Why do Christians need creeds and confessions? “3. The adoption and publication of a Creed, is a Tribute to Truth and Candour, which every Christian Church owes to the other Churches and to the world around her.“ (Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions; an 1824 address to the students of Princeton Seminary.)
Miller speaks to the aspect of a creed being a tribute to Truth and Candour, or honesty about a Church. We live in a world today where many choose to dis-associate their Church name from the denomination to which they belong. In an effort to try and bring people in the doors, more and more churches are dropping denominational labels, such as Baptist, or Methodist, or Assembly of God, or even Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In doing so, there can be an element of dishonesty by not being up front with the person who is looking for a Church home.
Please don’t take my words as saying every Church that doesn’t have their denominational affiliation listed clearly is involved in deceit or trying to hide their identity, many have noble desires. However, I am glad that our Church sign and all our printed material says OPC. When someone comes looking for a Church home they should know up front that we are an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and that name should stand for what we believe and it should show something of our faith, government and general character of our congregation.
Miller states that when a person is looking for a Church and seeks to join with one that most nearly agrees with himself in views of doctrine and order it can be difficult to simply go from Church to Church and hear on any given Sunday all a Church believes about faith and life.
“But when such an inquirer finds that we have a published creed, declaring how we understand the scriptures, and explicitly stating in detail the great truths which we have agreed to unite in maintaining; he can ascertain in a few hours, and without leaving his own dwelling, what we profess to believe and to practice, and how far he may hope to be at home in our communion.” (Miller)
I found this helpful myself in looking for a Reformed Church to which my family and I should belong. Knowing we were Reformed, but not knowing which denomination we should be a part of, I did a lot of research. I ended up reading the Westminster Standards before I even attended an OPC Church for the first time and I knew simply by the reading of a creed, that this was a Church I could call home.
Miller also states that not just individuals but a creed can also help to unify denominations with one another. As I have been writing the last two weeks in my reports from General Assembly about ecumenicity, it is only because we have a published Creed or standard that others can know where we stand and, we then have a foundation by which we can work better together.
“Creeds and Confessions, then, so far from having a tendency to “alienate” and “embitter” those Christian denominations, which think nearly alike, and ought to maintain fraternal intercourse; really tend to make them acquainted with each other; to lay a foundation for regular and cordial intercourse; to beget mutual confidence; and thus to promote the harmony of the Church of God.” (Miller)