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Why I Still Study The Historic Creeds and Confessions.

Having grown up in the Reformed Church in America, the historic creeds and confessions (especially the Apostles’ Creed and Heidelberg Catechism) were an integral part of worship and the catechizing I received in the church I grew up in. Though I did not appreciate the value of the creeds and confessions when I was younger, their value to me now is clear. Webster states that, “a creed or confessional formula is a public and binding indication of the gospel that is set before us in the scriptural witness, through which the church affirms its allegiance to God, repudiates the falsehood by which the church is threatened, and assembles around the judgment and consolation of the gospel.”[1] Far from having any existential value of their own, creeds and confessions testify to the gospel declared in Scripture.[2] Rather than being a statement of faith pointing to someone (or thing) other than Christ, the orthodox historical creeds of the Christian church are a “cry of witness” to the Lamb of God (John 1:29); they are an “attestation” of Christ, “not self-assertion.”[3]

This is important in my life currently as husband, father, mentor, and teacher. It is important because we daily face a deluge of doctrine and thought that would lead us away from the gospel. The Reformed creeds and confessions do not replace the gospel but are “servants of the gospel,” tying us to its truth.[4] As a husband and father I believe it is my responsibility to give my family a solid spiritual foundation based upon the truth of God’s Word so that they will “follow the pattern of the sound words … in the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13 ESV). The creeds and confessions help us to lay this foundation since they point to Scripture to substantiate claims about our Christian faith. Two confessions that we use as a family are the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism. Both of these catechisms help to reorient our thinking around biblical truth—they reorient because our natural inclination is to regress back to man-centered thinking about God—and provide a lens through which to view the world from a Christian perspective.

The ministry that my wife and I are in also affords us many opportunities to help people think scripturally about God and counteract the false ideas that people have grown up with. To know that one’s “only comfort in life and in death” is that he is not his own, but belongs, body and soul, to his “faithful Saviour Jesus Christ,”[5] is a comfort incomparable and absolutely dependable no matter what happens in life. Though we may not use the exact words of the Heidelberg Catechism, this is a truth that we have gone back to time and again for ourselves and as we minister to the people God puts in our path.

[1] John Webster, Confessing God: Essay in Christian Dogmatics II. (London:T & T Clark International, 2005), 123.

[2] Ibid, 125.

[3] Ibid, 124.

[4] Ibid, 119.

[5] Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 308.

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