Thinking it through

Confessions then and now: Read, mark, inwardly digest

Confessions then and now: Read, mark, inwardly digest
Source: Pixabay
Stephen Rees
Stephen Rees Stephen Rees is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Stockport.
01 April, 2023 15 min read

In part 1 I introduced the subject of creeds and confessions: summaries of Christian teaching adopted by a church or group of churches as an official statement of what they believe. I also mentioned catechisms: summaries of doctrine presented in question and answer form.

I tried to show you that both the Old and New Testament Scriptures include examples of concise, memorable summaries of key truths, intended to be passed on from one generation to another. The Bible itself makes clear that God’s people need such fixed statements of truth.

So, following the example of the Bible writers, all through history churches have drawn up and used creeds, confessions, and catechisms.

Of course the summaries that have been drawn up since new Testament times don’t have the same authority as the summaries which the apostles drew up. The apostles were infallible in their teaching. They were foundation stones for the whole Church. The bishops who met at Nicaea and Chalcedon or the theologians who met at Dordt or the elders who met at the Westminster Assembly were by no means infallible. So we don’t treat any of the creeds and confessions they authored as having the same total authority as Scripture.

But we still treat them with great respect. After all, Scripture promises that God will raise up people in his church with special gifts, including gifts of teaching. Well, if the Lord in his providence makes it possible for many of the teachers he’s raised up to meet together to discuss points of doctrine, then surely we ought to take their findings very seriously.

Confessions then and now: Do we need creeds and confessions?
We tend to use the phrase confessions if they’re long statements of twenty, thirty, forty, pages. We tend to use the word creeds if they’re short statements, just a page or two. But the two terms really mean the same thing: summaries of what we confess and believe. And we can also include catechisms…
How do we use the great creeds and confessions today? Well, we use them in all sorts of different ways. But let me suggest six.
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