The rediscovery of Sola Scriptura during the Reformation transformed the world and brought new vitality to the Western church. We rightly celebrate this. But a healthy belief in Sola Scriptura in no way contradicts the notion of creedal confessionalism. Far from it.
Creeds summarize the Bible’s message and help believers in their greatest pursuit, the pursuit of God. They do so by laying out the uncrossable boundaries of who God is. They tell us what we cannot say, so that we are freed to say an infinite amount of things about God.
In short, they give you the syntax to talk about God, to free you up to pursue knowing God. Here are a few thoughts on confessing creeds and pursuing God.
Statements of Faith
Statements of faith are good and necessary things. They create unity among teachers and consistency from an institution’s leadership. And rightly so.
The effect of these statements for individuals is confidence in their leadership and having a guide to understanding the Bible (or what the leadership teaches). Usually, however, statements of faith do not have the effect of inviting believers into a pursuit of knowing God (in the way that I am about to describe).
The Culture of Pursuit
In contrast, creedal affirmations have the effect plunging believers into a knowledge of God.
The older creeds, by their historical location in time and by their ecumenical interest, focused on God and Christ. They defined how God can be one God and yet three somethings. They outlined what it means for Christ to be God and man. In short, they focused on the central things and provided the syntax (the rules of language) to talk about God.
Pursue knowing God, yet never say that God is three parts of one being. Know Christ, but never say that the Son assumed a human body but kept a divine mind. Creeds set up the boundary markers, so that you are freed up to pursue knowing God without falling into the ditch.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I see no conflict between statements of faith and ancient creeds. Both play important roles in the life of the church as servants of Sola Scriptura. But I do think the loss of vibrant confessionalism in reference to the ancient creeds has created a gap in our spirituality.
For those who want to know God in a deeper way, they’ve lost their guardrails which are meant to keep us on the way. And for those without access to the old creeds, faith sometimes seems boring—one must simply memorize a list of theological axioms.
But faith and knowing God is anything but boring. Knowing God means communing with the almighty creator of the universe.
Communion with God
Communion with God entails receiving a peace beyond all understanding and the joy of knowing every good thing. It involves diving headlong into the pursuit of an infinite God whose goodness never ends. You will never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop being amazed at who God is.
If we lose out on the creeds, I think we will lose out on one helpful tool in our pursuit of knowing God and communing with him.
For an introduction to the creeds, consider reading Justin Holcomb’s Know the Creeds and Councils.