Brethrenism and Creeds -- By: Thomas Julien

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: Brethrenism and Creeds
Author: Thomas Julien

Brethrenism and Creeds

Thomas Julien

The most distinctive characteristic of the Brethren movement has been its vigorous opposition to creedalism and its commitment to the Bible as the sole authority. By recognizing this heritage and realizing the problems of creedalism, the Brethren may avoid adopting superficial solutions for the challenges of the present and pass on their heritage to future generations. Specifically, the Brethren must view their Statement of Faith and their practices as aligned with the authoritative Scripture and not as binding in and of themselves. This will promote true fellowship among the Brethren.

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Brethrenism has roots both in the Reformed movement and in German pietism. Although he was born to reformed parents, Alexander Mack, the founder of the Brethren movement, was strongly influenced by such pietists as Hochman, whom he accompanied on some preaching missions. In a sense, however, Brethrenism was a reaction to both movements. Protesting the cold creedalism of the reformed churches and the excessive spiritualizing of the pietists, the founders of Brethrenism believed that total obedience to Jesus Christ required the formation of a visible body of believers faithful to the biblical pattern. As Brumbaugh said, “Rejecting on one hand the creed of man, and on the other hand the abandonment of ordinances, they turned to the Bible for guidance. From God’s Word they learned that ordinances were vital and creed unnecessary.”1

It is healthy for the Brethren to review, from time to time, their anticreedalistic heritage in order that they might appreciate it and perpetuate it. It is also good for them to review the dangers of creedalism so that they might avoid adopting superficial solutions for the challenges of the present.

Brethren and Creedalism

The vigorous opposition of the early Brethren to creedalism has probably become the most distinctive characteristic of the Brethren movement. As the Report of the Committee on Recommending Procedures for Amending the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches Statement of Faith has explained,

There has always been a great resistance in making the Brethren a creedal denomination. For example, in 1882 the Progressive Brethren gathered at the convention in Ashland, Ohio to formulate a Declaration of Principles, the principles on which the Brethren Church was to be structured. Statements from this Declaration of Principles included:

We hold that in religion the gospel of Christ and the gospel alone, is a sufficient rule of faith and practice; that he who ...

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