In the non-Calvinist world, and particularly the non-Trinitarian world, there is a tendency to reject creeds. Not just the established creeds, but even the very concept of making creeds. Of course, the Bible is the authority…blah blah blah. But I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that we have such an uphill battle against Calvinism. Why???? Its such a disgusting theology. Why would anyone believe it?
Simply put: because its easier to beleive a doctrine that can be handed to them in the form of a creed than one that has to constantly proven from the Bible, from scratch, every time anyone asks a question or makes a challenge. Its a serious disadvantage to be expected to explain the whole Bible on the fly, even with memorized responses and traditional helps like commentaries, etc.
There have been many non-Calvinist movements over the centuries since the Reformation. Most of them have died out. Those that didn’t die out completely either have already, or are in the process of compromising with Calvinism. But had they made a creed, would they still be around? would they have stayed solid and not compromised? It would have given them an ease of explaining their beliefs, right? And thus an ease of propagating them? So this is a line of inquiry I am going to pursue. Do we need creeds or not?
What does a creed do? In a creed, you take up the parts of the Bible you believe in and isolate them from the parts you don’t believe in, and if you feel like it, you add in stuff that’s not even in the Bible. That’s how the Catholics and the Calvinists have done it.
So why can’t we do it too? The fact is, we need a creed, not to add anything to the Bible like they do, but to remove from it. To remove the mistakes and blunders of Paul. Can non-Calvinist churches remain non-Calvinist without a creed to authoritatively outline what parts of Paul’s doctrine are wrong? Without showing what explanation of why we don’t need to be circumcised (for instance) we will replace Paul’s bogus “faith vs works” explanation with?
What do you think?
One thing I clearly see as a mistake for non-Calvinists is accepting the idea that all books included in the canon are equal, and especially giving Paul any independent authority (i.e. believing him when no books not written by him substantiate his claims). Non-Calvinists for too long have tried to mold Paul into Christ’s image, and ultimately failed, and lost their churches to Calvinist takeovers, because where Paul is accepted as inspired, Calvinism WILL take over eventually. Well, either Calvinism will takeover, or take away your membership. Either they seize the building, or they empty it.
The only non-Calvinist organizations to date that seems capable of beating this are the ones that mimic the RCC in creating a hierarchical institution. But surely it can be done without this. I would much prefer a one-time creed to point out where Paul is wrong over a bureaucracy given the power to change doctrine whenever they feel like it.
Now, one of the reasons people fear questioning Paul is the question “where will it stop?” If you begin to question one book in the canon, won’t you question another, until there is nothing left? Well, this may be precisely where a creed comes in handy: it tells you where to stop. If you were to question the canon on your own, maybe you never would stop. But with a creed, either you stop, or you exit the bounds of fellowship of the group that accepts the creed. So a creed could be the way to mitigate the over-questioning of the canon.
But will non-Calvinists ever be open to a creed? or will they always oppose creed-making to the point of signing their own death-warrants?
We could even take the tact of leaving Christology out of the creed, and making it only the basics, like:
We believe that there is one God, who created all things visible and invisible, who for the salvation of mankind sent his son Jesus, the Messiah or Christ, to die for the sins of all, that all might have a chance at salvation, whosoever will believe and obey the gospel.
We believe that one must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; repent of their sins; confess said belief; and be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins. And after this, live the Christian life; a life of worshiping God, and of morality.
We believe that it is within man’s power to do these things, for God did not promise any moral incapacity as a punishment for Adam’s sin.
We reprobate anyone who preaches faith alone, especially faith alone in sanctification, but also even in justification, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself did not even use the term “justification” but spoke of forgiveness or remission of sins only. And that he did not speak of as something to be received by faith alone, but by baptism firstly, and by prayer afterwards.
We be so bold as to say if anyone preaches inherited disability or arbitrary predestination, or any variation of once saved always saved, let him be anathema. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of Protestantism: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. (cf. Titus 1:10-11)
Note, reprobate is being used as a verb. Archaic language above is all intentional to evoke the creedyness of the creed.