Why a book on the creeds and confessions of the Church?
I asked myself this question while browsing through a Christian book store looking for such a volume. It is unlikely that you will easily find such a book. At Christian colleges and seminaries, you might find some books with a chapter or two on the creeds and confessions, but even here, a book containing all the actual texts will not often be found. Out of the thousands of Christian books on the market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.
This is precisely the reason for this book. Someone might ask: Why would modern people be interested in a book containing the creeds of the early Church? I must reply that “interest” is not even an issue here. The creeds and confessions of the Church cannot be ignored no matter how obscure and esoteric they may seem to us today. For almost two thousand years, the creeds of the Church — statements defining the core elements of Christianity — have been the basis for determining what it means to be a Christian. If you deviated from these beliefs, you were rightly labeled a heretic. During the Protestant Reformation, various denominations issued lengthier statements of faith, called canons or confessions, which further defined what the Reformed churches believed about salvation, church government and other issues. The Roman Catholics issued a statement from the Council of Trent which represented the view of Rome on these issues.
On the following pages you will find the full texts of the most important creeds of the early Church. My purpose in arranging the texts in this fashion is simply to put into the reader’s hands a book containing the creeds which all Christians throughout the ages — Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant — have believed. When we come to the Reformation period, we will see that the matter of salvation and church government became a matter of debate between Protestant reformers and the Roman Catholic bishops. However, there has always been a continuous thread of teaching that all Christians have held in common.
This area of common ground for belief is called orthodoxy. The study of orthodoxy is the basis for promoting unity since, by definition, this is what all Christians must agree upon. Orthodoxy means literally “right opinion.” All true believers are orthodox, because they hold to right opinions concerning the most basic Christian doctrines.
To Christians of past centuries, preserving orthodoxy was something worth dying for. When Athanasius refuted Arianism in the fourth century, many held to a heresy which made Jesus Christ a lesser god than the Creator. Athanasius was persecuted for what he believed, but he stood firm for the truth. Thus _Athanasius contra mundum_ (“Athanasius against the world”) became a proverb for future generations describing a person who will stand for the truth no matter what the cost. Throughout history, orthodoxy has not always been popular, but it has always defined what the true Christian believes. And the truth has prevailed.
Orthodoxy is the only basis for unity in the Church. Unity is also called catholicity, which means literally “universality.” True believers are, in this sense, catholic, because they hold to the universal faith. Any form of unity that does not require the preservation of orthodoxy is false unity.
To help remedy our anemic condition, I offer this book, Why Creeds and Confessions? Let it be a defense against the “little foxes that spoil the vineyard” (Song of Songs 2:15) — the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.
— Jay Rogers