DBG Weekend Spotlight (10-21-16)

Josh Buice

Voddie Baucham said, “The home is the place where leaders of the church are forged.” In this sermon, Voddie Baucham addresses the subject of marriage from Ephesians.

Happy Daddy, Happy Home – There are many good nuggets to chew on here.

Albert Mohler talks about Trump candidacy on CNN – This is a helpful little clip from Albert Mohler as he engages the subject of presidential politics on CNN.

The Preacher’s Legacy – Every preacher has a legacy and it matters – good or bad.

Family Ministry: Caring for Your Pastor’s Children – I found this to be helpful and worthy of consideration.

Theology Word of the Week:  Creeds

Creeds. A creed (from the Lat. credo, ‘I believe’) is an authoritative statement of the main articles of the Christian faith to which believers are expected to assent. Broadly speaking, biblical religion has always been credal. Biblical and post-biblical Judaism confessed Yahweh’s absolute unity and uniqueness by the Shema‘: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one’ (Dt. 6:4). The genesis of the church’s symbols (as creeds have been called from early times) resides in protocredal statements of faith and worship embedded in the NT (see Confessions of Faith). With the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3) early Christians acknowledged that the Nazarene was to be spoken of in the same terms as Yahweh of the OT. The text interpolated at Acts 8:37, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,’ represents a primitive Christian baptismal affirmation. Other NT credal formulas affirm Christ’s incarnation, saving death and glorious resurrection (Rom. 1:3–4; 1 Cor. 15:3–4; 1 Jn. 4:2). The great Christological passage Phil. 2:6–11 may have been sung at early Christian baptismal services. 1 Cor. 8:6 affirms the unity of God and the co-ordination of the Father with Jesus Christ. Finally in the NT a Trinitarian confessional pattern emerged (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; see Trinity), which became the paradigm for later credal formularies.

The apostolic fathers reflect what J. N. D. Kelly calls ‘quasi-credal scraps’, and the apologists a growing corpus of teaching that distils the essence of the Christian faith. What scholars refer to as the Old Roman creed (c. 140, Harnack) was an expanded Trinitarian baptismal formula: ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ Jesus his Son, our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, and the resurrection of the flesh.’ In the writings of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Hippolytus is found the ‘rule of faith’, or ‘the tradition’, which was an informal corpus of teaching provided to catechumens. The so-called Apostles’ Creed, while not apostolic in authorship, is nevertheless apostolic in content. Its present form (8th century) represents a lengthy development from simpler Trinitarian baptismal formulas, particularly the Old Roman creed. The Apostles’ Creed indirectly refuted various heresies (e.g. Ebionites, Marcion, Gnostics, docetists) and was widely used in the West for instruction and worship. ‘The Creed of creeds’ (P. Schaff), it contains the fundamental articles of the Christian faith necessary to salvation.

The Creed of Nicaea (325), which was probably based on earlier creeds from Jerusalem and Antioch, was drafted to refute the Arian claim that the Son was the highest creation of God and thus essentially different from the Father. The Nicene Creed as we know it today represents in effect an enlargement of the teaching of the Creed of 325, probably approved by the Council of Constantinople (381). It affirms the unity of God, insists that Christ was ‘begotten from the Father before all time’, and declares that Christ is ‘of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father’. Thus the Son is God in every respect. The Creed also upheld the divinity of the Holy Spirit and his procession from the Father. In the West the phrase ‘who proceeds from the Father’ was later altered to read, ‘from the Father and the Son’. This so-called Filioque clause, that affirms the double procession of the Spirit, followed the teaching of Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine and appears in the Athanasian Creed, but was rejected by the Eastern Church. It became the major doctrinal issue in the schism between East and West that came to a head in 1054.

The Athanasian Creed, or Quicunque vult (from the opening words of the Latin text), was written by an unknown author in the Augustinian tradition in Southern Gaul about the mid-5th century. It contains a clear and concise statement of the Trinity and the incarnation of Christ, both of which must be believed for salvation. Concerning the Trinity, the Creed affirms that ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God’. The articles on Christ uphold his eternal generation from the substance of the Father, his complete deity and complete humanity, his death for sins, resurrection, ascension, second coming and final judgment. The East never recognized the Athanasian Creed.

The Chalcedonian Definition was prepared by over 500 Greek bishops at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In response to erroneous interpretations of the person of Christ advanced by Apollinarius, Nestorius and Eutyches (see Monophysitism), the Definition states that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man, that he is consubstantial with God as to his divinity, and with mankind as to his humanity. Moreover, humanity and deity are joined in the God-man ‘without confusion, without change, without division, without separation’. Chalcedon represents the definitive statement, albeit in Greek ontological language, of how Jesus Christ was God and man at the same time.

Creeds have served a variety of functions in the church. Initially elemental creeds were used in a baptismal context. By responding to questions or reciting certain formulas which later became fixed, the baptismal candidate made confession of faith in Christ. Moreover, creeds were used for catechetical purposes, i.e. for instructing new Christians in the essentials of the faith. The creeds (especially the ‘rule of faith’) were also employed for confessional purposes, that is, to refute and expose the heretical teachings of the docetists, Gnostics, Monarchians, Arians and others. And finally, the creeds served a liturgical purpose as they were recited at various places in the worship services of the churches.

As for the authority of the creeds, the Eastern Orthodox churches ascribe authority to the decrees of the seven ecumenical councils, from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the second at Nicaea (787). The Eastern churches have not accepted the Western doctrinal creeds and reject the Filioque addition to the Nicene Creed. Rome, on the other hand, claims infallibility for all the pronouncements of the magisterium. Traditionally the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian creeds were known as ‘the three symbols’. According to Rome the ancient credal formulas contain truths revealed by God and thus authoritative for all time. The Protestant Reformers accepted the Apostles’ Creed and the decrees of the first four councils by virtue of their agreement with Scripture, the only rule of faith and practice. Luther said of the Apostles’ Creed: ‘Christian truth could not possibly be put into a shorter and clearer statement’ (LW 37, p. 360). Calvin said of the formulas of the ecumenical councils: ‘I venerate them from my heart, and would have all of them held in due honour’ (Institutes IV.ix.1). The main branches of Protestantism value the four creeds discussed above as faithfully embodying the teachings of Scripture. Beginning with A. von Harnack critical scholarship has attacked the classical creeds for their reliance upon an alleged alien Greek philosophical system and an outmoded cosmology. Thus Protestants such as Tillich, Bultmann and J. A. T. Robinson claim that the ancient creeds possess little cash value in the modern world. Even Roman Catholics such as H. Küng and the Dutch compilers of the New Catechism (1966) claim that the creeds are human statements formulated in cultural contexts foreign to our own and are thus beset with serious limitations and even errors.

Orthodox Protestantism views each of the above-mentioned creeds as a norma normata, i.e. as a rule that is ruled by the final authority of the word of God. In general terms, the creeds expound ‘what has always been believed, everywhere, and by everyone’ (Vincentian Canon; see Catholicity). But ultimately even the best human formularies must be ruled by the infallible word of God. In sum, by virtue of their general agreement with Scripture, the orthodox creeds provide a valuable summary of universal Christian beliefs, refute teachings alien to the word of God, and are serviceable in Christian instruction and worship. [1]

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 179–181.
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Author DBG Weekend Spotlight (10-21-16)

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.