Creed (1) – Why Study Creeds, Theology and Doctrine (Teaching Notes)

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Creed: Understanding the Background & Ramifications of Our Beliefs – a new adult education series at Christ Church Santa Fe, 2012

So, why study creeds?

  • General intellectual interest: history, religion, etc.
  • Shouldn’t – “doctrine divides”
    • Question: would eliminating all creedal statements and confessions really clear up the confusion and division?
  • “No creed but Christ!”

This is what I call the “Deception of intention/sentiment, over substance.” It’s not as important that you believe, as it is what you believe: James 2:19

  • “It is never enough to say that you “believe.” ‘The real question remains: what do you believe about Jesus? Reality has a way of foisting this upon us. When you consider that Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, and a whole host of other religions all acknowledge a belief in Jesus, it should be obvious that affirming a belief in Jesus is simply not enough.” – L. Charles  Jackson, Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed (Kindle Locations 41-44). Kindle Edition.

No one is without a creed, theology, or doctrine of some kind.  All of us have some way of explaining who we are, how we got to where we are, and have proposals for how to “fix” things – in us and around us.

Significance:

Origin of Creeds

Scripture:

  • Genesis 12:1-3
    • “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (the Shema)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

  • Matthew 16:13-20

“…You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (v. 16)

  • Acts 16:25-40

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.”

  • Romans 10:9-10

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (Lord’s Supper); Matthew 28:18-20 (baptismal formula)
  • Hebrews 13:15-16

History

  • “Faith, like all strong conviction, has a desire to utter itself before others—’Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; ‘I believe, therefore I confess’ (Credo, ergo confiteor). There is also an express duty, when we are received into the membership of the Christian Church, and on every proper occasion, to profess the faith within us, to make ourselves known as followers of Christ, and to lead others to him by the influence of our testimony…This is the origin of Christian symbols or creeds. They never precede faith, but presuppose it. They emanate from the inner life of the Church, independently of external occasion. There would have been creeds even if there had been no doctrinal controversies. In a certain sense it may be said that the Christian Church has never been without a creed (Ecclesia, sine symbolis nulla). The baptismal formula and the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper are creeds; these and the confession of Peter antedate even the birth of the Christian Church on the day of Pentecost. The Church is, indeed, not founded on symbols, but on Christ; not on any words of man, but on the word of God; yet it is founded on Christ as confessed by men, and a creed is man’s answer to Christ’s question, man’s acceptance and interpretation of God’s word.” -
    Philip Schaff (2009-06-10). Creeds of Christendom Volume 1: The History of the Creeds – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 516-527). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition
  • The question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
  • “Jesus pushed Peter to this very point when He insisted that Peter answer the question, “Yes, but who do you say that I am?” [cf. Matthew 16:13ff; Mark 8] Sooner or later, in this world or in the next, we will be responsible for how we answer this question.” – L. Charles  Jackson, Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed (Kindle Locations 89-91)

So, why study the creeds of the Christian faith?

Because living and believing are inseparable parts of our existence.  In order to live out the truth of the gospel in our lives, we must believe the truth with our minds and cherish it in our hearts, because ultimately the “truth” of the creeds does not rest on or in themselves alone, but on the One they all point to – the God of the Bible, as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  • “It is in the New Testament that confession in the sense of acknowledging allegiance to the faith becomes prominent.  Confessing God’s name (Heb. 13:15) or the ‘name of the Lord’ (2 Tim. 2:19) is the mark of a believer.  And, since God has revealed himself and his truth decisively in Jesus Christ, confessing Christ becomes the hallmark of genuine Christianity. Jesus taught that ‘Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven’ (Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8; cf. Rev. 3:5)…Reflected here is the secular Greek use of the word to denote solemn and binding public testimony in a court of law.  Confession of Christ, then, is no private matter, but a public declaration of allegiance.  Such claims can, however, be spurious, and are revealed by a lifestyle incompatible with a genuine relationship to Christ (Titus 1:16)…Confessing Christ, then, requires both a matching Christian lifestyle and a matching Christian theology.” – Douglas Moo, “Confess, confession” in Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible (111)

[Chris Gensheer is Pastoral Assistant at Christ Church Santa Fe, NM.  He leads and teaches regularly at the Adult Education Class Sundays at 9:30am. To listen to the audio from this class, click: http://www.christchurchsantafe.org/#/worship/christian-education]

Tim Keller on Denominational Renewal

Well,

It’s actually Tim Keller commenting on Greg Thompson’s talk from the 2008 PCA Denominational Renewal conference, and I think it is well worth the time linking and encouraging you all to read.

Click here for the full article.  Here’s a sampling:

As I read this terrific piece, however, it made me think about how we actually will have to do denominational renewal. The PCA is the great and tense place that it is because it is perhaps the only Presbyterian denomination that hasn’t purged or lost one or two of its historic wings. George Marsden says that Reformed churches have always had what he called ‘doctrinalist’, ‘pietist,’ and ‘cultural-transformationist’ wings. Weirdly, they all grow out of aspects of Reformed theology. Historically, they’ve produced some major splits–Old Side (doctrinalist) from New Side (pietist) in the 18th century, Old School (doctrinalist/pietist) from New School (reformist) in the 19th century. The OPC, though a doctrinalist church, grew and then shed a pietist wing (New Life Churches.) The CRC, though basically a cultural-transformationist denomination, had a doctrinalist split off (the URC.) In God’s providence, the PCA has significant numbers in all three wings.

Contemporary or Contextual – What would Keller do?

timkeller.jpgWell, Tim Keller’s new book is almost out – The Reason for God (Hey honey, if you’re thinking of any last minute Valentine’s gift ideas, this might be a good one.) – and low and behold there is quite a buzz swarming over the internet (here, here, here, here and here). Not only that, but Keller made it into a Newsweek piece. (I especially like the line about him being compared to your favorite “dim sum” place in Manhattan).

Here is a comment made by Ed Stetzer after visiting Redeemer Church in New York (Tim Keller’s church) regarding an interesting, and important thing to remember whenever we talk about “contextualization”:

“I was most impressed with how, well, non-“hip” the service was. (The giveaway was the note in the program reminding you to not applaud.)

The “band” was four men in suits who played wind instruments accompanied by an organ.

Yet, most of the crowd was young and engaged… a reminder that contemporary is not always contextual.”

The Reason for GodI think that statement is worth pondering some, don’t you guys? When did I, or we, ever begin to equate contextual with contemporary? I think that Stetzer nails it, and sees beyond the “transferable practices” of some successful church strategy’s, to the transferable principle of making the Gospel truth relevant and understandable for your context.

At the end of the Newsweek piece on Keller, the author makes another interesting comment. After picking up on some the anomalies that make Tim Keller a bit “odd” for the typical perceptions of pastors, she states that New York is a good place for someone as idiosyncratic as Keller, and she muses whether, “he—or his vision—will ever be at home anywhere else.”

I think that the writer of the article has expressed an important aspect of ministry and calling, but particularly for future and would-be church planters. When you consider whatever ministry it is that you think God is calling you to, ask yourself, “Would you or your vision be at home anywhere else?” A great question, and one to ponder before heading out into planting a church. If you don’t have a sense of what God can do and wants to do through His church under your charge for a specific city/town/area, then maybe you’re not really ready to minister.

Just something I’m thinking about. What are your thoughts?

Scott Clark does it again

R. Scott ClarkI’m really enjoying the thoughts and posts of  R. Scott Clark lately.  I confess that I don’t know much about him (personally or academically), but some of his posts over at Heidelblog have been very helpful to me trying to navigate the theological talk regarding Federal Vision, but more so, helping to understand the differences and similarities between the Old and New Covenant.

His most recent post deals with the sing and the seal of covenant membership, and what really distinguishes the theology and praxis of Presbyterians, Baptists, and Federal Vision folk.

Read it here.