How the Bible Relates to Man-Made Creeds
by Tom Nettles
The pivotal question of how one concedes authoritative force to a creedal, or confessional, proposition holds paramount importance in their use in pedagogical and disciplinary ways. If churches, associations, or denominations as a whole are to use their creeds as instruments of ordination, church instruction, and discipline, then some method of demonstrating the biblical character of their propositions must be clearly conceived. Phillip Schaff rightly reminds Christians, that “the Bible has, therefore, a divine and absolute, the Confession only an ecclesiastical and relative, authority.” Additionally, he warns that “any higher view of the authority of symbols is unprotestant and essentially Romanizing.” Having issued that caveat, he proposed, “Confessions, in due subordination to the Bible, are of great value and use.” He called them “summaries of the doctrines of the Bible, aids to its sound understanding, bonds of union among their professors, public standards and guards against false doctrine and practice” (Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3 volumes, 1:7, 8.)
Confidence in the biblical authenticity of a creed’s content comes by familiarity with its historical and doctrinal context compared with…
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