Summary: What does it mean to have "no creed but Christ?"
OPEN: Years ago I supply preached for a small country church that had about 35 in attendance. They weren’t part of our brotherhood, but they liked me and asked me to consider becoming their preacher. At the time I was candidating for another church, but that church hadn’t yet made up their minds to hire me. So, I told the little country church that if the 1st church didn’t hire me, I liked them really well and was more than willing to consider working with them.
Since this small country church wasn’t part our brotherhood I asked to look at their by-laws to make sure there wasn’t anything I had to consider before actually saying "yes" to them. They handed me a document roughly 10 pages in length and I took it home to read it over. They by-laws seemed fairly normal (essentially what ours might look like) until I got to the back pages.
I swear to you, the last 2/3rds of their constitution consisted of their church’s doctrine. Coming from the Church of Christ, I’d never seen anything like it.
Now, granted, most of it was fairly common Bible doctrine - things that we’d have no problems with. But there was just enough within this statement of theology that I felt was questionable and hard to justify. So when I met with their leadership the next week I told them if I came to work for them there would a few things I’d want to change in their constitution’s doctrinal statements.
“Oh no” one of the sighed, “the last 3 preachers have wanted to change our doctrine.”
And I could see why, it was so intricate and exhaustive, nobody could agree with all of it. But I tried to reassure them that the change I wanted to make was very simple…and nobody would ever see a need to change it ever again. My suggestion was very straightforward… I wanted them to scrap the entire section on doctrine and replace it with one statement:
“Where the Bible speaks, we will speak and where the Bible is silent, we will be silent”
Then they were silent for a moment or two. At last one of them said “We can live with that.”
APPLY: What that church had was a “Creed”. It was a doctrinal statement of what others had to believe in order to belong to their congregation.
Down thru the ages many churches have employed…
· Creeds (short pithy documents describing their group’s beliefs)
· Confessions (longer descriptions of those beliefs, usually in book form)
· Catechisms (series of questions designed to teach new members their beliefs)
By contrast, our brotherhood has been traditionally opposed to Creeds, confessions and catechisms. In their place we have “mottos” such as
· “Where the Bible speaks we speak, where the Bible is silent, we’re silent”
· “We’re not the only Christians, but we intend to be Christians only”
· And - of course – the motto we’re discussing this morning: “No Creed but Christ, no Book but the Bible, and No Law but Love”
Many within our brotherhood have explained their frustration with Creeds by saying that:
“If a Creed says less than the Bible does… it says too little. AND if it says more than what the Bible says… it says too much.”
Until I began preparing for this morning’s sermon, I had never examined this issue in any depth. But in my preparation, I did a fair amount of research on line about Creeds and such - not just from our brotherhood’s point of view, but also from the denomination’s that embraced these tools.
In the course of my research I found many of these.
Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, The Augsburg Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort; the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, the Shorter Catechism, the 39 Articles of Faith, and so on.
Defenders of creeds, confessions and catechisms say these documents accomplish several things:
· First – they believe that Creeds protect the church against heresy.
The reasoning is: If we ALL know what we believe, we’ll know false teaching when we see it. In fact, creeds came into being to begin with: to combat the heresies the church has faced over the ages.
· Secondly – they maintained that Creeds helped define what their congregation or denomination believed.
“Creed” comes from the Latin “credo,” which means “I believe.”
By this definition, our church mottos could justifiably be called “creeds”.
And our church (as well as others) also have “statements of faith” that we put on the back of our bulletins, and on our websites. These also could reasonably be called “creeds”.
So… if creeds have served to protect the church over the ages, and if our “statements of faith” and our mottos could be reasonably called “creeds” why would our brotherhood be so anti-creedal in our teachings.