What's Your Question?
James P. Needham
Winter Park, Fla.
"I have heard creeds logically attacked because they are either: (1) The same as inspired scripture, or (2) different from inspired scripture. If the former case, they are needless repetition, if the latter is the case, the creed is clearly unscriptural and in error. This, albeit somewhat oversimplified here, is clear to me. My question is: Why does not the same logic apply to songs? Are they not creeds (affirmatives of belief) set to a melody (even if "in the heart)? I realize that hymns and spiritual songs are scripturally enjoined. I just cannot logically see a basis for discerning between creeds and the lyrics of songs." Ohio.
There are several differences between songs and creeds. I list some of them:
1. Scriptural songs are scripturally enjoined, human creeds are not. This our brother has stated. It is really the only answer he needs to his question; that is to say, he has answered his own question.
2. Song lyrics are optional; human creeds are binding. Nobody is forced to accept the thoughts contained in song lyrics before they can become a member of the church. This is not the case with human creeds. Note some quotations:
"Members, on being received to fellowship, are not required to subscribe or pledge conformity to any creed-form, but are expected to yield substantial agreement to that which the church with which they unite has adopted" (Hiscox's Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, p. 1). (Emphasis mine)
"We have therefore expected that the DISCIPLINE would be administered, not merely as a legal document, but as a revelation of the Holy Spirit working in and through our people." (DISCIPLINE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH, p. 1)
It is as bad to sing a lie, as to preach one; and nobody should ever sing a song which he believes expresses an unscriptural idea. People are not given this liberty with human creeds. One accepts their dogmas, or he is not accepted for membership, or is ex-communicated.
3. Song lyrics are not legislated by a hierarchy; human creeds are. Churches of Christ are at liberty to obtain their song books from any source and in any form they desire. They can buy them from a publishing house, print their own, write their own, etc. Generally, human creeds are the official decrees of some sort of ecclesiastical hierarchy and constitute the seed from which grow human religions. If a group of people want to be known as a Methodist Church, they must accept the METHODIST DISCIPLINE. No church of Christ known to me has ever said, "If you want to be a member of the church of Christ, you must accept the lyrics of our songs."
It will be noticed that I have modified the word "creed" with the word "human." I have done this purposely. I have heard some brethren say, "We do not have a creed." They know not what they say! The word "creed" comes from the Latin word "credo" meaning "I believe." To say that we do not have a creed is to say we do not believe anything. Certainly, we have a creed! The New Testament is our creed. We have the right to enforce it. When one becomes a member of the church we have the right to expect him to accept its teachings. We are opposed to HUMAN creeds that contain more or less than the New Testament. We are not against the creed the Lord has given as our statement of belief.
I doubt the wisdom and accuracy of saying that creeds are "unnecessary repetition" if they contain the same things as the New Testament. This would render unnecessary everything we say in sermons or write in articles. I pray that every article I write will contain the same thing as the New Testament. However, I do not believe that makes it unnecessary. Preaching and writing are designed to connect and elaborate upon the scriptures, applying them to real-life situations. This is not wrong.
Thus, song lyrics will become parallel to human creeds when song lyrics cease to be scripturally enjoined, acceptance of them is made a condition of church membership, and they are legislated by a "church of Christ convention" which forces them upon every member of the church. Until such time, they will continue to stand in a class altogether different from human creeds. They may be "affirmative of belief," but they are not forced upon anyone. Our brother's question is an affirmation of his belief; does that make his question unscriptural? Certainly not! My answer is an affirmation of my belief. Is it wrong for me to answer his question? Not according to Col. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:15.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 7, pp. 8-9