Vol.VII No.XI Pg.6
January 1971

Against Creeds 1892 (2)

Robert F. Turner

What do we mean by creeds, when we avow our opposition to them?

1. We do not mean the same as belief. A man may have many beliefs, and these may be as deep as the fountains of his own life, and yet he may be a man without a creed, in the sense in which that word is meant in our usage of it. We make no war on beliefs; very far from it. On the contrary, one of our objections to the creeds is that they tend to promote unbelief instead of faith....

We have no sympathy with the common practice of some loose and, as they love to be called, liberal thinkers, who set creed over against character and conduct, telling us in many specious phrases that it is of no consequence what a man believes, but what he is and what he does. We believe that both character and conduct must be grounded in faith, and that creed in this sense is as vitally related to deed as cause to effect, or means to end. Character is the solid framework of bone and tissue and muscle, and is the product of the food of truth taken into the moral system by faith. To say that it makes no difference what a man believes, is like saying it makes no difference what he eats. It does make a world of difference.... The man who believes nothing will be nothing and do nothing. In denouncing creeds, therefore, we by no means denounce the duty of belief, nor yet the truth which those creeds may contain.

2. In opposing creeds we do not thereby oppose all statements of doctrine which may be made for the information of the public, whether those statements be drawn up by one or a number of persons. I have been told that as often as I propose any interpretation of any text, or even any view as to the meaning of any particular statement, I recite, in effect, an article of my creed... .Now this is a strange and almost incredible misstatement, when we consider the respectability and intelligence of the people who make it. The creed is not what I believe. It is what I say you must believe or else I will have no fellowship with you. So long as I do not force it upon you, so long as I do not insist upon it as a term of communion between us it is not a creed, but only a conviction. It is when I seek to fasten this statement of my own upon you as a part of the divine word that it becomes a creed.

3. Dr. Schaff thus defines a creed A form of words setting forth with authority certain articles of belief which are regarded by the framers as necessary for salvation, or at least for the welfare of the church. A creed, then, in the first place, assumes to be an authoritative document. Some regard this as simply the authority of the church... which she here announces and proclaims... Others explain this as the authority of the churchs teachers, to whom has been committed the office of interpreting the Scriptures... A third class claim that the creed-makers were actually inspired for their work... It follows from this that a creed must be either directly or otherwise a term of communion and a test of fellowship.

(Digest From Tribles Sermons 1892)