By Robert F. Turner
By some strange travesty those who cry loudest for liberty are often the ones who mean liberty for their opinions only; and “non-sectarian” preachers have a way of becoming the most “creed-bound” of all. The absence of an official written “discipline” is no guarantee of an “open pulpit.”
What is a “creed”? The word comes from the Latin “credo” which means, “I believe.” Many creeds of today retain the form of the so-called Apostles’ Creed, each article beginning with “I believe .” They are concise statements of belief, or doctrine, which identify the “position” of the maker.
Perhaps the first creeds were formulated in an effort to combat what was believed to be error — to state with clarity some matter that was being questioned — or simply an unashamed affirmation of principles upon which certain ones stood. Today our brethren write little creeds in tract form, to show what “we believe”; or as clauses in deeds to church property, to keep a church building in the hands of men who gave the same “I believe” as the original owners. (This seldom works, because of the failure to apply yesterday’s principles to tomorrow’s problems.)
Are such “creeds” wrong? Not necessarily! After all, “we do believe” certain things, whether we write them or not. But should we claim to state that which must be believed, anything less than God’s word is too little, any- thing more than God’s word is too much, and anything different from God’s word is condemned by this fact. A Christian’s “creed” may be stated as his confession that Jesus Christ is Lord — which recognizes the Son of God as having “all authority,” and accepts everything taught in his covenant. We believe, accept, and practice — recognizing as a basis of fellowship with Christ and Christians — only those things which may be proven to be “by his authority.”
The error of “man-written creeds” (as we call them) is (1) man’s presumption to shorten, lengthen, alter, or better arrange God’s revelation of truth; and (2) the setting up and acceptance of some man’s “I believe” as a standard of right and wrong.
“Creed-bound” minds are minds tied to one’s own or some other’s “I believe” — no longer free to approach God’s word objectively, to be changed by this unchanging divine standard.
Creeds and sectarianism have moved hand in hand through history. Certain “beliefs” are accepted as “orthodox,” and become the standards for determining “fellowship.” Tradition, majority rule, big churches, papers, preachers, and such like take the place of God’s word and all who object must be marked and ostracized. These seem to think Romans 16:17 reads, “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of our party and traditions.” This is sectarianism, whether in or out of the church, and it will send souls to hell.
But someone asks, “Should we not ‘believe’ something; and should we not have firm convictions, wanting others to accept what we believe to be the truth?” We should indeed! And, we may state, even write, what we believe about a matter without being a creed maker, or “creed-bound.” The difference lies in one’s attitude toward his beliefs. Have they become his standard, or is he still willing to “prove” them by God’s word?
Do we become angry if someone questions our “beliefs”? Are we unwilling to discuss them in the light of God’s truth? Do we refuse to consider any conclusion other than our own? Are we fair with ourselves in answering the questions of this paragraph? There is One who knows my heart and yours!