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The Creedal Imperative - eBook
Crossway Books / 2012 / ePub
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Format: DRM Free ePub Vendor: Crossway Books Publication Date: 2012 ISBN: 9781433521935 ISBN-13: 9781433521935 Availability: In Stock
What if "No creed but the Bible" is unbiblical?
The role of confessions and creeds is the subject of debate within evangelicalism today as many resonate with the call to return to Christianitys ancient roots. Advocating for a balanced perspective, Carl Trueman offers an analysis of why creeds and confessions are necessary, how they have developed over time, and how they can function in the church of today and tomorrow.
Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He was editor of Themelios for nine years, has authored or edited more than a dozen books, and has contributed to multiple publications including the Dictionary of Historical Theology and The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology.
If the title of this book sounds boring to you, then it probably means you need it! Doctrinal aversion, radical individualism, unexamined subjectivismthese are only a few of the problems afflicting the evangelical church. In The Creedal Imperative, Carl Trueman wisely applies his vast historical knowledge to offer a remedy for such deficiencies. This book is especially important for so many believers whose Christian life, like mine, grew out of the soil of vibrant experience with insufficient doctrinal moorings. And beyond merely correcting errors, the lessons here have great potential for protecting the church, reinvigorating our cherished beliefs, and fostering greater unity in our worship. Im grateful for Carl, and Im grateful he wrote this book.
- C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries
It is commonplace among many church leaders to dispute the need for confessions of faith on the grounds of the supreme authority of the Bible. In this timely book, Trueman demonstrates effectively how such claims are untenable. We all have creedsthe Bible itself requires thembut some are unwritten, not open to public accountability, and the consequences can be damaging. Truemans case deserves the widest possible hearing.
- Robert Letham, Director of Research and Senior Lecturer in Systematic and Historical Theology, Wales Evangelical School of Theology; author, The Holy Trinity and Union with Christ
The Creedal Imperative - eBook
Great Intro to Creeds and Confessions!
Within the world of evangelical Protestantism, creeds have fallen on hard times. They are old, irrelevant, and go into way too much detail about non-essential doctrinal points that just cause conflict. Ã¢ÂÂDoctrine divides, mission unites,Ã¢ÂÂ as they say.
Therefore, it is a massively difficult task that Carl Trueman has taken on in Ã¢ÂÂThe Creedal ImperativeÃ¢ÂÂ, making the case that not only are creeds helpful, but also essential to the life of the church. For many people, the whole idea of creeds conjures up words like Ã¢ÂÂdry,Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂdusty,Ã¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂacademicÃ¢ÂÂ but Trueman does a brilliant job of making his case for creeds readable and understandable for those who are not familiar with them, and are not sure whether they should be.
From the very first page, Trueman addresses himself to the popular objections to creeds. His leading example is a pastor who claimed that his church had no creed but the Bible, yet at the same time taught the five points of Calvinism, dispensationalism, and form of church government drawn from the Plymouth Brethren. Trueman points out that while this pastorÃ¢ÂÂs church claimed Ã¢ÂÂits only creed was the Bible, it actually connected in terms of the details of its life and teaching to almost no other congregation in the history of the church. Clearly, the church did have a creed, a summary view of what the Bible taught on grace, eschatology, and ecclesiology; it was just that nobody ever wrote it down and set it out in public.Ã¢ÂÂ (Kindle Locations 119-122)
The example of this unique church and its unwritten creed, which Trueman refers back to many times, highlights a key point of the book: Every church has a creed, but not every church acknowledges it. Trueman writes:
Ã¢ÂÂI do want to make the point here that Christians are not divided between those who have creeds and confessions and those who do not; rather, they are divided between those who have public creeds and confessions that are written down and exist as public documents, subject to public scrutiny, evaluation, and critique, and those who have private creeds and confessions that are often improvised, unwritten, and thus not open to public scrutiny, not susceptible to evaluation and, crucially and ironically, not, therefore, subject to testing by Scripture to see whether they are true.Ã¢ÂÂ (Kindle Locations 165-169).
This single point alone is pure gold in terms of highlighting the need for creeds and confessions. Although I wish Trueman spent more time fleshing out the practical consequences of a church not having a public creed, we can easily see the results in countless churches around the world.
When you donÃ¢ÂÂt have a public, written standard (or at least one that people actually pay attention to), then the eventual disagreements in doctrine and practice among church leaders and members end up creating chaos. Who is to say who is right? Whoever is in power, or able to rally the most people to their side. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs who. Might makes right when there is nothing external to the personalities involved, or at least nothing authoritative. Yes, there is the Bible, but whose interpretation are we to go with? Having a previously agreed upon creed, confession, or statement of faith that is learned and used in the regular course of church life can go a long way towards resolving conflict. A written confession of faith takes many disagreements out of the realm of personality and whim, and puts them in the realm of agreed upon norms and accountability.
Even though this observation alone should be enough to convince a church to seriously consider using a public creed or confession of faith, Trueman continues on from this point to make his case to the unconvinced in three ways:
1) First, he spends the introduction and the chapters 1 and 2 discussing the reasons why the contemporary world doesnÃ¢ÂÂt like creeds, and then responds to those objections by positively stating the value of history, the stability of linguistic meaning, and the validity and authority of institutions. Those who question the biblical precedent for creeds will be interested to follow TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs argument in Chapter 2 as he comments on various biblical passages that suggest creedal formation. Thus, he assures the reader that creeds are not alien to Scripture, but in fact necessitated by Scripture. The necessity of creeds is seen in passages such as, Ã¢ÂÂFollow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.Ã¢ÂÂ (2 Tim 1:13)
2) Secondly, he briefly surveys the history of creeds and confessions in chapters 4-5. These historical chapters are particularly valuable in giving a broad overview of the development of creeds from the time of the early church to the Reformation. Trueman discusses the immediate causes that prompted the writing of each creed or confession, and its significance for the church today. He doesnÃ¢ÂÂt cover every creed, but just hits the major ones in the Protestant tradition. Readers who find themselves confused about which confession is which and how they are different will be helped by TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs overview in these chapters.
3) The last two chapters round out the book with a discussion of the contemporary usefulness of confessions. In chapter 5, we see how creeds and confessions can shape the direction and orthodoxy of the churchÃ¢ÂÂs worship, protecting it from trendiness and errant doctrinal forces. Chapter 6 wraps up the book by restating some of the previous arguments and pointing out how creeds aid Christians in expressing their faith and ensuring Ã¢ÂÂthe stable transmission of the gospel from one generation to anotherÃ¢ÂÂ (Kindle Location 2678).
In the concluding chapter we also see Trueman making a more direct critique of those who donÃ¢ÂÂt have written confessions, asserting that
Ã¢ÂÂ[I]f you take the Bible seriously, you will either have a creed or a confession or something that fulfills the same basic role, such as a statement of faith. Here, I want to make the point that those who repudiate such ideas are being unintentionally disingenuous: they still have their creed or confession; they just will not write it down and allow you to look at it and scrutinize it in the light of Scripture. They are in a sense more authoritarian than the papacy.Ã¢ÂÂ (Kindle Locations 2680-2683)
A statement like that may sting, but thatÃ¢ÂÂs because truth hurts. Trueman knows how to speak diplomatically, but he also knows how to call it like it is. If you combine those qualities with his characteristic wit and mastery of words (and befuddled disdain for technology), Trueman is real delight to read.
In summary, Trueman makes a solid case for the necessity of creeds and confessions and this book should prove both enlightening and useful for those who are either on the fence about the validity of creeds, or are just becoming interested in the topic. As a confessional Presbyterian, I hold to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms yet as a latecomer to the whole world of confessional Christianity, I have not been as familiar with the case for creeds as I should be, nor am I very well acquainted with the confessions of other Protestant traditions. For those reasons, I found Ã¢ÂÂThe Creedal ImperativeÃ¢ÂÂ to be a great overview of the topic, and TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs suggestions Ã¢ÂÂFor Further ReadingÃ¢ÂÂ should prove to be a handy guide when I want to learn more about the various creeds and confessions. If you want a substantial, yet succinct and readable overview of creeds and confessions, Ã¢ÂÂThe Creedal ImperativeÃ¢ÂÂ is a great place to start.
November 30, 2012
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