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The Good Confession: Inwoo Lee’s Thoughts on Danny Hyde’s New Membership Class Workbook, Chapter One

27 February, 2008

inwoo ‘hunting’Inwoo is a member of Oceanside United Reformed Church in Oceanside, CA. He went to Westminster Seminary California for eight months, starting in Fall 2005, but has taken some ‘time off’ (if you can call it that!) to get his teaching credential and a masters in education; Lord willing, he plans to be back at WSC in the near future.

I remember hearing a discussion on the Creeds and the Reformed Confessions on the radio broadcast, The White Horse Inn. They were doing a series entitled What Do Christians Believe? and one of the regular hosts spoke of a light-hearted conversation between two Christians. It went something like this: A Christian from the Dutch Reformed church in the Netherlands asked a Baptist, “What is your confession?” The Baptist brother replied, “I have no creed but the Bible.” The Reformed Christian, confused, responded, “No creed but the Bible? But the Bible is so many pages.” What a hilarious exchange of communication that also sadly tells of the differences in approach to truth and error today in American Christianity. One helpful resource in this context is the membership workbook The Good Confession: An Exploration of the Christian Faith, by Danny Hyde, pastor of Oceanside URC.

If someone asked me a few years ago what my confession was I would have had the same answer, “No creed but Christ.” Not knowing that ironically I just said a creed (The Good Confession, p. 8). Personally, I had a tough time with the creeds and anything that had the word catechism in it. My reaction to these documents would be like my sister’s reaction towards big spiders. Aren’t catechisms Roman Catholic? Why do we need these creeds, catechisms, and confessions when we have the Bible? I learned later that these summaries of Scripture were not to be brushed aside, but to be studied and memorized. I believe the way we begin doing that is 1) to know what they are and what they are not, 2) to know that they are biblical, and 3) to know how crucial the creeds and confessions are to the Christian Church and the Christian today.

The first chapter of The Good Confession is entitled, A “Confessional” Church. This chapter introduces to us what the creeds and confessions are, explores their Old and New Testament roots, explains the Protestant belief of sola scriptura in relation to creeds and confessions, the needs of our creeds and confessions, and traces the history of the ecumenical (general or universal) creeds-the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as well as the Definition of Chalcedon-and the Reformed confessions-Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort. The chapter finishes off with the practical aspects of these creeds and confessions. Chapter one is the longest chapter in the workbook and is jam-packed with good stuff. Here are a few highlights:

First, creeds and catechisms did not originate from Roman Catholicism. Usually when we think of creeds and catechisms we automatically think this, but that is not what creeds, catechism and confessions point to. In fact, Pastor Hyde mentions that before the “Roman Catholic” labeling came to be: “From the very beginning of Israel’s life as a community through its maturation in the New Testament church, the people of God have confessed what they believe with brief summaries of the Faith” (10). So, this is not an idea that was invented a few years ago, but a long, long time ago the Church had creeds and confessions. The word catechism comes from the New Testament Greek word, katecheo, which means informed (Acts 21:21, 24), had been instructed, or one who is taught (Galatians 6:6; see p. 18, note 4).

So what are the creeds, catechisms, and confessions? The creeds, catechisms and confessions are summaries of Scripture, in other words, they are for us a summary of what we believe the Bible teaches. They of course are not inspired, “We believe what our creeds and confessions teach because they agree with the Word of God. If they are unbiblical, the Church must change them” (17). They are not competitors to Scripture, but help us understand Scripture. What about sola scriptura, though? Isn’t me, myself, and my Bible all I need to understand the Scriptures? Pastor Hyde has some important words regarding the misunderstanding of sola scriptura,

Sola Scriptura does not mean that we do not need any help in understanding the Scriptures. We live in an individualistic generation. In Christian circles this expresses itself in a ‘me and my Bible’ type of attitude. We live in a time in which everyone does what is right in his own eyes when reading and interpreting the Scriptures (cf. Judg 21:25). We must not forget that God, in his infinite wisdom, has established a visible Church, and that in the Church he has ordained pastors and teachers throughout the history of the Church to expound and interpret the meaning of Scripture to the Church….even a person who says ‘I have no creed’ and, ‘I just read the Bible,’ ends up interpreting Scripture according to his or her own particular beliefs. Creeds and confessions limit our selfishness and unite our hearts in unselfishness to the Church that has existed throughout the ages. (17)

Moving on, what do the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions say about the Church? Some would say that today we cannot even “trust the labels”-but assuming that there is truth in advertisement, the confessional Reformed churches are to communicate that the church is “firmly rooted in the Scriptures.” Pastor Hyde in the workbook sums it up nicely,

We are a confessional church. This means that we all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the teaching of God’s holy Word, the Bible, and express what we believe that Word to teach in time-tested, written documents that we call ‘creeds’ and ‘confessions’ of the Christian Church (10).

Further, confessing one’s faith is biblical. One will hear and read basic summary statements of the Faith in the Old and New Testaments. “The practice of writing out summary statements of the Faith, which lives in the hearts and is confessed by the mouths of God’s people, is as old as the Church itself” (11): “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God: the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4).

Also, the creeds and confessions are necessary. Pastor Hyde teaches that Christ commands his people to confess their faith (Matthew 10:32) and the apostle Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10). As the early Church needed the creeds and confessions, Christian Churches today need these creeds and confessions for converts to be rightly taught the Christian Faith and to stand strong in Scripture against false teaching “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

To conclude, the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions understood properly are not to be dismissed and passed by, but rather accepted and practically used. They provide for us the essential truths of the Christian faith that we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths and they are faithful and rich summaries of the Bible.

At the end of the membership class at the Oceanside URC we are told to memorize the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

I’ll take this, which summarizes so much in just one question and answer, to my death bed. Amen.

Coming up, Hagan Kelley will be reviewing chapter 2 of The Good Confession, which guides us through the attributes of God. Stay tuned!

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4 Comments
  1. vania permalink
    11 March, 2008 12:21 pm

    interesting.

  2. vania permalink
    31 March, 2008 5:58 pm

    ((My reaction to these documents would be like my sister’s reaction towards big spiders.))

    so how are my reactions.. buddy?! lol..ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

    ((Why do we need these creeds, catechisms, and confessions when we have the Bible?))

    I’m trying to figure this out myself.. not from he said or she said’s.. but really trying to dig deeper on my own. At the end of it all it’s really all about my personal relationship with God. Recently, I’ve been having this urge to learn more about my Maker and what it is to be a devote Christian. I feel like I’ve been drinking milk way too long and it’s time I reach for the solid foods. word.

    oh, thanks for being a brother that I can always count on when I have questions about the word. God has blessed me with you.

  3. Barney permalink
    16 June, 2008 8:28 am

    I agree. I used to read Holy Scripture improperly. I would find myself using my own interpretation. I needed that at the time and I thought it was good, but really I took it out of context to fit my own needs. Proper interpretation of Holy Scripture through catechisms and such do not add or take way, they are supplements in order to fully explain.
    Barney Downs
    Nevr.com

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