The Historical Necessity For Creeds And Confessions Of Faith -- By: James Edward McGoldrick

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: The Historical Necessity For Creeds And Confessions Of Faith
Author: James Edward McGoldrick

The Historical Necessity For Creeds
And Confessions Of Faith

James Edward McGoldrick

No creed but Christ, no law but love!

Doctrine divides, love unites!

Down with doctrine, up with love!

The above contention may well appeal to Christians today who, like their unbelieving neighbors, have lost interest in truth. In a time when megachurches are competing with one another to give people what they want rather than what they need, a plea for confessional Christianity must appear strange and badly out of step with the trends of church life. Perhaps it is time to reconsider those trends in the light of history and thereby to ask why creeds and confessions are necessary. That is the objective of this article.

The practice of Christians proclaiming their beliefs is an ancient one. Even in Old Testament times it was customary for the Hebrews to affirm their monotheism by frequent recitation of the shema, the first Hebrew word in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” Public recitation of that text remains the most prominent feature of synagogue worship until the present. It is evident that Jesus required his New Testament disciples to confess him publicly, for he said, “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33).

The earliest Christians readily proclaimed Jesus as “Lord” and “Christ,” as when Peter asserted to the Savior, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). The apostle Paul admonished believers in the Roman congregation, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Affirming Jesus’ messianic office and Lordship was the practice of believers individually, and it soon became customary when they congregated for corporate worship. Their faith led them to confession. A proverb among Latin Christians was credo, ergo confiteor—”I believe, therefore I confess.”

Confessing the faith is an intelligent act, one which indicates the specific content of what a person or an ecclesiastical body believes. It goes beyond acknowledging the existence of God and declares a personal confidence in him, as he has revealed himself. Early Christian creeds affirm acceptance of the historic realities of God’s actions and of the d...

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