Robert F. Turner
By some strange travesty those who cry loudest for liberty are often
the ones who mean liberty for their opinions only; and "non-sectarian"
preachers have a way of becoming the most "creed-bound" of all.
The absence of an official written "discipline" is no guarantee
of an "open pulpit".
What is a "creed"? The word comes from the Latin "credo"
which means, "I believe." Many creeds of today retain the form
of the so-called Apostles' Creed, each article beginning with "I believe--."
They are concise statements of belief, or doctrine, which identify the
"position" of the maker.
Perhaps the first creeds were formulated in an effort to combat what
was believed to be error-- to state with clarity some matter that was being
questioned-- or simply an unashamed affirmation of principles upon which
certain ones stood. Today our brethren write little creeds in tract form,
to show what "we believe"; or as clauses in deeds to church property,
to keep a church building in the hands of men who gave the same "I
believe" as the original owners. (This seldom works, because of the
failure to apply yesterday's principles to tomorrow's problems.)
Are such "creeds" wrong? Not necessarily! After all, "we
do believe" certain things, whether we write them or not. But should
we claim to state THAT WHICH MUST BE BELIEVED, anything less than God's
word is too little, anything more than God's word is too much, and anything
different from God's word is condemned by this fact. A Christian's "creed"
may be stated as his confession that Jesus Christ is Lord-- which recognizes
the Son of God as having "all authority," and accepts everything
taught in His covenant. We believe, accept, and practice-- recognizing
as a basis of fellowship with Christ and Christians-- only those things
which may be proven to be "by His authority."
The error of "man-written creeds" (as we call them) is (1)
man's presumption to shorten, lengthen, alter, or better arrange God's
revelation of truth; and (2) the setting up and acceptance of some man's
"I believe" as a standard of right and wrong.
"Creed-bound" minds are minds tied to one's own or some other's
"I believe"-- no longer free to approach God's word objectively,
to be changed by this unchanging divine standard.
Creeds and sectarianism have moved hand in hand through history. Certain
"beliefs" are accepted as "orthodox," and become the
standards for determining "fellowship." Tradition, majority rule,
big churches, papers, preachers, and such like take the place of God's
word-- and all who object must be marked and ostracized. These seem to
think Rom. 16:17 reads, "mark them which cause divisions and offenses
contrary to the doctrine of our party and traditions." This
is sectarianism, whether in or out of the church, and it will send souls
But someone asks, "Should we not 'believe' something; and should
we not have firm convictions, wanting others to accept what we believe
to be the truth?" We should indeed! And, we may state, even write,
what we believe about a matter without being a creed maker, or "creed-bound."
The difference lies in one's attitude toward his beliefs. Have they become
his standard, or is he still willing to "prove" them by God's
Do we become angry if someone questions our "beliefs"? Are
we unwilling to discuss them in the light of God's truth? Do we refuse
to consider any conclusion other than our own? Are we fair with ourselves
in answering the questions of this paragraph? There is One who knows my
heart-- and yours!!