Do The Ancient Creeds Still Matter?

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made…

Do these words sound familiar? I hope they do.  These words, which have been recited in liturgy, at church councils, in battles, and at dinner tables in hundreds of languages, echo to us today through nearly 17 centuries of continual use. This creed is what has united the church (except perhaps in 1054 when it greatly divided the church) and has helped to defend it against all manner of heresies and attacks.

Sadly, I had never heard of this creed until I was in my late 20’s. In the church I grew up in, creeds were never recited; they were considered to be extra-Biblical and therefore highly suspect. Or maybe people just didn’t know about them. Prayer in our church was usually a long drawn out speech of varying eloquence depending on who was delivering it. Prayer was supposed to be spontaneous and elevated, not scripted and repetitious. To have recited a creed would have meant introducing a form of liturgy into our midst which would have taken us “dangerously” close to  Catholicism. After all, the word “catholic” is contained in the creed, right? More on that another time. 

And so I missed out on this beautiful tradition which if one looks at closely, is derived directly from Scripture. I believe that this creed, which is only outdated by the Apostles Creed (another creed that I never heard when I was young) should be front and center in every church. It should be inscribed on walls and memorized in Sunday School.

But more importantly, it should be the statement that supersedes all interpretation and theological disagreements. When our reason and logic fail us and when we cannot wrap our heads around the complexities of certain doctrines and dogma, we should always come back to the Nicene Creed (or the Apostle’s Creed!) because they will return us to the simplicity of our faith.

Are the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed traditions? Of course they are. But why should we be afraid of traditions, especially when this tradition comes from scripture and has served as a litmus test for Christians for more than a millennia and a half? Are the Creeds Catholic? Absolutely they are. They were passed down to us through the Catholic Church. But this should not scare us off either. The Lord has used the Catholic Church to pass down many important traditions not the least of which is the canon of Scripture.

I am not suggesting that we make an idol out of the Creeds. I am also not suggesting that they are divinely inspired like the Scriptures are. I do strongly believe, however, that God’s voice can be heard through these creeds and that he has allowed them to represent in a concise and beautiful way what we as Christians believe. We should say them in Church and in our homes and in our hearts, not in vain repetition but with the knowledge and appreciation that we are joining our voices with hundreds of millions of people now and in centuries long past, who have professed their faith in the only true and living God.

5 thoughts on “Do The Ancient Creeds Still Matter?

  1. We should reject Creeds when it can be seen on closer inspection they are not in line with what is written no matter how beautiful and eloquent they seem. Paul warned jus as much when he wrote the Corinthians “..that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written,…” (1Co 4:6, JKV). That is exactly what the Creeds are, placing men’s thinking and philosophy above what is written.

    In Nicea, Arius stood before the Bishops of his day and defended what had been passed on to him and almost half of the Bishops there so eloquently that the only reply the nascent Trinitarians could come up with was to shut him up with a blow to his jaw and breaking it. That blow was delivered by no less than the man we now call Santa Clause, by the way. A quick one was pulled on the Arians by the others when they agreed to a version of the Nicene Creed, only to find out some months later that another version of it condemning their own beliefs had been presented to the Emporer and then circulated with Imperial; approval. You really ought to read the complaint Eusebius of Ceaseria wrote and circulated on that one since it made him look like a turncoat to his entire Bisphoric and others. He was livid!

    Back to my point, if a creed does not stand up under a thorough comparison with what was written and accepted as the scriptures, then it must be rejected. I’ll even go further, any teaching by anybody which does not pass the test of what is written should have nothing but our rejection. As it is written, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)

    1. Hi Dupin,

      Thank you for your comment. So are you arguing that we should not say these ancient creeds? Do you believe that the Nicene Creed and Apostle’s Creed are in line with the scriptures?

  2. It is unfortunate that believers fall into this trap of creedalism. Having the Holy Scriptures right in front of their faces, the declarations of God before their very eyes, and yet, they find a way to subvert the truth by undermining it with, ” a creed”. Thinking that a creed is even necessary is a sign of apostasy, departing from the truth, and putting in motion what even the Christ of God repudiated – religious traditions. Vanity and unbelief is what is being masked by those who support the notion that a creed will somehow aid believers to better serve God, no matter how sincere the intention.

    God has revealed Himself in the Holy Writings, and through His beloved Son, Jesus. Additions to that testimony translates into unbelief and heresy. God said it, we must believe it, and it is all in the Book. Creeds are spawned, not out of heaven, but from the corrupted minds of men, whether saint or sinner, to hide ignorance and unbelief.

    The only thing that unites believers is the Holy Spirit. Keeping that Spirit, which already exists in sufficient force, is the tie of peace. One cannot supplant God by forming a unity apart from that Spirit, which has as its source the Truth, Jesus Christ.

    1. Hi Philip,

      Thank you for your comment. Keep in mind that most Christians did not have the Holy Scriptures “right in front of their faces” when these Creeds came into existence. In fact, they both predate the canon of the New Testament.

      1. My comment was in consideration of the Councils of 325, and thereafter.

        I would disagree that the ecclesias over the centuries did not have access to Scripture during the time of Athanasius and the subverters of Nicea. Legal scribes, as well as religious ones, in Syria, Alexandria, Ethiopia, and other countries , had copies of the “New Testament”, as well as the Greek “Old Testament” at their disposal. Religious leaders under God’s guidance and influence assuredly disseminated those scrolls wherever needed.

        The compilation of into a single “bible” came later, certainly. But, to say they were not “right in front of their faces”, both read and declared in public, forces the conclusion that Christians came out of nowhere, and neither read nor heard the evangel by which they were saved. The source of those past believers came from reading and hearing the word of God, or they could not have been saved.

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