Post Author: Bill Pratt
In the early centuries of Christianity, believers were mostly without complete written copies of the New Testament as we know it today. They may have possessed portions of it, but most Christians were taught doctrine orally. In order to focus on and remember what was important, the early church composed several creeds.
Creeds are simple summaries of central doctrines that are easy to memorize. According to Benjamin Galan in Creeds and Heresies Then and Now , the early Christian creeds served three purposes:
Explanation of the faith. Creeds are basic, memorable statements of belief.
Training of believers. Creeds help believers understand who they are, what they believe, and how they should act as Christians. They are like posts that delimit the boundaries of what it means to be , to believe, and live as Christians.
Identification and correction of false teachings. Even in the first century A.D., false teachers abounded – teachers who claimed to follow Jesus but who promoted a message about Jesus that differed radically from the historical accounts proclaimed by apostolic eyewitnesses. Early Christian creeds helped believers to distinguish the truth about Jesus from the alternative perspectives presented by false teachers.
Many Christian churches today still recite creeds composed by the early church, although churches in denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention do not. Whether creeds are recited during church services or not, it is important for all Christians to understand what the early creeds said, because we are inheritors of the contents of those creeds. If we fail to know what the creeds said, we fail to understand our history as a church.
What does your church do? Do you recite any creeds during your services?