Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Forbidding creeds is tyranny

Campbellism was a movement that not only taught baptismal regeneration, but also against the use of creeds or confessions, arguing that creeds ended up being a kind of replacement for the Scriptures. Baptists reacted strongly against this, with the Kentucky brance of the American Baptist Association writing in the 1820's,

“Creeds formed or enforced by the civil authority, are usurpatious, leading to persecution and to despotism; while those formed by voluntary Associations of Christians, enforced by no higher penalty or sanction, than exclusion from the membership in the society are not only lawful, but necessary, in the present state of the religious world. To deny any religious society the privilege of expressing their views of the Bible in their own words and phrases, and of denying admission to those who reject their views, is a violent interference with the rights of conscience–it is tyranny.

“By a creed we mean an epitome, or summary exhibition of what the Scriptures teach. Are we to admit members into the church and into office, are we to license and ordain preachers, without enquiring for their creed?” (from A Sourcebook for Baptist History, edited by McBeth).
This last paragraph introduces an important question for American Baptist churches today: Do we place enough importance on the "creed" of those seeking to be members in our churches?

8 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

Ryan, we probably don't emphasize creed enough, merely a profession and reasonable evidence of the reality of the same.

A related question is the church covenant. This is also a long standing practice in Baptist circles. What do you think of these in addition to creed?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

3/08/2006 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Everyone says they believe the Bible. A person's creed (or agreement to a creed) helps us better to know what they believe the Bible teaches. So it is with our covenant.

Likewise, everyone says they want to do or practice what the Bible commands. In a very similar way, the church covenant is way of our agreeing what practice it is that the Bible requires of believes.

I think we should be holding both our church's creed and convenant up to the local body on a regular basis. We should be reminding them of their "solemn oath."

I believe that churches should either get serious about their covenant (and creed) or get rid of it.

3/08/2006 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Where do you find the creed or covenant for a particular church or denomination? I have always just kind of considered myself a Christian, without giving much thought to exactly what I believed, until I recently relocated to a new area and joined a new church. Now questions have come up, in my mind, regarding what I believe and if that is consistent with what my church seems to believe. Some of them seem to have some somewhat liberal interpretations of scripture. They have a website but don’t have much on there other that the schedule. I’ve asked some questions but haven’t really gotten a clear idea if their creed is in line with my beliefs.

3/08/2006 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Daniel

Ask to see the church's legal documents, the constitution and statement of faith, and a covenant if there is one.

If there is reluctance in letting you see these documents, I would leave the church. Of course, there could be something in the documents that would also make you want to leave.

Hopefully, however, you will find everything in order.

Ryan, we have never had a covenant, although I have toyed with it off and on over the years. At the time we were setting things up, someone warned me that the danger of covenants was to make them too specific, they would tend to get out-dated and folks would justify bad behaviour by saying "its not covered in the covenant". However, I have seen some old Baptist covenants in an anthology edited by Timothy George (Baptist Confessions, Covenants, and Catechisms) that I thought were pretty good. I have worked through some of them with our people in the past. Might be time for a refresher!

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

3/08/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

If I am not mistaken, Don, the covenant connected with the New Hampshire Confession written by Brown is the most common Baptist covenant. It is pretty general, yet probably requiring more than most members are doing today (maintain secret and family devotions, etc). I prefer covenants that sound "timeless," in that they do not forbid "DVD's" or "movie theaters," etc.

I think a good representative covenant would be like this one.

3/08/2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Daniel,

Try to get as clear a statement as possible as to what the church believes. Once you do, you will have to make a decision whether or not your can conscientously continue there; the church's beliefs should be a very important factor as to the one you join. If you cannot stay, find a church where you can.

For more on the relationship between historic Christianity and liberalism I highly recommend that you read Machen's Christianity and Liberalism. It is not a hard book at all, and quite compelling.

3/08/2006 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Ryan,

I agree that covenants should be general as you say. The Brown covenant is a good one, but even it could be updated. The line about 'intoxicating drinks' might need to be altered to address illicit drugs as well...

I think that's where the quandary is. How to sufficiently cover the topic without being overly specific and at the same time leaving no loopholes.

In George's book, they add this prayer at the end of Brown's covenant:

"Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do His will; working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

That's a nice touch, I think.

I would recommend the George's book (his wife is co-editor) as a Baptist reference work. I quite like it.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

3/08/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I like that ending too. Perhaps I should move at our next church business meeting to add that on . . .

What's that line in Ecclesiastes? "Of the buying of books there is no end" or something . . .

I'll keep a look-out for it.

3/08/2006 01:47:00 PM  

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Immoderate: Forbidding creeds is tyranny

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Forbidding creeds is tyranny

Campbellism was a movement that not only taught baptismal regeneration, but also against the use of creeds or confessions, arguing that creeds ended up being a kind of replacement for the Scriptures. Baptists reacted strongly against this, with the Kentucky brance of the American Baptist Association writing in the 1820's,

“Creeds formed or enforced by the civil authority, are usurpatious, leading to persecution and to despotism; while those formed by voluntary Associations of Christians, enforced by no higher penalty or sanction, than exclusion from the membership in the society are not only lawful, but necessary, in the present state of the religious world. To deny any religious society the privilege of expressing their views of the Bible in their own words and phrases, and of denying admission to those who reject their views, is a violent interference with the rights of conscience–it is tyranny.

“By a creed we mean an epitome, or summary exhibition of what the Scriptures teach. Are we to admit members into the church and into office, are we to license and ordain preachers, without enquiring for their creed?” (from A Sourcebook for Baptist History, edited by McBeth).
This last paragraph introduces an important question for American Baptist churches today: Do we place enough importance on the "creed" of those seeking to be members in our churches?

8 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

Ryan, we probably don't emphasize creed enough, merely a profession and reasonable evidence of the reality of the same.

A related question is the church covenant. This is also a long standing practice in Baptist circles. What do you think of these in addition to creed?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

3/08/2006 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Everyone says they believe the Bible. A person's creed (or agreement to a creed) helps us better to know what they believe the Bible teaches. So it is with our covenant.

Likewise, everyone says they want to do or practice what the Bible commands. In a very similar way, the church covenant is way of our agreeing what practice it is that the Bible requires of believes.

I think we should be holding both our church's creed and convenant up to the local body on a regular basis. We should be reminding them of their "solemn oath."

I believe that churches should either get serious about their covenant (and creed) or get rid of it.

3/08/2006 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Where do you find the creed or covenant for a particular church or denomination? I have always just kind of considered myself a Christian, without giving much thought to exactly what I believed, until I recently relocated to a new area and joined a new church. Now questions have come up, in my mind, regarding what I believe and if that is consistent with what my church seems to believe. Some of them seem to have some somewhat liberal interpretations of scripture. They have a website but don’t have much on there other that the schedule. I’ve asked some questions but haven’t really gotten a clear idea if their creed is in line with my beliefs.

3/08/2006 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Daniel

Ask to see the church's legal documents, the constitution and statement of faith, and a covenant if there is one.

If there is reluctance in letting you see these documents, I would leave the church. Of course, there could be something in the documents that would also make you want to leave.

Hopefully, however, you will find everything in order.

Ryan, we have never had a covenant, although I have toyed with it off and on over the years. At the time we were setting things up, someone warned me that the danger of covenants was to make them too specific, they would tend to get out-dated and folks would justify bad behaviour by saying "its not covered in the covenant". However, I have seen some old Baptist covenants in an anthology edited by Timothy George (Baptist Confessions, Covenants, and Catechisms) that I thought were pretty good. I have worked through some of them with our people in the past. Might be time for a refresher!

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

3/08/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

If I am not mistaken, Don, the covenant connected with the New Hampshire Confession written by Brown is the most common Baptist covenant. It is pretty general, yet probably requiring more than most members are doing today (maintain secret and family devotions, etc). I prefer covenants that sound "timeless," in that they do not forbid "DVD's" or "movie theaters," etc.

I think a good representative covenant would be like this one.

3/08/2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Daniel,

Try to get as clear a statement as possible as to what the church believes. Once you do, you will have to make a decision whether or not your can conscientously continue there; the church's beliefs should be a very important factor as to the one you join. If you cannot stay, find a church where you can.

For more on the relationship between historic Christianity and liberalism I highly recommend that you read Machen's Christianity and Liberalism. It is not a hard book at all, and quite compelling.

3/08/2006 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Ryan,

I agree that covenants should be general as you say. The Brown covenant is a good one, but even it could be updated. The line about 'intoxicating drinks' might need to be altered to address illicit drugs as well...

I think that's where the quandary is. How to sufficiently cover the topic without being overly specific and at the same time leaving no loopholes.

In George's book, they add this prayer at the end of Brown's covenant:

"Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do His will; working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

That's a nice touch, I think.

I would recommend the George's book (his wife is co-editor) as a Baptist reference work. I quite like it.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

3/08/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I like that ending too. Perhaps I should move at our next church business meeting to add that on . . .

What's that line in Ecclesiastes? "Of the buying of books there is no end" or something . . .

I'll keep a look-out for it.

3/08/2006 01:47:00 PM  

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