Monday, July 8, 2013

Creeds and Confessions, Objections Answered, Part 5

5. The final objection that I wish to consider is that rather than producing unity and communion, subscription to creeds and confessions has been found to produce the opposite: discord and strife.

Some will claim that the creeds and confessions, rather than binding the members together in close unity, have in fact proven to be a bone of contention. They have been a means of provoking mutual charges of heresy. They had been the cause of ill feelings among those who might otherwise have been gotten along in harmony.

Again, those who assert this need a history lesson. My first reply to this alleged fact is that it is utterly false. It is not true that creeds have generated contention and strife in the churches which have adopted them. It would be easy to show that in churches where creeds and confessions have been most esteemed and regarded there has been union and peace in a remarkably high degree. The fact is that division and strife have only entered the church on the heels of an unfaithful regard to creeds and confessions. I would go one further and defy the opponent of creeds and confessions to show me a church, established without a creed or confession, which has a history of more than a few years without some form of internal division and strife.

My 2nd remark would be this: even granting the false premise of this argument, that creeds and confessions are indirectly connected with conflict and contention in the church, it would still form no solid argument against their use. Whenever Christians in all ages have ardently devoted themselves to what they deemed to be truth, they have always adopted creeds and confessions of faith. Whenever Christians have found it necessary to defend the truth of Scripture against the incursions of heresy they have adopted formal statements of what they believe as a standard of measure and test of orthodoxy. To say that a sound, scriptural creed is the cause of division, turmoil and strife is tantamount to saying that medicine causes the disease it is intended to cure. The Bible commands us to contend earnestly for the faith and to hold him accursed who preaches another gospel. When such a contention becomes necessary, whose fault is it? It is certainly not the fault of the advocates of truth. It is the fault of the advocates of error who endeavor to corrupt the body of Christ. And it is their dissension and patronizing of error which renders the contention for truth a duty. We would not of course deny that in this conflict much unsanctified character may be on display on the part of those in error as well as the contenders for the truth. But this does not render the truth any less precious, nor does it render the duty of contending for the truth any less imperative.

An essential part of the peace of the Roman Empire was the mutual acceptance of various forms of paganism within the pale of the Empire. The foundation of this peace was the opinion that error was innocent and all classes of religions were equally safe. Enter Paul and the apostles proclaiming that there is no other system of truth and that there is no other means of salvation by faith in Christ, and the boat of peace and tranquility has been rocked. At heart, this is the root of all of the hatred and persecution against the church in those early centuries of Christendom. Now let me ask the burning question: Who are we to blame for the unspeakable scenes of horror and violence in those persecutions? We will, of course, not blame Christianity, but rather the corruption of human nature and the blindness and violence of pagan malice. If the early Christians had been willing to give up the truth and act on the principle that all modes of faith are equally safe, they would have escaped all of the dreadful persecution which they were called to endure.

The only thing I might farther say in this regard is that it seems to proceed on the assumption that error should never be confronted. Granted, Scripture commands us “if it be possible, as much as lies in us, to live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). But it is not possible to be at peace with some men. We cannot have peace with those who advocate error, wickedness, falsehood and shameful lusts. 


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