Carl Trueman’s Top 10 Quotes on Creeds and Confessions.
Posted on October 29, 2013 by
This weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to listen to and lunch with Thabiti Anyabwile and Carl Trueman at New England Reformed Fellowship’s annual Bolton Conference. The men are a wealth of biblical wisdom, so these quotes are just a foretaste. I’ll post Trueman’s best today, and Thabiti’s Thursday. The topic for Trueman (who blogs regularly at Reformation 21) was the role of creeds and confessions in the church. Here’s what he had to say:

1. “It’s striking that Paul regards ‘divisiveness’ as those who depart from sound doctrine.” While we might define “divisiveness” as taking a strict stance on doctrines, Paul’s definition was the opposite. Divisiveness, for Paul, was anything that went loosey-goosey with the given gospel.

2. “Scripture is the norming norm, creeds are the normed norm.” Scripture is always our ultimate authority – but we can still say that creeds are a church’s normative doctrines and practices, because they were created from Scripture. In that sense, creeds have authority.

3. “Awareness of our beliefs creates security in our stance.” Trueman and Thabiti took a few fun jabs at one another from a Presbyterian and Baptist perspective, but Trueman acknowledged that the reason they could be both serious and light-hearted was that they both knew exactly where they stood on the issue, and why. When people aren’t sure of the what and why of their beliefs, they often substitute a temper tantrum – creeds aid this problem.

4. “If you don’t write your creeds, no one can critique them. Creeds strip us of magisterial authority.” Despite common misconceptions, creeds actually dis-empower pastors from a form of papal authority. Creeds lay out the church’s stances on scripture and a.) Let everyone search the scriptures and evaluate the pastor’s stance and b.) Keep the pastor from imposing personal preferences (Don’t smoke, or chew, or run with those who do, etc.) Saying “No creed but the Bible” makes the pastor king of interpretation.

5. “Notice – no creed has the words ‘we just’”.  Trueman was taking a jab at the lack of thought we often put into our prayers – the words “we just” don’t make their way into a thought through confession, nor someone who is praying with depth of belief based on rich tradition.

6. “We all operate from a tradition, whether we acknowledge it or not. Some write it down, others don’t.” Every pastor I’ve ever known who is against creeds uses an English Bible – which means their beliefs are founded on a lexical, textual tradition. They would also take issue with other faiths who claim the Bible as creed, like Mormons or Muslims. The difference is, some of us make this tradition clear by writing it out, and others don’t.

7. “The love of God does not find but creates that which is lovely to it.” This is Trueman quoting Martin Luther – the best quote that never made it into Scripture.

8. “Human marriage begins in joy and ends in heartbreak. Divine marriage begins with heartbreak and ends in joy.” Beautiful, no comment.

9. “Doctrinal understanding and love work together, as does knowledge of our spouse and love for our spouse. If your doctrine is dry, you’re not getting it.” Trueman talked about the absurdity of not knowing some essential characteristic of our spouse, and still claiming to love her. Love of God and knowledge of God work together like kindle and spark – it’s absurd to pit them against one another.

10. “It was a great tragedy that Luther and Zwingli did not come to an agreement on the Lord’s Supper. But it would have been a greater tragedy if they had agreed to disagree because it ‘just wasn’t important.’” This is Trueman quoting J. Gresham Machen.