This week started off for me with a question from the Monday morning women’s Bible study. It’s always a little unsettling to hear, “Can you come here? We have a question.” But it was a good question, and we had a good time discussing it. The question had to do with the Nicene Creed, which we recently recited together on a Sunday morning. Our church does not have a long history of reciting historic creeds, and there is some wording that seems unusual on first glance. In this case, the question had to do with the sentence, “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” Is that what we believe? Don’t we believe in justification by faith alone?
There are other words and phrases in the historic creeds that are difficult. Most translations of both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds confess belief in the “catholic” church. Catholic? I thought this was a Protestant church! The Apostles’ Creed says that Jesus “descended into hell.” What does that mean? Is it actually taught anywhere in Scripture?
The women’s Bible study suggested that I answer some of these questions in this week’s sermon. That sounds great to me, but it also sounds like a two-hour sermon (at least). What I am planning to do instead is to start another “series” on the historic creeds of the church. (Since I am not the regular preacher, this series will of course take me a while to finish!)
This Sunday, instead of focusing on any of these difficult phrases, I want to look at a bigger question: why use the creeds at all? Isn’t “Scripture alone” enough for us? Why not just say we believe the Bible? Why not just stick with the Restorationist slogan, “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible”?
For now, I’ll just give a short and snarky answer: “no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible” is a creed. It’s just not a very good creed, nor is it a Biblical one. It says nothing about who Christ is or what the Bible teaches. False teachers can and often do claim to be following Christ and the Bible. Creeds function as a “pattern of sound words” for us to follow. They do not replace the authority of the Bible, but they serve as guides and teachers. They help ensure that we are rightly handling the word of truth.