I recall a few years ago a friend of mine was doing an essay on the Creeds and the essay question was leading a response to be somewhat negative regarding the Creeds. My friend, in following the lead of the question, began to tell me that the Creeds are not written in the scripture and so we shouldn’t hold them authoritatively. He continued to tell me that because they are repetitive they cause people to tune out and not actively think about what they believe. He argued faith becomes a script and not something that is lived out.
After my initial outburst “What!” and then a laugh, I proceeded to talk with my friend about the safety and biblical strength of the Creeds. The 39 articles of religion at the back of the Prayer Book give us a good answer as to why the Creeds are authoritative even though not themselves recorded in the Bible.
ARTICLE VIII of the Creeds: The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.
So, while the Creeds are not recorded in the Bible as presented to us, the scripture has within it all of the Creeds and as such the Creeds reflect the early Christian teaching. Consequently, the Creeds can be said to be authoritative as they accurately and succinctly represent scripture’s main thrust and message.
As for my friend’s objection regarding repetition, I wonder if he feels the same way about drinking water. Just because you repeat something, doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing, especially if you know that it is good for you and as you are repeating the event or action you are telling yourself how important this is. I do understand the point my friend was making, that, at times, it can appear to be true that people who use repeating liturgy and Creeds may be just going through the motions and it may not necessarily affect their Christian lives. This is true, but it is also true for the churches without liturgy or Creeds, that their members can engage with the worship on the surface level but not let it necessarily change their spiritual lives for the better. This constant danger of not engaging with the service is a good reminder to all of us, no matter which church tradition we come from, to fully engage our hearts and minds when we worship. Let’s not just go through the motions, but rather interact with the ancient message as it’s presented today, so that it can continue to change and renew us from within, as it connects us to the life of God through Jesus our king.
Trev Bell is Associate Minister at Holy Trinity Bendigo