Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Why Don't Baptists Say The Apostles' Creed?

Will Willimon says he didn't think much of Dogmatics in Outline when he first read it, just that Bart sounded like "some kind of conservative." Well, sure. Dogmatics in Outline is Barth's brief commentary on the Apostles' Creed, and anyone doing right by the Creed should sound like a conservative, because the Creed is so faithful to Scripture. One might respond, Yes, but the Creed is not Scripture. That line of thought must be why I never heard of the Creed—at least not at church—in my evangelical upbringing.

If we neglect the Creed simply because it is not Scripture, we might ask whether we need any theology at all. Why not just read the Bible, and only the Bible? We can answer that question with one wordTrinity. It's a word not found in the Bible, but it helps us understand what the Bible teaches about God. The same is true of the Apostles' Creed.

The Creed concisely states fundamental Christian beliefs that are taught throughout different places in the Bible. The ESV Following Jesus Bible has a page on the Creed that matches up 23 biblical references to specific items.

One might argue we would do better to memorize the 23 Scripture passages. OK, but, the Creed is easier to learn and easier to share. If we learned the 23 passages, we'd also need to learn some way to understand and communicate how they fit together. Given this usefulness of the Creed, we again ask, why don't Southern Baptist use it?

In answering this question, Google reminded me that Al Mohler wrote a book on the Apostles' Creed just last year. In this interview, he says Creed aversion usually stems from a fear that we'll emphasize the Creed above Scripture. I get that. I respect the concern that we not confuse anyone on what is authoritative. At the same time, this position brings us back to the difficulty of a "nothing but the Bible" approach. If that's our stance, we need to throw out the Hymnal. [My church already did that, but that's a different story.]

Mohler also says that if we don't use the Creed, we'll need to make up some other summation of our faith. Mohler warns against that. The Apostles' Creed has stood the test of time for good reason. That reminds me of Stanley Hauerwas' comment that Christianity is something we receive, not something we make up as we go along.

I enjoyed Dogmatics in Outline. I don't know if I'll read Mohler's book, but I do plan to read Ben Myers'. I used to enjoy his blog. (It's still here, but someone else posts on it now.)

If you don't know the Creed, I encourage you to learn it. It's a good thing to carry around with you (in your head). You'll find yourself remembering it on occasion. You'll read or hear something and think about how it connects to the Creed.

I can't predict how referring to it may go over in your Sunday school class, but, if you run into Dr. Willimon, maybe he'll think you're some kind of conservative, like Karl Barth.


  1. The one part I have a problem with in the Apostles' Creed is the last paragraph, second statement.
    I believe in the Holy Spirit
    the holy catholic church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the everlasting. Amen

    I seem to have an aversion to including that I believe in the holy catholic church.

  2. Notice catholic is not capitalized? It means the universal Christian church not The Catholic Church.

    1. Was it not written for the Catholic Church at first?