top of page

The Problem With Human Creeds

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your

righteous judgments endures forever. Princes persecute me

without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word” (Psalm

119:160-161, NKJV).

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

“And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the

commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

“ heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who

turn from the truth (Titus 1:14).

I came across this recently on a Wesleyan website: The succinct quote, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity,” is an aphorism variously attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430), John Wesley (1703 – 1791), and to a number of theologians in between them. It is often cited as Christians attempt to reach consensus regarding their core theological and ethical convictions and how they will live them out in church and society. The quote is full of wise counsel, and yet it also begs two important questions: “What are the essentials? And who determines what they are?”....Fortunately, we are standing on the shoulders of ancestors who have bequeathed to us a treasury of essential faith statements. We find these biblically rooted confessions in the great creeds of the church (e.g., the Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedonian Creeds). To be sure, we continue to explore and even debate the meaning of these great confessions, but we do not call them into question. We believe they are so essential to what it means to call one’s self a Christian

that we accept them by faith, give thanks for them, and trust that God will continue to illuminate their meaning for us even we when find ourselves lost in the mystery, wonder, and love of them. In these profound theological essentials we find unity.”

I hope this profession is as offensive to you as it is to me. It puts on full display the problem

with human creeds. Because they are held as authoritative.

Creeds are interesting and can be informative. They are summaries of doctrines and purported truths written by uninspired men and women. Thus, they are essentially commentaries on the Scriptures that come down to us from the past, some of them going back to near the first century. They let us know what some people thought the Scriptures meant. But they are also of necessity filled with theological dogma and traditions. Some were written to maintain ecclesiastical power. Thus, a creed should be treated just like any other religious writing—always held up against the Word of God. It is no surprise that the creeds of men do not bring unity; they bring division. They contradict one another at times. They contain extra-biblical claims. To accept them by faith is quite a statement: faith in who? In the

ecclesiastical authority that produced them!

Many of us have heard this statement in some form: “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.” Why is that? Because the Word of God alone is the truth, and we, as the Psalmist did, must stand in awe of it. It has no parallel, and all writings of men and women (including this one!) stand under its authority. The Scriptures carry their own warnings about adding and subtracting, peddling, and twisting. These warnings apply to creeds just as they would to anything else.

Creeds have a lot of value, including for spiritual growth. But we must keep them in their proper place. God’s Word alone reveals Who He is, purifies the soul, and brings

eternal life.

—John Ostic

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page