Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Creed or chaos

The title of this week's White Horse Inn broadcast is borrowed from Dorothy Sayers. It's well worth a listen. Like WHI host Michael Horton I grew up in churches that claimed "no creed but the Bible." That sounds good, but the problem with that approach is that everyone from Benny Hinn to the Unitarians to the Jehovah's Witness that knocks on your door will claim they believe the Bible. We don't believe creeds replace the Bible, but that they are a faithful summation of what the church from the Apostolic age up until now has believed God's Word teaches. The ecumenical creeds (Apostles', Nicene & Athanasian) define orthodoxy and guard against going off the deep end. They keep us grounded and focused on the essentials of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." Creedal Christianity says there's something more authoritative than my subjective Christian experience and personal interpretation of Scripture.

Many of my contemporaries are drawn to the "deeds not creeds" aproach in reaction to what they perceive as "dead orthodoxy." I can appreciate where they're coming from, though I don't believe there is such a thing as orthodoxy that's "dead" (if it's dead it's not orthodox). This is the "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" approach. The problem is illustrated on the broadcast by Emergent leader Doug Pagitt who's unwilling to bind himself to Nicene trinitarian formulations, and seems to advocate the removal of all visible boundaries between the church and the world. For the Emergent Village folks we're all members of one big public square involved in a never-ending conversation. Per Ms. Sayers, that's a recipe for chaos. What we believe matters, definitions matter, distinctions matter. No we can't put God in a box, but he graciously chose to put himself in a box by revealing himself to us through his written and incarnate Word.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Ephesians 4:11-14

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