the past centuries these documents served invaluable to the struggling and growing church. We should not be so quick to reject their voice or their vital role, nor should we reject their current role.

A creed or confession at its basic level is a simple doctrinal statement. When someone says, “I have no creed but the Bible,” they are making a doctrinal statement and thus have just formulated a creed. It does not matter if the creed is several pages long or only a sentence in length. When one makes a doctrinal statement or position known, they have given life to the use of confessions. Herein we have the nature a purpose of all Christian creeds and confessions. They are explicitly designed and intended to establish, assert, and preserve a belief. They accomplish this with greater or lesser precision and to a fuller or lesser degree. They tell us what the church believes and conversely what the church does not believe.

There are many that will claim we are to believe the whole Bible and not just parts of it. They are correct and creeds and confession do not undermine that truth nor attempt to replace Scripture. The easiest way to see what a creed or confession is, is to use the example of the Reader’s Digest. They take books and condense them, giving the reader a quick insight and understanding into the authors book. The main points and events are kept by some of the connecting materials are left out for the sake of brevity. The new summary does not replace the original, nor is it a “perfect” representation, only a representation for the sake of a quick understanding of the author’s book. This is exactly what a creed does, it represents in a quick and easy to understand format. And it is done for the sake of the church and the ability to quickly come to terms as to what is taught and believed.

What is important to remember when using a creed, confession or even a doctrinal statement; at no time does that creed or confession replace or gain authority over Scriputre. Scripture is always the rule for faith and practice. So, we may use creeds and confessions to help us understand what Scripture teaches but we cannot use them in replace of what Scripture teachers or even use them in addition to Scripture. They are only tools to help us understand.