Deeds Not Creeds? 3 Reasons Why Christian Creeds Matter

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Seedbed - Seven Minute Seminary

Ever since the period known as the Enlightenment, many groups that self-identify as Christian have abandoned the notion of doctrine, creeds, or specific beliefs altogether. In their place, they have elevated “deeds” and certain acts of piety. But can behavior really be separated from belief that easily? For the early church, creeds were central to worship, unity, public profession, and it shaped their life as a community. Evidence of early creeds are even present throughout the Bible itself. Contrary to what is popularly claimed, historic creeds like the Apostles’ Creed matter profoundly for the Christian faith.

Watch this Seven Minute Seminary video as Dr. Andrew C. Thompson explains the significance of Christian creeds.

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More seeds to explore: watch the Seven Minute Seminary of William Abraham explaining why doctrine matters; watch the short series of Charles Gutenson explaining the four great ecumenical creeds; read a compelling series of articles on discipleship in the early church by Steven Bruns; explore the Apostle’s Creed with this line by line commentary by Timothy Tennent.

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Dr. Andrew C. Thompson is a pastor, teacher, and scholar in the United Methodist Church. He is an award-winning author and frequent speaker, focusing on the thought of John Wesley, the history of Methodism, and contemporary Wesleyan theology. Andrew is an ordained minister and has served pastoral appointments in Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He currently serves as the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Springdale, Arkansas. Previously he taught for four years on the faculty of Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee.

1 COMMENT

  1. A view from the pew: Excellent summation on why we need the creeds as well as other “old things” present in worship. It was the “old things” in worship that kept me hanging in there with Christianity–they were proof that this was not some new fad–when they were removed, all of a sudden I was adrift. It was not until several years later that I stumbled into the Heidelberg Catechism which was a lesson in what all I did not know or understand about basic orthodox Christianity. But it was a book about the Heidelberg, Body &Soul by M. Craig Barnes, that reconnected me to the importance of the “old things” which connects us to “Our Great Faith” that transcends time. What Barnes wrote inspired me to write the following:

    The faith journey: Learning to go against our own natural inclinations and doubts.

    Faith is doing what only makes sense in hindsight.

    Three things are required for such a journey to succeed

    My Faith –
    A God-given understanding that I, as an individual, am included in his plan of salvation. Salvation is not a group plan. This is the lesson the Moravians taught John Wesley that ultimately led to his experience of assurance at Aldersgate.

    Our Faith –
    Being folded into “the church”: God’s mission to the world; the training ground for forgiveness. Despite being a particularly flawed community, the members strive to watch over each other in love, while continually looking beyond themselves to a greater God.

    Our Great Faith –
    Being folded into the larger, ongoing story of God’s plan of salvation. Not to worry, we are not the first to attempt this incredible journey of “going against our natural inclinations”. There are 2000+
    years of those who have gone before us and they have left us guideposts of encouragement:
    their writings, catechisms, creeds, hymns and liturgy.

    It takes all three levels of faith. Chances are great that when you go against your natural inclination and follow Jesus into a situation, you will come out beat up and scarred with “My Faith” stretched
    to the limits, no longer sure if it is even intact. Only hindsight within the context of an unfathomable God of Mystery! who loves “me” and who has an ongoing plan of salvation that includes “me”
    will make any sense of it. But there also needs to be the realization that “I” am nowhere close to being the first or only one to embark on what, at the moment, seems like such a ridiculous and costly journey.
    For the bulk of my life, I did not have much of a “my faith”; I was folded into the group plan of “Our Faith”. Ultimately the group plan failed when a new pastor arrived on the scene who knew what needed to change for the church to become relevant and the “old things” disappeared. Ironically enough, it was “Our Great Faith”, especially the Heidelberg and three very modern books about it that finally landed me in the wide open space of God’s amazing grace. After a lifetime of being a “good Methodist”, at age 59 I finally understood that “even I”, was folded into God’s great plan of salvation.

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