Why Do We Need Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms?

“A creed or confessional statement gives clear affirmations of what a church believes, and equally clear denials of what that church does not believe. Without this clarity, it is all too easy to sneak false teaching into the church, or to fail to give people the full counsel of God from the Scriptures.”

(Jacob Gerber)  By the grace of God, I grew up in churches that loved the Bible. I have vivid memories of hearing God’s word read, sung, and preached every week. I memorized a good portion of the Bible through AWANA. I still remember specific things I learned about the Bible in Vacation Bible School and Sunday School lessons. In high school, I was introduced to a regular Bible reading plan that I have used since 2000.

I cannot understate the importance of that biblical foundation. I would not be the man I am today without such regular, faithful, careful exposure to God’s word. Upon that foundation laid by my parents and the leaders in my churches, my love for the Bible has continued to grow to this day.

Biblical and Confessional Presbyterianism

In college, though, I met a group of Christians who loved the Bible as much as I did, but with an important difference. Where I had exclusively focused on the Bible, they made use of a specific set of tools from their tradition to assist their study of the Bible: the Westminster Standards, including the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

At first, this emphasis on man-made creeds and confessions troubled me. Wasn’t this precisely the sort of thing Jesus condemned when he warned us not to make void the word of God for the sake of human tradition (Matt. 15:1–9)? Haven’t Protestants pointed out time and again the Roman Catholics errors that have arisen from adding tradition to the word of God?

Eventually, I came to see the crucial difference. Roman Catholics cite their alleged oral tradition as an additional source of revelation beyond the written word of God. The tradition of Confessional Protestants (including the Westminster Standards for Presbyterians) limits itself simply to confessing and teaching what we believe the written word of God teaches.

The best creeds, confessions, and catechisms, then, do not add new information to supplement the Bible. Instead, they only seek to clarify what the Bible teaches. That is, they drive us back to the Bible, instead of beyond the Bible.

The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice (WCF 31.3). Our creeds, confessions, and catechisms are only secondary and subsidiary to the Bible. Thus, we do not put our confessional statements on the same level with the Bible; however, we hold to our confessional statements because we believe that they are thoroughly biblical.  View article →

H/T Aquila Report