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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Bible Basics: An Introduction to Christian Beliefs

Don Stewart :: What Are Christian Creeds and Confessional Statements?

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What Are Christian Creeds and Confessional Statements?

Bible Basics – Question 16

From the time of Christ, until the present, Christians have formulated their beliefs in a number of ways. These include summary statements of the belief of the church as a whole, or creeds.

In addition, there are also confessional statements, which are more detailed views of a particular group of Christians.

Creeds Are Belief Statements

One of the terms often used in referring to what Christians believe is “creed.” What exactly are we referring to when we speak of a “Christian creed?”

There have been times in the history of the church where leaders have assembled to state the Christian position on particular matters. This was done in light of false doctrine that arose. The statement the leaders agreed upon is called a “creed.” The word, “creed” comes from the Latin credo meaning, “I believe.”

Some Important Observations about Creeds

There are a couple of important observations that we can make about Christian creeds. They are as follows:

1. Creeds Are Found in the New Testament

The earliest forms of the creeds are found in the New Testament. When we read the New Testament, we find a number of statements that would represent early Christian creeds, or belief statements.

First Timothy 3:16 would be an example of this. Paul wrote the following words:

And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation: He was revealed in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16 NET)

Another example is Philippians 2:5-11. It seems to be an early creedal statement about Jesus Christ. It reads as follows:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV)

Each of these statements was, most likely, recited by early Christians.

2. Creeds Were Written in Response to Heresies

Creeds usually came about as a response to some heretical belief that had gained a certain amount of acceptance. A heresy can be defined, as the conscious, willful rejection of any doctrine or belief that is taught in Scripture. The written creedal statements answered these heresies.

Confessional Statements

Confessional statements are different than creeds in two ways. They are as follows:

Confessional Statements Represent the Beliefs of a Segment of the Church

Confessional statements represent the beliefs of a particular group or denomination; not the entire church. Therefore, the contents of a confessional statement would not necessarily be agreed upon by all Christians.

While creeds are summary statements that testify to the beliefs of all Christians, confessional statements are narrower in scope. They could never be viewed as having the final word on any matter.

Confessional Statements Are More Detailed Belief Statements

In addition, creeds are short summary statements while confessional statements are longer documents. While they both testify to the beliefs of Christians, they are not exactly the same thing. Consequently, we must understand the differences between creeds and confessional statements.

Summary – Question 16
What Are Christian Creeds and Confessional Statements?

Christians have formulated their beliefs through both creeds and confessional statements. The creeds are statements of belief that have been drawn up by Christians. They would state in summary form what Christians believe. We have examples of creedal statements in the New Testament.

After New Testament times, creeds were usually written as a response to some false doctrine that was circulating at the time.

Confessional statements are larger in content than the summary statements of the creeds, but they are more limited in whom they represent. Not all Christians would agree on all the details of confessional statements.

What Is a Major Doctrine? What Is a Minor Doctrine? ← Prior Section
What Are Some of the Well-Known Creeds and Confessional Statements of the Christian Faith? Next Section →
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