Heresy is an opportunity

Over the years and recently through my Grad studies in apologetics, I have developed an appreciation for the Creeds of the Church. Many people are “anti-creed” because the creeds are not directly Scripture, but this need not be a hindrance to using them or cherishing them as long as they are not used in place of or exclusive of Scripture. Here are three reasons why I appreciate the creeds.

Principles

I appreciate the creeds for their principles. Their content is full of Scriptural principles that were studied carefully for years. They may not be direct quotes from Scripture, but you can be sure it is full of what the Bible teaches directly and indirectly (eg. The Trinity).

I have heard many times in discussion in apologetics circles over the last couple of years, a sense of the need to refocus Church education/Christian education on catechizing our people. I don’t think that word “catechizing” is being used in the Roman Catholic sense or of their material. It is being used in the sense of purposeful (systematic) teaching that incorporates Scripture and the Church’s creeds along with teaching careful and thorough doctrine.

Purpose

I appreciate the creeds for their purpose. The creeds came together out of a necessity to combat heresy. The principles of sound doctrine were developed out of an urgent need to answer the false teachings of such things as Gnosticism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Apollinarianism, Monarchianism and Eutychianism.

There were a lot of ideas floating around, and not all were easy to distinguish from the truth; the teachings were close, but not close enough. Those present at the councils needed to be grounded in Scripture, familiar with it in an intimate and studied manner, and then be able to take that knowledge and give a reasoned defense against the false teaching. I am grateful for what the creeds have provided for the Church under God’s Sovereignty and Providence.

Provocation

I appreciate what the creeds provoke us to do today. (Yes, I was reaching for a “p” word, but work with me here). The Church today is not without its own heresies and false teachings. The Creeds of old call us to continue to defend the sound doctrine they have laid down as well as to answer the false teachings of our own day. We must, like those before, also know our Scriptures intimately.

This is why I used the title that heresy is an opportunity. Heresy is an opportunity to take a closer look at our Scripture and our doctrine. There is much work to be done in answering the false teachings of people like  Joel and Victoria Osteen, the Emergent Church, sects like Mormonism and cults like JWs. They all claim to be teaching true Christianity – yet can we answer why they are not? How about our kids, or those in our churches? How about your small group? This is where our work comes in, both at the scholarly level and at the lay level. I hope also, we can do this from a posture of love and concern, rather than of arrogance or anger.

Below I have included the Nicene Creed. This was developed over many years to combat false doctrine against the Nature of God (eg. There is One God, not three gods. God is three persons yet one Being.) Also, please note that the use of “catholic” here means universal; thus the lower-case “c”.

THE NICENE CREED

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Amen.