In our day, the use of Creeds and Confessions is often associated with Roman Catholicism. But the word “creed” comes from the Latin credo and simply means “I believe,” a concept that Christians can hardly question. Our response to the gospel is one of faith (belief), since the gospel consists of promises from God to us. Creeds are written in such a manner that the Christian may take them upon their lips and “confess with their mouths” those things they believe in their hearts (Rom. 10:9).
Confessions are similar to Creeds but embody a more fulsome summary of biblical truth. Whereas Creeds only concern faith in the gospel, Confessions (and Catechisms) go further and also contain things that relate to Christian duty, i.e., obedience to God’s Law. Our Heidelberg Catechism is especially concerned to unpack the Apostles’ Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. The Belgic Confession summarizes Scripture’s teaching on our Triune God, Holy Scripture, Creation, Man & the Fall, Jesus Christ, Salvation, the Church, and the End Times. The Canons of Dort were drafted as a response to those that wanted to assert that man cooperated with God in salvation.
You might be wondering, though: Are Creeds and Confessions biblical? Do they detract from the Bible? The spirit behind these questions is normally very appropriate – we certainly reject any attempt at placing something above or even alongside the Bible. Creeds and Confessions, however, exist beneath the Bible, since their sole purpose is to summarize the Bible’s teaching. Everyone that reads the Bible must interpret it. Having our interpretation clearly expressed in writing enables us to test it according to Scripture to determine whether we’re correct or not. Those that don’t have their beliefs written down are subject to a confession that rests inside their pastor’s head, something far more difficult to discern and test.
The Bible itself even encourages the use of doctrinal statements. Prior to Christ, the Old Testament saints would confess their faith using The Shema, which comes from Deut. 6:4. During the years immediately after the ascension of Jesus, we discover that Christians began to write new statements that were based upon God’s climactic revelation in Christ. Some of these confessions were even recorded in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 3:16).
Given that Creeds and Confessions direct our attention to the Bible, are useful, and are even encouraged by the Bible, how are they utilized at Westside Reformed Church?
First, the sermons that you hear and worship you experience will express and prioritize these truths, since our minister has been educated in them and agrees to them in their entirety. Second, they are the normal content of the teaching in our Catechism Service and in our children’s catechesis in the home. Third, they form the foundation for our unity as a church. We don’t have factions that unite around different schools of thought. These documents, instead, express our shared interpretation of the Bible. This allows freedom to respectfully disagree over things that are not contained therein and keeps us from being enslaved to someone’s obscure ideas. Fourthly, they protect us from false teaching. Our Creeds and Confessions are time-tested and, because they are fulsome summaries of the Bible, they guard us from being “carried about by every wind of doctrine.”
For more on the Creeds and Confessions of Westside Reformed Church, see Our Beliefs.