Creed vs Manual

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DAL | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Jun 19 2020 4:40 PM

I'm working on a mini book that might cause some controversy in Churches of Christ.  It's about creeds.

When I ask "preachers" what a creed is most of them tell me it's "a manual of doctrinal beliefs of certain religious groups." (Almost always they mention the catholic church or methodist or presbiterians -- that sounds like some sort of tradition based on prejudice in my opinion).   I'm not quite sure that's the definition based on google, dictionaries and other summaries of the definition.  What I gather from all the definitions is that a creed is just "a summary of doctrinal beliefs that one may have or a religious group may have" or "a statement of faith," but is not a manual.  A manual would be more detailed in my opinion and perhaps contain other things and not just beliefs.

So the question is: Is there a difference between a creed and a manual or can they be one and the same?

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

DAL

Ps. Also, how would creed and manual compare to a catechism?

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 6:19 PM

The historical background of the Restoration Movement may be relevant here. This was a time when rather elaborate and detailed statements of faith were taken very seriously  For instance, if I recall correctly, certain articles of the Westminster Confession of Faith were at issue when Barton Stone left the Kentucky synod. The movement's anti-creedalism ultimately became thoroughgoing enough to reject the use of the early ecumenical creeds, but my reading of the movement's history is that the "sectarianism" they were reacting to was associated with the more developed creeds and confessions of a later age.

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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 6:20 PM

DAL:
Is there a difference between a creed and a manual or can they be one and the same?
Ps. Also, how would creed and manual compare to a catechism?

Hi DAL

Do you have any dictionaries in your Logos library? If you're "working on a mini book" it might be useful to include some definitions.

For example, this is from IVP's Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (IVP, 1999):

creed. Derived from the Latin credo (I believe), a creed is a summary statement of Christian faith and belief. The purpose of the earliest creeds was to present a short summary of Christian doctrine, which baptismal candidates affirmed at their baptism. Later, creeds become tools for instruction of new converts, for combating heresy and for use in corporate worship. Three of the most famous creeds established in the first five centuries of church history are the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene (or Niceno-Constantinopolitan)   p 34  Creed and the Athanasian Creed.

catechesis, catechism. The process of teaching the basic Christian beliefs and the contents of the Scriptures either to a child who is raised in the church or to a new convert to Christianity. This process is often accomplished through the use of a catechism, a popular manual that often uses a question-and-answer format.

Interesting that they described catechism as a "manual."

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 6:34 PM

Speaking as a Lutheran here... There is a saying attributed to Albert Einstein: "Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler." Einstein may not have exactly said it - but the saying has roots in Ockham's Razor and so much of both Western Scientific and Theological tradition. A good Creed follows this advice.

In fact, I would say that Creeds are statements that clarify issues in theological debate when the Gospel is at stake. They use human concepts, but would say (with 1 Cor 12:3) that while they use these human concepts and words, that they are from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes these Creeds say clearly that certain ideas just aren't Christianity. An example of that would be the Nicene emphasis on "homoousios" - when you talk about what happened in the story of Jesus, these events are in the "being" of God. If you deny this, then whatever you are teaching isn't the Christianity we recognize. And sometimes the Creeds show the limits of human language, even while giving us language to express the mystery. For example, Chalcedon says that the two "Natures" of Jesus the Christ are acknowledged "unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably." I don't know how really it works as a matter of metaphysics. But if the Natures are confused and changed, what happens to Jesus' human nature may be good for Jesus' special human nature, but isn't really good for MY human nature. And the Natures are divided or separated, then again, our human nature isn't transformed...

I suppose you can say they are "a summary of doctrinal beliefs" as long as you understand that they are not neutral, dispassionate summaries. They are instead at their heart passionate defenses and articulations of the Christian Faith to issues - and misunderstandings - of an age.They don't have to cover all the doctrinal ground. Instead, they are statements of the doctrinal ground on which we understand ourselves as being moved by the Spirit to fight for. And as such, they are not written lightly.

We Lutherans do include two of Luther's Catechisms in our book of doctrinal standards. Catechisms may be designed as teaching tools, but they can also be statements of what is indeed Christian ground worth fighting for.

As to your distinction between creeds and manuals. We don't use that language exactly. But we view Creeds as Doctrinal statements. Creeds may include non-doctrinal statements, but it is only the doctrinal content that is binding. Not Luther's views that God and Good have the same linguistic root. Not even the order of Baptism Luther gives in the Small Catechism is binding - we are free to use forms that communicate better to today and use the gifts the Holy Spirit has actually given to the congregation... There is certainly a place for more extended works that explain the practices we choose to do - or give background for the distinctions made in confessional material. And we have had many such works over the years.

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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David Wanat | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 6:51 PM

DAL:

I'm working on a mini book that might cause some controversy in Churches of Christ.  It's about creeds.

this may be a stupid question, but do you mean that in the sense of the “Church of Christ“ denomination? (Maybe a bad term to use?) Or do you mean “churches” in a more general sense?

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:14 PM

Thanks Ken and Allen!

Ken, I have a bunch of dictionaries and all have led me to a simple brief summary of beliefs, not manuals.  I thought I was missing something, but my summary definition with a brief history of the creeds and why they were written will sure prove helpful.  I’m almost done with the outline I’ll be using for my manuscript, but I want to make sure I get things right 👍😁👌

Allen, the preachers actually called a creed “a manual.” My understanding is simply a brief summary of doctrinal beliefs, a statement of faith, that’s all.

I know “No creed but the Bible” is something that’s been repeated for decades, but I don’t agree with it.  I want to present how a creed or statement of faith is a biblical concept that’s being used even by members of the Church of Christ who claim “No creed but the Bible.”  I will present the 3 creeds and how they are virtually identical to the statements of faith (creeds) in most churches of Christ’s websites.  They usually present a section that says “We Believe” (Creed) and then go on to present specific CoC’s beliefs and the Apostles’s Creed.  They state beliefs about God, about Jesus and his virgin birth, about the holy spirit, about the church, about the Bible, about baptism and even about judgement day — all virtually identical to the apostles’s creed which they claim to reject with the so called “No creed but the Bible.”

The “mini book” is a humble attempt to change that mentality by making a case in favor of creeds, not manuals.

Anyway, if anybody else wants to pitch in feel free to do so 👍😁👌

DAL

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:15 PM

I can provide links to a variety of incompatible definitions. I can even provide a creed from a Stone-Campbell Church of Christ!!! However, here is a reasonably common understanding:

biblestudytools:

  • Catechisms

    A Catechism is a manual of Christian doctrine drawn up in the form of questions and answers, especially one for religious instruction. The first such manual was compiled by the English scholar Alcuin in the 8th century. Emphasis on the use of a catechism, particularly its memorization by rote, has diminished in recent years.

  • Confessions

    A confession is a manual of Christian doctrine drawn up in the form of essays. Confessions are typically written in a chapter format and grouped according to a particular subject. there are a great number of proof texts which provide the Scriptural basis for each subject.

  • Creeds

    Creeds are authoritative summaries of the principal articles of faith of various churches or bodies of believers. Since doctrines are subject to elaboration and interpretation that cause differences of opinion detailed creeds become necessary to emphasize the differences between the tenets of schismatic branches. They also serve as formulations of belief when liturgical usage, as in the administration of baptism, requires a profession of faith.

However, i would take exception  with this particular definition of catechism claiming (a) question-and-answer format is optional, (b) memorization is associated only with some children's catechisms, and (c) the earliest catechism is The Didache (1st century).

Here is a decent definition of a confession. I see Statement of Faith as less formal versions of creeds and confessions.

Reformed Church of America:

What is a confession?

A confession is a written, formal statement that acknowledges, declares, and gives evidence of religious beliefs.

A confession speaks both internally and externally. It speaks internally to the church that makes the statement and communicates the vision and mission of the church. In turn, this reminds the church of its vision and mission.

A confession speaks externally to the world so loved by God—other churches, faiths, cultures, and societies both religious and secular, the “total community” in its various lifestyles and structures. A confession declares to the world the church’s beliefs regarding the call of God to a vision and mission.

Manual appears to have different meanings for different groups -- sometimes it is a procedures manual, sometimes it is a collection of or synonym for catechisms, creeds/symbol, confessions i.e. formative denominational documents, sometimes a synonym for catechism. Which brings me to the question, why do we not have "The Common Catechism" in Logos format. It provides a solid structure for comparing theologies by starting with what is in common across Christians groups.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:18 PM

David Wanat:

DAL:

I'm working on a mini book that might cause some controversy in Churches of Christ.  It's about creeds.

this may be a stupid question, but do you mean that in the sense of the “Church of Christ“ denomination? (Maybe a bad term to use?) Or do you mean “churches” in a more general sense?

I mean Church of Christ restoration movement persuasion.  They don’t consider themselves a “denomination,” and they embrace the “No creed but the Bible” slogan (creed in my opinion - the moment someone says “I believe in no creed but the Bible” they’re automatically stating a creed, so it’s contradicting).

Thanks!

DAL

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:18 PM

David Wanat:
this may be a stupid question, but do you mean that in the sense of the “Church of Christ“ denomination?

From previous discussions, I take it to mean churches within the Stone-Campbell/Restoration movement. I would not assume that they adopt the "denomination" term.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:24 PM

Thanks MJ, give me a Church of Christ creed, I’ll need it in my repertoire of evidence that churches of christ DO use a creed. I have a few in my notes, even one that claims that only the Elders have the final authority in matters of Biblical interpretation — i.e., if you want the right interpretation, look no further, ask the Elders, they’ll tell you how a verse should be interpreted.

Thanks!

DAL

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:26 PM

DAL:
I'm working on a mini book that might cause some controversy in Churches of Christ.  It's about creeds.

This is one case where 'you need to be there' (not you, DAL). "Speak where the Bible speaks!! Be silent where the Bible is silent."

EastTN is correct, but I think you need to look at Campbell carefully. My impression was an early tenet recognized each brother as responsible for his own views. At the time, that didn't go too far afield. And it included public enjoyment of debates, to enhance each's conclusions. So, 'creeds' are another world entirely.

Today, the COC is a combinatorial puzzle, meaning that each congregation has its own 'what we believe', and considerable care about interlopers (false teachers). Here, maybe a 'creed', but technically elders' conclusions at any point in time.

I can see, you screwed up, before you even got started (!) ... the upper-case 'C'. Ha.

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:36 PM

Denise:

DAL:
I'm working on a mini book that might cause some controversy in Churches of Christ.  It's about creeds.

This is one case where 'you need to be there' (not you, DAL). "Speak where the Bible speaks!! Be silent where the Bible is silent."

EastTN is correct, but I think you need to look at Campbell carefully. My impression was an early tenet recognized each brother as responsible for his own views. At the time, that didn't go too far afield. And it included public enjoyment of debates, to enhance each's conclusions. So, 'creeds' are another world entirely.

Today, the COC is a combinatorial puzzle, meaning that each congregation has its own 'what we believe', and considerable care about interlopers (false teachers). Here, maybe a 'creed', but technically elders' conclusions at any point in time.

I can see, you screwed up, before you even got started (!) ... the upper-case 'C'. Ha.

Thanks Denise! Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent!” Haha That’s another church of Christ’s belief/creed that’s not 100% accurate nor truthful.  The silent apparently only applies in the popular debate of the use of instrumental music, in other instances, the coC ends up giving their own explanation when they’re supposed to be silent.

Anyway, no typos, coc or coC or COC it doesn’t really matter.  I’m writing from by phone hehehe...However, a COC I know, the elders say “church” should not be capitalized because then we’ll be making the church equal to Christ 😂 (another creed IMO).

DAL

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:41 PM

By the way, any resources that can help me grow my Bibliography, please, feel free to post.  I just bought a few and have another few that will help.

Thanks!

DAL

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 7:58 PM

DAL:
their own explanation when they’re supposed to be silent.

I'll shut up. I used to agree with you, that 'what we believe' is definitionally a creed (most from the late 2nd century, and early 3rd). A COC, if in the 3rd century, would be badgering the eastern church to get in line on the Nicene.

But for a while, I attended a congregation that tried to literally track the early COC precepts ... I think their 'must' was 3 things, but each was responsible for their own beliefs. I'd say pretty non-creedal ... I argued against a 'trinity' (per the text) with no bad feelings. The resurrection was one big toss-up.

All went well, until 'false teachers' came to town. Then, the preacher and elders had to circle the wagons (creed-ify).

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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David Wanat | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 8:20 PM

MJ. Smith:

David Wanat:
this may be a stupid question, but do you mean that in the sense of the “Church of Christ“ denomination?

From previous discussions, I take it to mean churches within the Stone-Campbell/Restoration movement. I would not assume that they adopt the "denomination" term.

Fair enough. As I said, I wasn’t sure if the term was appropriate.

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David Wanat | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 8:22 PM

DAL:

David Wanat:

DAL:

I'm working on a mini book that might cause some controversy in Churches of Christ.  It's about creeds.

this may be a stupid question, but do you mean that in the sense of the “Church of Christ“ denomination? (Maybe a bad term to use?) Or do you mean “churches” in a more general sense?

I mean Church of Christ restoration movement persuasion.  They don’t consider themselves a “denomination,” and they embrace the “No creed but the Bible” slogan (creed in my opinion - the moment someone says “I believe in no creed but the Bible” they’re automatically stating a creed, so it’s contradicting).

Thanks!

DAL

Thanks for explaining. I didn’t know if ”Churches” was intended to be capitalized or whether that was an autocorrect (for example, my iPad constantly corrects “God” into “a God.”

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mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 19 2020 10:47 PM

I think of creed as the short form like the Apostle's Creed. The Didache gets closer to the manual idea and then you move up into something like what Luther and others did with a catechism. The latter is closer to be like a textbook. You can take a creed as something a believer would readily commit entirely to memory.

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 20 2020 9:43 AM

DAL:

... the moment someone says “I believe in no creed but the Bible” they’re automatically stating a creed ...

I think you need to define your terms much more carefully.  Everyone believes things - they can't help it and still function in society - and not every expression of belief is "a creed" in the modern sense of the term.  I believe the NASB is a much better version to use for detailed study than the KJV, but that's certainly not a "creed." 

It would also help to better define what it means to be "non-credal" or "anti-credal".  The historical issue in the Restoration Movement wasn't whether creeds existed, or could accurately describe Bible truth, but whether affirmation of a particular creed should be a requirement for fellowship as a member of good standing in the church.  The consistent answer to that question was "no."  That doesn't mean there weren't beliefs, slogans, and approaches to Scripture and the work of the church that were generally accepted and shared.  You could hardly have an identifiable "movement" if there weren't. But there was a sense among early Restoration Movement leaders that requiring formal adherence to written creeds did more to foster division than it did unity.

DAL:

...  the statements of faith (creeds) in most churches of Christ’s websites.  They usually present a section that says “We Believe” (Creed) and then go on to present specific CoC’s beliefs and the Apostles’s Creed.  They state beliefs about God, about Jesus and his virgin birth, about the holy spirit, about the church, about the Bible, about baptism and even about judgement day — all virtually identical to the apostles’s creed which they claim to reject with the so called “No creed but the Bible.”

That's something I've noticed as well, and it does raise a question as to whether the churches of Christ are becoming more "credal" over time. But in terms of whether or not they're moving away from the historic position of most Restoration Movement thinkers on creeds, the real question is whether they require an affirmation of or adherence to those statements of faith as a basis for membership.

On that point, I think Denise's experience is relevant.

Denise:

But for a while, I attended a congregation that tried to literally track the early COC precepts ... I think their 'must' was 3 things, but each was responsible for their own beliefs. I'd say pretty non-creedal ... I argued against a 'trinity' (per the text) with no bad feelings. The resurrection was one big toss-up.

Of course, every group sets some sort of boundaries.  As has already been mentioned, in the churches of Christ those boundaries are set at the congregational level. In general, my sense is that the distinctive nature of many churches of Christ in the U.S. is being gradually diluted in a sea of vague evangelicalism. Of course, that's not unique to Restoration Movement churches.  

It might also be helpful to think carefully about what it means to "reject" a creed.  None of the congregations I've known would require someone to affirm the Apostle's Creed in order to become a member. But I've also certainly never heard of a congregation in any of the Restoration Movement branches requiring someone to reject the content of the Apostle's Creed.

There are certainly things to criticize about churches of Christ in particular, and the Restoration Movement more generally. But if you're going to attack them for having a creed, I think you need to be a lot more precise in how you approach it.

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 20 2020 7:01 PM

It won’t be an attack, it will be a call to change a tradition that is based on bias and preconceived ideas rather than the actual simple truth.  It will be a call to finally adopt the word creed for what it is, just a statement of faith. 
I interviewed several COC preachers and most of them answered “No creed but the Bible” means that the Bible is our only authority in matters of religion, like they were cut with the same cookie cutter, but when I asked what a “creed” is, some of the preachers didn’t know what to say.  One said a creed is a “commandment,” another said he honestly didn’t know, but that every time he heard the word creed he just automatically related it to the “catholic church and their beliefs.” Even the ones that gave a half decent answer didn’t realized they always pointed to the catholic church or other groups.  Finally, a preacher that’s been preaching for 37 years told me “a creed is something that men invented, a creed is something that is not biblical and that our only creed is speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” That obviously is not very objective and all of the answers reflected only two things: 1) They don’t quite understand what a creed is and 2) they think of a creed as something that only catholics and denominations use, and supposedly the catholic church invented the term, therefore, we shouldn’t use it.  That could not be more far from the truth.  We use other terms like “Trinity” and we definitely have no problem using it, why not use the term “creed” for what it is, “a biblical summary of our beliefs.”

Anyway, I’m still working on it and will take my time to research it well.

Thanks!

DAL

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 20 2020 7:52 PM

See Creeds in the Bible https://www.creeds.net/ancient/bible.htm

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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