“No Creed but the Bible” has become a popular position to take, frequently expressed by fundamentalists and emergent Christians alike, albeit in rather different ways.
Carl Trueman wants to call b.s. on the whole thing.
I read his new book, The Creedal Imperative, over the weekend and – despite some significant areas of disagreement – found it thought provoking and well argued.
In particular I was struck by his argument that everyone has a creed, the only difference is creedal traditions put that creed in the public domain.
By that he is suggesting, and I’m prone to agree, that everyone has a framework they read the Bible through whether or not they acknowledge it.
That might be Calvinism, an affinity for Liberation theology, an eschatology that has been shaped by growing up in Dispensational churches, or a thousand other theological biases, but ultimately no one reads the Bible without interpretive baggage.
So then when a pastor proclaims his church has no creed but the Bible, he is in danger of two things. First, he is effectively making his church’s creed whatever he (and the other key leaders of the church) decree is Biblical in a given week. And secondly, he is identifying his own theology so closely with the Bible that he is unable to see his beliefs objectively enough to really evaluate them against the Scriptures.
In other words, it is too easy to move from “no creed but the Bible,” to “no creed but my personal interpretation of the Bible.”
Or, “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” [Switch part 1 and part 2 of that sentence as necessary]
I’ll admit that my own ecclesial history has made me prone to seeing all sorts of red flags when it comes to entrenched theological camps (which creeds and confessions certainly can represent). But that said, Trueman’s book is a good reminder that the alternative is fraught with difficulties as well.
What do you think? Are creeds and confessions helpful, necessary or inevitable even? Do they too easily lock us into errant or uncritical readings of the Scripture? Is there really a better alternative?