“No Creed, but the Bible”

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When I first became aware of the opening for the senior pastorate here at ADBC almost twenty-three years ago, I failed to respond to it immediately (I actually prayed and waited three weeks before I sent them my resume). The reason for this hesitation revolved around a phrase I had written in “the doctrinal statement section” of my resume, which read, “I hold substantially to the doctrines recovered at the Reformation which are best stated in the creeds, confessions and catechisms produced during and shortly thereafter that time.”

To my great joy, shortly after the Lord opened the door for me to come minister here at ADBC, a couple of the elders told me that it was that phrase, especially, which initially moved them to consider me as a candidate. In other words, our elders back then and even more so today, continue to be creedal, confessional, and catechetical men. That is, we see the usefulness of such summaries of the faith, as the 1689 Baptist Confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, and the warm Heidelberg Catechism, to assist God’s people here in the study of God’s Word. These time-tested and historically-preserved bodies of “human comment” (and therefore, not beyond future revision) are wonderfully-edifying and Scripturally-supported study manuals, to be mined by every believer. Why? Because our forefathers, who wrote them, were also gifts from Christ to us today (Ephesians 4:7-16)! Dear reader, we must never close our hearts to learning from God’s choice servants of the past (Jeremiah 6:16). However, in reading through these statements of faith, we must always guard our hearts against treating them as our “father” (Subscriptionism), by always remembering that they are our “brothers” (Confessionalism), in so far as they follow the Bible. Further, we must never view them, either irresponsibly or intentionally, as being para-Scriptural documents (Jude 3), which are beyond our testing of their Scriptural veracity — Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1. In fact, we at ADBC have continued to be so inspired by their Scriptural soundness, that we actually consulted many of these documents during the process of writing our church’s confessional statements, and will do so in our upcoming revisions of them. The following words of Robert L. Dabney, is still very helpful toward a right response to our this topic: “As man’s mind is notoriously fallible, and professed Christians who claim to hold to the Scriptures ... differ from each other ... some platform for union and cooperation must be adopted, by which those who believe they are truly agreed, may stand and work together.” Therefore, sound Evangelical creeds, confessions, and catechisms, serve well this purpose. Finally, beware of the all-to-common phrase, “No Creed, but the Bible”. It sounds like pious words, but when examined carefully, with Scripture, it proves to be not only a creed itself; but, a very  dangerous one! Why? Because being unwritten, it cannot be examined, and therefore, Scripturally-tested. Oh may our study of God’s Words, and His dealings with His people in history, move us to always aim for a more creedal, confessional, and catechetically-supported Christianity – for God’s glory alone! 

 

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