The No-Creed View Can Make Dictators of Pastors
As mentioned above, the anti-creed attitude reflects the spirit of the age, which is dead set against authorities and historical tradition.
However, not having a public creed, which sets the bounds for the essentials of the Faith, then anything goes for the pastor. A popular response might be, “No! Our pastor only preaches the Bible!” The fact is that, their pastor preaches what his personal understanding of what the Bible means.
So, if a church has “No book/creed but the Bible!” and the pastor is the best trained person to interpret the Bible, then what the pastor says the Bible means will be the most authoritative voice in that church. Without a creed, the members of the church have nothing against which they can check whether what their pastor is saying is true or not.
Taken to its logical end, without a public creed, the pastor is the ultimate authority!
If the pastor best knows what the Bible teaches, and there arises a question of doctrine or life, then what the pastor says is the last word on the issue. On the flip side, if a church has a public creed and confession, the other elders or even members of the church have a standard or rule by which they can test the teaching.
In I John 4:1, the apostle John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits (i.e., teachings, messages) to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (ESV).
In the very next verse (v. 2), the Apostle then goes on to give the standard by which the teachings are to be evaluated. In this, he gives us a creed, a confession!! “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (ESV). This statement functioned as a creed, over against the group in the church known as the Gnostics, which denied that the man Jesus was the Christ. Rather, they taught that the Christ was pure spirit that used the mere human Jesus of Nazareth as a sort of vehicle, as he cruised around teaching those in the know how to escape earthly reality. The Apostle teaches us to reject Gnosticism, since it contradicts our confession of Christ, “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary...etc.,” that is, Christ’s incarnation.
So, just like the apostle John prescribed, public creeds function to test the claims of those who are responsible to teach and rule in the church.
Wrapping It Up
Despite how popular the sloganeering claims of “No creed but...” are in today’s church culture, they are something that may work on a bumper sticker, but cannot stand against logic, the Bible, church history. This attitude also creates dysfunction in the life of the church.
1. “No creed but...” is self-refuting, because “No creed...” is a creed!
2. “No book but the Bible” is a claim that is against the teaching of the Bible, because the Bible is full of creeds and teaches us to maintain them.
3. The fact is that, everyone has a creed, whether it is public or private!
4. The private-creed view can lead to the pastor becoming a dictator, since there is no standard by which to test the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible.
How good is God, that he has graciously worked the thought, circumstances, theology and history of his church to hand down to us—and future generations—the ancient creeds, confessions, and catechisms, which have shaped who we are and remind us of our rich and deep heritage, going back to Christ’s apostles! Let us pray that as he nurtures our appreciation and use of the creeds, he likewise give us the grace to help lead the church in a faithful trip back to the future, and in her seeing the need for creeds!