Creeds and Catechisms
Creeds and catechisms are, most simply, words to live by. I can imagine a man declaring, “Honesty is the best policy! That’s my creed!” A catechism is a summary of rules or principles, usually intended for study. Today, both words almost exclusively speak of religious principles or beliefs. Creeds and catechisms are often revered and are the basis for much teaching even though not inspired.
And, Creeds and Catechisms serve another purpose. They delineate beliefs, doctrines, and values which set a given denomination apart from everyone else. For example, the Catholic church publishes a lengthy volume called The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The publisher says, “Here are the essential elements of our faith presented in the most understandable manner, enabling everyone to read and know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays.” It is a how-to manual for Catholics.
Another notable creed is the Westminster Confession of Faith. First adopted in the 1600s. It has been refined into the “Larger Catechism” and the “Shorter Catechism.” Together, these have been honored, even revered by the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and the Presbyterian church. They are clear that this confession is subordinate to the Bible.
The Southern Baptist Convention produces The Baptist Faith and Message, a document setting forth their teachings. As with the Westminster documents, they declare their document subordinate to the Bible.
The Role of Councils, Synods, and Assemblies for Creeds and Catechisms.
Each of these documents is produced by a gathering of people. I will not impugn their motives, but they have obviously failed to produce truth. We know this because the documents contradict one another and sometimes even contradict past iterations of the same writings. But, most importantly, they sometimes contradict the Scriptures.
Such errors are not surprising as any man will produce errors. The problem is that these errors preserve and promulgate false teachings across generations of believers. At their core, they promote division among those who believe in Jesus as the Savior. They drive continued denominationalism. Jesus prayed for unity among his followers (John 17:20, 21). Paul called for brethren to be “united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10), because the message of salvation is hurt by the undeniable division in Christendom today.
To move toward perfect unity, we ought to destroy every creed and every catechism which divides followers. There is a better way. Truth is already with us and needs no assistance or enhancement.
It’s a reasonable question. Why do we have creeds and catechisms if all we need is the Bible? To begin, many of us do not have a creed nor catechism. Still, others do, and they figure prominently in their doctrine. That’s a terrible mistake.
Creeds and Catechisms vs. The Bible: Inspiration
The Bible is inspired. In Scripture, we read: “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” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Here, translators correctly use the phrase “breathed out” (KJV uses inspired) to describe the process by which God moves truth from Himself to man, through man, and for man. The words of the Bible originate with God and flows from him to the various Bible authors. The Holy Spirit protects and watches over that flow of truth, ensuring that what is recorded is reliable (2 Peter 1:21). More than 500 times, the Bible claims that the words spoken were from God.
Authors and users of creeds and Catechisms cannot and do not make such a claim about their writings. Catholics claim that the Pope’s utterances on particular occasions are inspired, but that empty claim is easily refuted in a future article. In the end, every creed and catechism is penned by men. They may be highly educated and very respected, but they are not God.
Creeds and Catechisms vs. The Bible: Sufficiency
The Bible is complete and needs no additional supplement. Jude said:
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3
The last phrase is important: “once for all delivered.” The resulting words from God through inspired writers is so precious that it is protected with the most solemn warnings.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8, 9).
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18, 19).
The Bible is all-sufficient. Creeds and Catechisms are not. Notice 2 Timothy 2:16, 17 again. The Bible makes a man complete. It is not possible to be more complete. We either are or are not, complete.
Creeds promote the division inherent in denominationalism. Instead of all standing together in one place, we all stand on our own creed and prevent true unity. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all of the same mind and all stood on one foundation?