As a change of pace from regular systematic expository preaching, and often to fit in with school holidays, I have developed a couple of sermons series entitled ‘Creedal conundrums’ that looks at phrases in the creeds that often puzzle people.
On the Apostles’ Creed, we did:
- Born of the virgin Mary
- He descended into hell
- The holy, catholic church.
And recently on the Nicene Creed, we did:
- Begotten, not made (listen to the MP3 of this sermon; 45:04 min)
- The Spirit who proceeds
- One baptism for the forgiveness of sins (listen to the MP3 of this sermon; 36:23 min).
Going through the creeds allows you to do some good systematic theology and enables people to say them with more understanding instead of with uncertainty and a consequent reluctance to say something you don’t quite ‘get’.
I received an enormous amount of comments and questions after this series—including a couple of questions on the value of the creeds in general, and of the Nicene Creed in particular. Here’s the first question:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of having and saying a creed? (There are some good churches that don’t say creeds.)
Here’s my answer: you’re quite right. Many Bible-based churches have endured even though they don’t recite the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed on a regular basis. However, it’s worth noting that many denominations still adopt these creeds as part of their basis of faith (e.g. the Presbyterians), and I have had visits from Baptist pastors who have said they quite enjoy saying the creeds from time to time because they see their value.
Still, the creeds are not Scripture and, as with all man-made traditions, they should be subservient to Scripture; it is teaching God’s word that is critical. And so churches can survive and flourish without using the creeds in their gathering. However, in this case, I would say that the human tradition of the creeds captures important ‘biblical tradition’: creeds are a human tradition that help affirm God’s great and true tradition, if I can put it this way.
I will say more about the advantages of creeds in my next post. But what are you thoughts on this question?