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The Apostles Creed: A Test for Genuine Faith

by | Mar 16, 2021 | Blog, The Church | 0 comments

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Al Mohler has a new book out entitled, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. In that book Mohler says the following:

The Apostles’ Creed can build true Christian unity on the foundations and the fundamentals of the faith. All Christians across denominational lines, he asserted, can believe more than the Apostles’ Creed — but no Christian can believe less.

In modern American churches, even Evangelical churches, the appreciation for the significance and importance of creeds and confessions and the role they play in the Christian life has all but disappeared. It has vanished from Christian praxis. It is my view that the lack of such creeds and confessions is a clear indicator of the health of a church. Carl Trueman, in his book, The Creedal Imperative, writes,

The burden that motivates my writing of this book is my belief that creeds and confessions are vital to the present and future well-being of the church.

Trueman is spot on.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He also said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” This truth has been handed down to the Church from Christ through the Spirit’s work in and through his holy Apostles and Prophets. A creed or confession takes the teachings of Scripture and summarizes them into an organized structure.

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What is The Apostles Creed and what does it say? J.N.D. Kelly writes,

Next to the Constantinopolitan Creed, the most important confessional formulary in Christendom is the so-called Apostles’ Creed. Except in Anabaptist circles, its authority was generally recognized at the Reformation, Martin Luther singling it out as one of the three binding summaries of belief, and both Calvin and Zwingli including it among their doctrinal norms.[1]

The Apostles’ Creed has its origin in the old Roman Creed R. As pagans increasingly lined up to join the Christian community the concern grew over how easily the church could be overwhelmed with a tidal wave of converts who could bring their misguided notions of Christianity into the community with them. As a counter-measure to this serious and increasing threat, the church restructured its catechetical system. Kelly says,

One offshoot of this tightening up, and one which is of direct relevance to our studies, would seem to have been the development, some time or other in the third century and probably in Rome first of all, of the rites of the handing over, or traditio, and giving back, or redditio, of the creed as part of the immediate preparation for baptism.[2]

One of the earliest creeds to come out of this practice is known as the old Roman Creed. It is called the Roman Creed because it is believed to have been formulated by the Church at Rome in the 2nd-century.

I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven,
sits at the right hand of the Father,
whence He will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh
(the life everlasting).

The Old Roman Creed is the primitive predecessor of The Apostles’ Creed which first attested in its present form around the 8th century. It reads as follows:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; thence he will come to judge the living and the dead;

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life. Amen.[3]

It is easy to see the resemblance between the Old Roman Creed (220 A.D.) and The Apostles’ Creed. The point in all of this is that the ancient church was extremely concerned about the unity within its membership. It is a historical fact that the conversion of pagans resulted in people flooding into the churches who were bringing with them all sorts of ideas about who God was, what God was like, ideas about Christ, his nature, his work, to include his death and resurrection, the future of humanity and a coming judgment, the person of the Holy Spirit, the nature of the Church, sin, a future resurrection and life everlasting. In short, pagans were flooding the church with their pagan philosophies and something had to be done to correct the problem.

In an attempt to protect the integrity of the community of believers, the Church enacted the practice of pre-baptismal catechism as a means of ensuring that those coming into the church were truly confessing the truth of Scripture as received by and taught in the churches. Sadly, this practice has been abandoned by modern American evangelicals in preference for a Christianity that is far more emotive and mystical than it is cognitive and confessional. And as a result, the churches are entering one of the most confusing eras in its 2,000-year existence.

Al Mohler is right when he says that a Christian may confess more than The Apostles Creed, but he most certainly cannot confess less and preserve his status as a legitimate and true believer. Moreover, no Christian could ever confess anything contrary to The Apostles Creed and sustain a legitimate claim as a Christian.

How do we relate or apply this principle to the current milieu in evangelicalism? When Al Mohler says that a Christian cannot confess less than The Apostles Creed and remain a Christian, he is right. But when Russell Moore put together the MLK50 celebration, he was putting together an event that celebrated one of the highest profile false converts in the history of modern Christianity. How is it that this action did not receive serious attention and criticism from Mohler? One must ask if Mohler really means what he says or if he is paying lip service to the orthodox camp. It is exhausting to watch these men write such wonderful truth only to shrink back from living it out in the real world when the opportunity presents itself.

If you cannot confess less than The Apostles Creed and be a Christian, then you also cannot confess anything that is contrary to that creed and be a Christian. But we all know that MLK rejected the deity of Christ and the resurrection along with the virgin birth. How could anyone sit by and allow prominent SBC leaders sing the praises of King and celebrate him as a Christian leader? A leader he was! A Christian he was not! It seems that it is more important for a man to be on the right side of social issues going on in the culture than it is for him to be on the right side of The Apostles Creed.

Another issue I have with the silence of these men has to do with how they stand by and allow social justice advocates and racialists along with feminists to openly criticize the historic Christian church without lifting a finger. To believe in one holy catholic church is to believe in the authority of the church. It is to love the church. It is to embrace the church. But how often do we read about men like Thabiti Anyabwile, Jamar Tisby, and Eric Mason spewing hate-filled rhetoric about the church? The vilest gangster rap receives hearty approval while the church is vilified for not having enough melanin in it or for voting for the wrong candidate.

Sexual promiscuity, abortion, murder, drugs, and gangs, along with absentee fathers are creating havoc and instability in the black community and all these leaders seem to care about is reparations and votes for the liberal political party. Is this believing in and loving the one true catholic church? These men are tearing the church apart. As professing Christians who confess the creed, we have a duty to love the body of Christ and to love one another. Never has there been this much division and hatred in the visible church since I have been a Christian (1979). If you are counting, that’s 40 years.

Mohler closes his article with the following: “I hope to give Christians ammunition against false doctrines and help them to detect false Christianity.” To that I can give a hearty amen! Why not start by identifying Russell Moore, Beth Moore, Thabiti Anyabwile, Jamar Tisby, Eric Mason, Sam Allberry, and a host of others who are promulgating false doctrine and praxis and lets purge the body of these false teachers by insisting that we be a body of true believers professing Christ and confessing his truth! That wouldn’t be so bad would it? It wouldn’t if you are serious about keeping unbelieving pagans out of the community.

[1] J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, Third Edition. (London; New York: Continuum, 2006), 368.

[2] J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, Third Edition. (London; New York: Continuum, 2006), 100.

[3] Joseph Lienhard T., “Apostles’ Creed,” The Dictionary of Historical Theology (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster Press, 2000), 21–22.

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