The Need for a Creed: Reflections on Creeds, Confessions, and Manifestos

Everyone has a creed.  Even those who say they don’t believe in creeds have a creed. Their creed is:  “I don’t believe in creeds!”  What exactly is a creed? It’s simply a statement of belief.  Creed is derived from the Latin word credo, “to believe.” Therefore, if you have the capacity to believe in something, then you have a creed–even if it’s an unspoken one.

Throughout history, individuals and groups have written down their creeds. These have variously been called Declarations, Resolutions, Statements, Statements of Belief, Mission Statements, Doctrinal Statements, Confessions (from Latin confessus–to acknowledge), or Manifestos (from Latin manifestus–clear, evident, manifest). All are essentially creeds. Written creeds have played a vital and undeniable role in history–in philosophy, politics, and culture, as well as in the church.

The United States of America was founded on a creed called The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness . . .” The French Aristocracy was overthrown as a result of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” a creed published during the French Revolution. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels collaborated on a creed that changed the political landscape for generations: “The Communist Manifesto”.  The “Humanist Manifesto I,” a fifteen point creed written in 1933 was published with thirty-four signatories. It led to the 1973 “Humanist Manifesto II,”  whose oft-quoted lines include, "No deity will save us; we must save ourselves," and "We are responsible for what we are and for what we will be." The second Humanist Manifesto was initially published with a small number of signatories, but then procured thousands more.  Over the course of time, its tenets have been assimilated en masse to become the dominant world-view of our time.

Just as political and philosophical creeds have profoundly influenced the course of secular history, so have Christian creeds profoundly affected the history of the church. It’s important to note that contrary to secular creeds, the creeds produced by the Christian Church are statements of faith that are meant to accurately reflect and summarize what Scripture teaches. They are not regarded as additions or replacements for Scripture. Instead, these documents are carefully considered and thoughtfully worded responses to various issues, heresies and historical situations that have challenged the Church and sound doctrine over the centuries.  In general, they highlight and oppose those errors that the compilers of the creed believe are most dangerous to sound doctrine at that particular time in history.

The Apostles’ Creed, drawn up in the first or second century, emphasized the full humanity of Jesus. This was in response to the Gnostic movement of the time, which taught that the physical world was evil, and that Christ did not actually take on human nature. The Nicene Creed, written in the fourth century, emphatically affirmed the Deity of Christ. It was directed against the Arians–a group of people in the church who were proposing that Christ was not fully God. Martin Luther’s” Ninety-Five Theses” was a creed that countered the practice of indulgences. It became the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s. The Ninety-five Theses preceded other creeds such as the Augsburg Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Canons of the Synod of Dort, and later, the London Baptist Confession and Westminster Confession of Faith.  “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” a creed signed by hundreds of biblical scholars and leaders in 1978, was formulated to defend against the trend toward liberal and neo-orthodox conceptions of Scripture.

History demonstrates that creeds are profoundly important. They are documents that challenge people to change, counter, or correct a current trend of thought–or at the very least, to reconsider it. Creeds clarify beliefs. Creeds set direction. Creeds create movements. Creeds are like signposts at a junction.  They require travelers to choose and commit to one path or another. Ultimately, this choice determines whether the traveler and those who follow will arrive at one destination, or at a different one, miles apart from the first.

Over the past several weeks–since its unveiling in Chicago on October 11, 2008–more than 6,500 Christian women have signed the True Woman Manifesto, a creed that summarizes what its signers believe the Bible teaches about what it means to be a woman created in the image of God, living for the glory of God. Given the effects of the feminist movement, the cultural assault on gender and sexuality, and the unprecedented deconstruction of marriage and the family, I believe a carefully considered and thoughtfully worded response to this historical situation is warranted. The pressure on the church to accommodate to culture’s view of manhood and womanhood is enormous–the Bible’s teachings on gender and sexuality have become extremely counter-cultural. Yet in and through Christ, they remain our only hope for discovering our true identity and purpose, finding healing and wholeness, and living in a manner worthy of those created in the image and for the glory of God.

The True Woman Manifesto is not meant to be a comprehensive statement of faith, nor a catalog of matters essential to salvation, nor an infallible guide to every aspect of life, nor a document that in any way adds to or replaces Scripture. As with any creed, proponents and opponents could endlessly debate the choice of wording, order, and emphases. But doing so would miss the point. The True Woman Manifesto is merely a signpost–highlighting some major points about what we believe the Bible says to women, and declaring our conviction that even if its teachings are unpopular in this day and age, the Bible provides the best (and wholly authoritative) instruction with regards to what we believe and how we live as women.

Today, many women are unwittingly living by creeds set forth by the secular woman’s movement. As this New Year launches, I challenge you to consider endorsing a different one. The True Woman Manifesto is significant. It’s historic. And I invite YOU to sign your name to be part of this counter-cultural revolution.

If you haven't already, read & sign the True Woman Manifesto here.

About the Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a frequent guest on Revive Our Hearts. She has written more than a dozen books and Bible studies including Conversation Peace and The Right Kind of Strong. … read more …

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