Typically when someone says, “I have no creed, but the Bible,” what they mean is, “I do have a creed, but I’m not going to write it down and let you critique it in light of Scripture.” Everybody has a creed or confession. Everybody believes the Bible means something. If I ask you, “what does the Bible mean?” you’re not going to simply open it at Genesis 1 and start reading it to me. You’re going to present me with a synthesis – a summary – of the Bible’s teaching. And how you summarize the Bible’s teaching; what you think are the salient points – that is your creed or confession.
All churches have beliefs. They have thoughts about who God is, how to get right with him, how believers should live, and so on. If these thoughts aren’t written down, how are visitors and church members supposed to know what they are? By piecing together tidbits over months and years of sermons? Churches need to create extensive statements of what they believe or use historic guides, and they need to make these readily available.
One of my favorite passages on ministry is Ephesians 4:11-14 (abbreviated), “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” One of the best ways to give believers a solid foundation, to keep them from being tossed to and fro, is to teach them the basic tenants of the faith. The historic creeds and confessions are a great tool for this as the work has already been done.
One of my favorite ministries – the International House of Prayer – lists the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as well as the Westminster Confession of Faith on their website. That’s a good list. My family is memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism right now, one question a week. When we are done, my kids are going to know 107 concrete facts about the Christian faith: who God is, who they are, what God requires of them, and what God has done for them. That is so much better than vague notions of Christianity that so many of us grew up with.