On Tuesday evening, we were of the opinion that creeds are good and we like them. And most of us felt that they are necessary to us today. One fellow, however, expressed the opinion that creeds were useful in their historical situation but we don’t necessarily need them today. His argument was not, as some have put forth, that our understanding of Scripture has changed, but, instead, that since the creeds are just a distillation of what is found in the Bible, then we really just need (need as in “require as a necessity”) the Bible.
Theoretically, this is true. In fact, when I look back on the Great Tradition, upon Patristic authors, Celtic authors, Mediaeval authors, Reformers, Counter-Reformers, and so on down to today, one thing that impresses itself upon me is that while these people are a fantastic resource and the Holy Spirit can certainly use them to transform lives, they aren’t necessary, either.
They can’t be. Tradition cannot be absolutely necessary for a healthy spiritual life. At a certain level, neither can even Scripture.
I say this because there are those who have access neither to tradition nor to the Bible. Yet God can still encounter them, transform them, and give them vibrant spiritual lives.
And if you have a Bible and sit down and read it prayerfully as part of an attempt at holy living, as part of a life attuned to the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will speak to your mind and spirit, and you will believe the truth and interpret Scripture properly.
However, this is hypothetical. My brother has pointed out that in mainline denominations we have almost no clue about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. No one has been taught about discernment of spirits. The Anglican result is some people saying that the Holy Spirit is leading us into a new era wherein we can affirm, approve, and bless same-sex sexual practices while other people are proclaiming that the Holy Spirit has already spoken authoritatively in Scripture on the subject and is not wont to changing his mind on matters of morality.
Our own lack of holiness and inattentiveness to the Spirit as we interpret Scripture is also evident in many evangelical Protestant circles. People imagine that sola scriptura means we only read the Bible and that the Bible is self-revealing and self-evident. However, our flawed minds produce people go schismatic over predestination/freewill, over all sorts of aspects of dispensationalism, over milleniality, over all sorts of issues. People argue until they are blue in the face over tattoos, Christmas trees, Young Earth Creationism, and so forth, all calling down the fiery truth of the Holy Scriptures in favour of their arguments.
I believe that all you need for salvation is the Bible.
You don’t technically need the creed because the creed is the distillation of the Bible’s teaching.
But I’m glad to have the creed. It helps pull us back to the essentials as we read Scripture. It helps us see how the various tensions of biblical Christology hold together.
Let’s not abandon it until Resurrection Day when we’ll see Jesus and say, “OOHHhhhh….”