How important are creeds and confessions?
From the very earliest time in the history of the church, the church has not only proclaimed the truth of sacred Scripture, but also dealt with distortions and radical departures from biblical truth in the appearance of multiple heresies that have threatened the church.
One of the earliest creeds, thought to be the very first Christian creed, was the simple statement, “Jesus is Lord.” This came out of the context of a loyalty oath imposed by the Roman Empire. Christians were required to say publicly, “Kaiser kurios” (“Caesar is Lord”). The Christian church in the first century was quite willing to render civil obedience as much as they possibly could, but they balked at that statement kaiser kurios. They said in response to that, “Jesus ho kurios” (“Jesus is Lord”).
The great creeds of church history, such as the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Creed, were written in response to serious heretical views that were arising and threatening the very essence of the Christian faith.
This is true also of the historic confessions. These confessions were an attempt to crystallize the essence of doctrine found in sacred Scripture. They were never to be seen as a substitute for Scripture or as having authority over Scripture. Rather, they give a summary of what Christians believe as defined in terms of confessional orthodoxy.
This transcript is from an Ask R.C. Live event with R.C. Sproul and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.