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« Emerging Enigma | Main | Beyond the Gate »


Carl Holmes

Thanks for the well thought out reply. I want to clarify that I am not necessarily an emergent. I do not believe that Brian McLaren has thought out his theology. I am a student at Bible College who is deciding where to take his faith when he graduates. I attend an Evangelical Free church which is just that, free and tolerant of a lot of variations. I am well fed, but I am looking for more.

When looking at the confessions and creeds of various churches I feel that they are adding to the gospel. I talked to a pastor in a denomination that I was thinking more about and he said if I did not believe emphatically in that church creed I could not teach. I said "but I believe in the gospel 100 percent" but that was not enough.

I appreciate your passion and teaching in this. I will continue to read and enjoy what you write. I already have learned a lot.

Jeremy Pierce

I think you're right that the refusal to adopt a creed is pretty much just dishonesty. It's also divisiveness, interestingly. It's the Christ part of I Corinthians. Some say they follow Cephas, others Paul, others Apollos, and finally some divide themselves from all of those and say they simply follow Christ.

Carl Holmes

Not to pick at old sores, but I am still a little bit skeptical of creeds.

One Creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith was a Political alliance during The English Civil War. That does not seem right.

Another Creed, The Nicene Creed, was written to differentiate againt Arianism which is a form of Gnosticism. And yet another, The Athanasius Creed was written to differentiate the church against polytheistic attacks from other religions.

Today, 2006, the Church is under attack yes. Only a fool will tell you otherwise. BUT, the laity of the church have a bible (hardly the case in the early centuries) and can read the word of God. They can, with some pastoral care and direction, answer for the faith and not have a creed to tell them different.

I just feel that binding oneself to closely to a creed can cause a church to hold to tight to it and begin to loose focus on the Word of God.

As to the suspicion that a church with no creed seems wishy washy, it might at first. But I think that the thought of a church having a creed when they were first sent out was a little bit funny as well.

My source for much of this information is at:

Sorry for the long web address. I still can not get it to show all fancy when posting on another site.


Good discussion, Carl and Jeremy. Carl, when I used the pronoun "you" and talked about "your group" I didn't mean to be speaking to you personally. I meant that in regards to any person and whatever group, not just Emergents. I realize now it didn't necessarily read that way, since I was responding to your comments and the Emergent statement is what prompted the discussion. I apologize for any confusion. I was not assuming you are "emergent", either.

As to adding to the Gospel: We may not add to the Scriptures, or bind anyone's conscience to anything extra-biblical, but I see no reason why a statement of faith cannot contain biblical information on something other than the Gospel. It depends on how you use it. The Scriptures certainly present a lot of information besides that information we generally refer to as the Gospel. The leadership of the church is responsible for teaching the whole of the Scriptures, and it seems to me that creeds and statements of faith and doctrine are a part of that teaching. The leaders of the church are to guard the flock against error. Creeds and doctrinal statements help to accomplish that as well.

As to the ecumenical creeds you mentioned, they were written to protect against heresy. The Arianism you mentioned, for example, denied the deity of Jesus Christ. Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ was and is fully God, is not a believer in Biblical Christianity. He is a lost soul in need of saving faith. Anyone teaching such a doctrine should be divided from the Church, and anyone confessing Arianism ought not be accepted into church membership.

Your one-sentence dismissal of the Westminster CF as a political alliance also seems a bit unfair. It was written during Cromwell's administration, by order of the Parliament in an effort to unite the English-speaking churches. Remember that states established the churches in those days and this was an effort to bring together the established English church and those non-establishment churches that obejected to some of her doctrines and practices. It is a monumnetal work accomplished over many years by more than 400 of the greatest theologians of the time, including several from continental Europe.

Once the crown reestablished its authority in England, they also retook control of the Anglican Church, and at that time pulled out of the alliance that had been formed, and reestablished the system by which church leaders were appointed by political rulers. This political move does not take away the fact that the WCF was written to unify the various churches rather than divide. It was not written by politicians, but by theologians. The WCF continued to be used as a confessional standard, even in places and times (such as in the USA today), when politics has nothing to do with it.

Carl Holmes


I just see creeds as having had a historical significance. A significance that is not as required today as it was back then.

I have a hard time saying I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but by the way I added this creed just in case.

You keep me thinking though, and I appreciate it.

cwv warrior

Freakish! I just posted on the sticklers that are uniting and dividing the Church. The Gospel of God's Word is True. Slight variations on interpretation are unavoidable but the "my god wouldn't..." crowd are divisive. A united front will be one grounded in God's authority in His Word.
Great post, Dory.


I really appreciate these posts, Dory.

In theory it would seem that the Bible alone serves as a good "creed", but in practicality what I find when I'm involved in Emergent conversations is that the red letters in the Bible seem to be the only acceptable ones found there. Of course the words of Jesus are precious, but removing them from their historical context of the Old Testament, the words of Paul & the others and then reflecting on them in light of a Bob Dylan just starts to feel like Jesus becomes a product of sound bytes. A fabrication of sorts.

Still, I really appreciate the way Emergent strives to understand people & our culture. A creedal statement that assured me Jesus is God, we need him, and all scripture is God-breathed would help convince me those involved were interested in moving from simply fitting in with our culture to introducing people to the one whose perfect love & truth can change things for the better.


Seems as if creeds can be used well for unity and delineation but, if people have a desire for division, creeds can be used as battering rams and/or prison walls. Is it the creed that is the problem or the heart?
In my own limited experience, I have enjoyed some credal statements immensely; it is exhilarating and comforting to see that the writers in the past were given the same faith as I have been given. At the same time, I have witnessed and felt the tendency to be puffed up by the distinctives outlined in our creeds - especially as this gains momentum in a congregation.

Interesting posts, Dory!!


"Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context"

This statement would be fine if 'cultural context' were the only consideration in whether to subscribe to a creed or not. The early creedal statements were developed in council heretical movements in early Christianity. Even churches that do not recite creeds generally are clear in their orthodox or unorthodox statements of faith. I fear that by purposely being vague in order to be 'inclusive' or to not 'offend', we risk inviting old heresies back, resulting not in unity, but in further division.


It is clear that even fundamentalists are not united in their fundamentalism, and bibical literalists are not united in their level of literal interpretation. Within the church, doctrine exists because the body of Christ on earth is composed of human beings. All Christians can agree on certain basic points, but it is the disagreements that cause the greatest disunity, disfunction, and conflict. This is why creeds are useful.

Johnnie Burgess

No persoon should allow themselves to be ordanied by any church in which they dont believe in its creed. A lot of the time they become ordanined and then try to change the creeds to what they believe.

Carl Holmes

"No persoon should allow themselves to be ordanied by any church in which they dont believe in its creed. A lot of the time they become ordanined and then try to change the creeds to what they believe."

So If I start a bible church and look at the creeds as a good part of history, but not as something we all have to adhere to right then and there, I should be fired?

Not all churches have creeds that they absolutely adhere to. If the creed is written by the hand of man then it is not inerrant. The Bible in inerrant. My creed is the Bible. Do I really need more?


I think that creeds referring to doctrines beyond what is necessary for saving faith are appropriate for qualifying elders, whether lay or clergy. They are, in my opinion, not appropriate for church membership, as no genuine repentant Christian should be denied the sacraments or the discipline and fellowship of the church.

While it is nice to think all we need is the Bible, the truth is, that even sincere Christians can read the same verse and understand it very differently. If after careful study someone comes to a firm conviction on an important, but non-essential doctrine, he will want to associate himself with a congregation and/or denomination that believes as he believes.

Ideas have consequences. Doctrines are interrelated. One leads logically to another and that to another. Doctrines shape worldviews, define missions, and become the lens through which we view God, our own position before Him, how we relate to the world, and what we hope for in the future.

Let's take infant baptism as an example. My Baptist brothers and sisters firmly believe that baptism is not appropriate until there is a profession of faith. Many believe that children are in a state of innocence until they reach an age of accountability, and should be led as quickly as possible afterwards to accept Jesus as their Savior.

I believe my children are born with a covenantal birthright. That as covenant children, they are eligible to receive the covenantal sign of baptism and have a special right to a Biblical education and training in the faith and a right and obligation to pray to their Father in heaven and repent of their sins, even before they are in possession of the ability to articulate their faith and make it their own.

Is this difference of conviction one that should cause us to consider folks on the opposite side of the issue as nonbelievers? No, I think not. Would it make membership in the same congregation difficult? Yes, I think so. What if I wanted my child baptized and the pastor refused? What if a Baptist member didn't have his child baptized and the elders pressured him to do so? What if my six-year-old came home from Sunday school repeating an Arminian understanding of the Gospel?

These are not unimportant matters, even though they do not define the true faith or the true Gospel. They are important because a right understanding of God and His Word is important.

What if I joined a church with a creed that I agreed with, and trusting that it would be adhered to, but then the pastor announced he had other ideas? Must I leave because the pastor didn't really mean it when he took vows to our denomination?

This sort of problem would, of course, bring disunity within the congregation. It would cause dissent and church splits. Isn't it better, then, to be upfront with where we stand from the beginning, so we can associate ourselves with a body of believers in which unity is more likely? We will be one congregation in heaven, with one voice that praises God in perfect understanding. But for now, we must fumble along as best we can with our limited understanding.

To take the position that all those with different convictions ought to be able to ignore those convictions and submit to leadership that believes otherwise, is to say that these matters (baptism, doctrines of grace, the sacraments, whatever) are unimportant--and that is a doctrinal statement in itself.

With all this approval of the use of creeds being said, I would also like to say that I take Karen's point as well. They can be used sinfully as a source of pride and to promote a sinful elitist culture within the church. I think this temptation is particularly strong within the Reformed community. On the one hand, the confessions are protective and unifying. But on the other, used in sinful ways by sinful hearts, they can be twisted, as the Scriptures are, for sinful purposes. I think that should cause us to be careful, but not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Carl Holmes

I agree with the sinful purposes of creeds. It seems that is all we hear about. Not the unifying of the creeds.

As far as using a creed to help you in your scriptural interpretation that is the role of the Holy Spirit. I can read a passage one day and get what I needed to hear for the day. The next day read it again and get something completely different. This is what is so amazing about the Bible and how God uses his word and his people to affect change.

Keep up the good work Dori. We may be on different sides of this discussion, but I know when I arrive and the pearly gates you will be there to, and that is the most important part.


"As far as using a creed to help you in your scriptural interpretation that is the role of the Holy Spirit."

Where did anyone say anything about a creed helping someone in scriptural interpretation?

Carl Holmes

"While it is nice to think all we need is the Bible, the truth is, that even sincere Christians can read the same verse and understand it very differently. If after careful study someone comes to a firm conviction on an important, but non-essential doctrine, he will want to associate himself with a congregation and/or denomination that believes as he believes."

I took that statement as a statement of you are using a creed to help you in your interpretation of the bible. Did I make a mistake?


It is great to see such a search for Truth and union with Christ. I see all these divisions within the Church as manifetations of sin, particularly pride. I pray that charity and humility will allow grace to lead you all to full communion with the Church founded by Christ.

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