Quick links to
The Creeds

From the Bible
Good Confession
Bible Creeds
Trustworhty Sayings

The Fathers
Gregory Thaumaturgus 

The councils
The Apostles Creed
 The Nicene Creed
The Athanasian Creed

The Reformation

Thirteen Principals


The English word "creed" comes from Latin "credo" ("I believe") the first word of the Apostles' and Nicene creeds.  According to the Anglican Priest who presided over my confirmation class “a creed is a theological digest.” That is, it states in a short form what we believe as Christians. There are three creeds of the Church that are generally accepted by all, these are: The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed and The Athanasian Creed.

I was raised in an noncreedal, nonconfessional and nondoctrinal protestant tradition and, along with many of my brethren, found all things liturgical suspect. Included in this suspicion were the creeds of he Church. This is, of course, a dangerous position. While it does leave you pretty much on your own to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2.12)," it also provides little or no guidance. It is therefore a great way to be "tossed about by every new wave of teaching (Ephesians 4.14)." In fairness to this tradition we did say that we had no creed but Christ. (But we said The Good Confession where an affermation would go in our services.) We said that we were a New Testament Church and where the New Testament speaks we speak and where the New Testament is silent we are silent.  (Another dangerous position as it draws an artificial boundary in God's revelation.) So there we have it; a creed of sorts and a rather vague doctrinal statement.  If you are going to have an organization you really are stuck with some sort of organizing principals. The point being much as many would like to start with a fresh page it is difficult if not impossible to actually do that.

The modern problem with creeds in some quarters is actually similar to the problem that generated the creeds in the first place.  As can be seen from the Councils article the various points of the Nicene Creed were in response to the various heresies of the day.  Those discussions came from wrestling with the teachings of the New Testament:

John said the Word was God (john 1.1), he raised the issue of the deity of Christ long before Nicaea.   When he wrote that "The Word became flesh" (John 1.14) he raised the question of the incarnation long before Chalcedon.  When Paul wrote "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (II Corinthians 13.14), he raised the question of the trinity long before Augustine or the creed of Athanasius. (Ramm p. 57)

The Creeds were largely responses to false teaching in the Church and were formed in the early years and were produced to make it clear where the majority of Christendom stood.  We see statements in the Bible that appear to be creeds, parts of creeds or perhaps quotes from ancient hymns. Many of these are on the "Bible Creeds" and "Trustworthy Sayings" pages. These sorts of basic statements of faith are old and we even see examples in the writings of the Church Fathers for example Clement, Gregory Thaumaturgus and Irenaeus. We need these short sayings because they are easy to remember but they can leave us open to a sort of bumper sticker faith that will be neither sustainable nor rewarding.

We can also have agreement on a creed and not have agreement on the role of tradition. That is where we find ourselves today. During the Reformation various groups produced what they called confessions. These were doctrinal statements the separated the reforming from the Catholic. Because church and state were not separate in Europe at that time many of these were enacted by local town councils.

This problem of codifying our beliefs in a short pithy form is not unique to Christianity we find the Muslims have the Shahada and the Jews the Shema and the Thirteen Principals.  The Shema is right out of the Bible and is more a statement of fact than a statement of faith or a creed.  The formulation of the Thirteen Principals is likely the result of Muslim or perhaps Christian pressure.