The Importance of the Creeds

Recently my husband has been leading a class about false teaching within the church, and false religions that are outside the Christian faith altogether. During one of those discussions, this question was asked: how do we, as individuals, discern what is false teaching? How do we know when an idea we hear expressed is truly out of bounds? My husband’s answer is below.

There are many different denominations and groups of Christians who disagree with one another about some of the details of the faith. Is Christ physically present in the Sacrament of the Altar or is He present only spiritually, or is the Sacrament simply symbolic? Is Baptism proper only for adult believers, or should infants be baptized? Either way, should it be done by pouring, sprinkling, or immersion? These are questions that have been and will be argued about until the Lord comes. But do differences such as these mean that one side or the other has strayed from orthodoxy (right beliefs)?

This is where the Creeds of the Church come into play. Long ago, the early Church, led by the Holy Spirit determined and set forth the fundamental beliefs of Christianity in what we call the ecumenical creeds: the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed. Each of these is a concise statement about what defines orthodox Christianity, and each is in agreement with the others. If you agree with these creeds, you are an orthodox Christian — if you do not, well, then you’re not.

This is why it is good for congregations to recite one of these creeds in every service. It is a witness to visitors of what is believed, taught and confessed in that place. Frequent repetition also serves to remind believers over and over (and we need this!) of what constitutes correct belief.

For more about the false teaching see:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on False Teaching

False Teaching in the Church

Martin Luther on False Teachers

If God is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk by John Pavlovitz–Book Review

I could write a book about why I don’t agree with this book, but unfortunately I don’t have enough time or space to do that. I was disappointed, because I actually think there are many times when every Christian (including me) acts like a jerk, and needs to be reminded that the great commandment, the one that sums up all the others is: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. However, this author takes a simplistic approach, seeming to believe that there are only two kinds of Christians: those who “love” others by accepting just about any sort of behavior, and those who prefer to “judge” others and consign them to Hell. All of those law-oriented, judgemental Christians also voted for Donald Trump, are racist (even if they don’t realize it), dislike immigrants, idolize the United States and believe that God is an old, white man.

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I don’t fit into either of Pavlovitz’s categories. As a conservative Lutheran, I have always been told that good teaching must include both law and gospel. The law shows us we are all sinners, and the gospel gives us the good news that we can be forgiven. God is loving, but He is also just. It’s not an either-or situation, but a balance– and yes, there are individual Christians and denominations that err on one side or the other.

I believe that the Mr. Pavlovitz has sincerely wrestled with faith questions, and since he states that no proof texts will change his mind, I’m puzzled about how to counter his claims. He does not accept the Bible as the foundation or final authority, but relies on his personal experience of God. Yet, he himself uses the Bible as the starting point for his assertion that we are to love one another. Isn’t this a contradiction? As we are made in God’s image, the author believes we are basically good. Yet, if we go by experience, my experience is that my default setting is sin, not holiness. In fact, if we are basically good, why do we need to be told not to be jerks?

Another issue I have with this book is the use of profanity. Pavlovitz actually notes and defends such language as being more “authentic” and a way of removing the “mask” most of us wear. I believe that being courteous and avoiding offensive words is part of being loving and setting a good example for others.

On the plus side, I certainly agree that we should be open to cultivating relationships with others who are different in some way. When we do so, we find that our skin color, political party or denomination are not as important as learning to know and appreciate one another as human beings. I also learned a new word that I liked — orthopraxy, which I now know is correct conduct, as opposed to orthodoxy which is correct belief.

VERDICT: 1 STAR. Not very edifying.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more book reviews see these posts:

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review

The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C. Maxwell–Book Review

Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution by Tony Merida–Book Review