As late, I have been studying the four most well-known and broadly affirmed creeds from Church History – the Apostles’ Creed (abt. 180AD), the Nicene Creed (325-381AD), the Chalcedonian Creed (451AD), and the Athanasian Creed (abt. 500AD).
What do they explicitly say? And how or why do they differ from one another? Why were they written and then handed down? And can we learn from them, through compare and contrast, important truths about the expression of Christian life and thought in our time and place?
At between 1500 and 1800 years old, their ancientness can be mind-numbing for many moderns – only all the more with each passing year and decade. For that matter, the repetitiveness of the creeds can seem redundant to a cursory glance and casual observer.
Especially when you come to the creed commonly called Athanasian from a millennium-and-a-half ago, there seems to be a kind of pedantry and almost irritation hinted at in how explicit and emphatic the repetition of details becomes.
Yet delving even just a little into the history of why these creeds were written down in the first place reveals interesting and important insights into what has traditionally been the God-given responsibility of the Church, particularly her shepherds, since the outset.
That is, these creeds serve not only to unite all true Christians on what constitutes sound doctrine. They also serve thereby as the basis for that sense of purpose and belonging to be found by God’s design in the Church. Beyond this, both necessarily and in an exclusionary way, the historical Christian creeds also serve as refutations and rejections of unsound doctrine.
And unsound doctrine, error, and heresy come up frequently as well in studying the creeds. Such have since the beginning proven by their recurring challenges to the Church the veracity of the warnings Christ and his apostles gave us:
“Beware of false teachers.”
And why ought we to beware of false teachers? Because they bring false teaching.
But why ought we to guard ourselves against false teaching? Because it at a minimum impedes our fruitfulness and joy, and at worst gives us a false assurance of salvation which we do not and will not enjoy.
That is to say, our ancient forebearers in the faith formulated these creeds, and held to them, from the conviction that such were really a matter of spiritual life or death for the Church. As such, I have been thinking quite a lot lately about whether I am, and we are, as serious also about the importance of each word and phrase handed down in these creeds.
If I am, and if we are, then what are the implications for what is understood to be a truly Christian manner of both relating and relaying to God and one another? There is admittedly much for me personally to consider on this point from both a practical and principled standpoint. But first things first, I set myself to studying the creeds themselves and trying to apprehend them. After all, we won’t be able to figure out what to do with them if we’re not familiar with what they say and why.
But to leave you with a happy note, the inverse as well must follow with regards to what I say above concerning reminders to avoid false teachers and false teaching. If false teaching and its harbingers impede our fruitfulness and joy, the opposite must also be true about true teaching and sound doctrine, that they make more full our joy, and make our Christian lives as productive and beneficial as they can be.
This is why we have to remember that we have not only a great gift, but all we need for life and godliness in Christ Jesus. Moreover and accordingly, God has given us His Word as well as His Spirit to where we are not alone and on our own as we pursue such diligently. This is why Paul writes what he does in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
This also is why Peter writes what he does in 2 Peter 1:3-4.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
And thus I press on, believing as I do that there is a blessing in such, not just for me but for my family and friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ thereby.
10 freshly printed copies of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: A Refutation of Liberalism’ by Groen Van Prinsterer just arrived in the mail at my house.
This is the first time this important work by Groen has been available in English, and the translation was recently commissioned by my friends at RefCon Press, an imprint of The Reformed Conservative; check out thereformedconservative.org for more information.
The first ten listeners to contact me with a commitment to reading and reviewing this book, or else making a donation to The Reformed Conservative, will receive a free copy of the book as a thank you.
Email me at email@example.com to find out how you can get your copy today.
This episode is sponsored by
· Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app
Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/garrett-ashley-mullet/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/garrett-ashley-mullet/support