Have you ever considered including the historic creeds of the Christian church in your morning time, personal devotions, or family worship? If you’ve felt ill-equipped to teach them to your children, or have wondered why they even matter, come walk beside me as we explore the reasons to memorize the creeds with our children.
What is a creed, and Why do we need them?
The word “creed” comes from the Latin word “credo,” meaning “I believe.” Many church traditions even have the pastor ask the congregation, “Christian, what do you believe?” prior to a corporate recitation of one of these confessions of faith.
Learning and reciting the historically espoused creeds of the church equips us to:
- Articulate the Gospel clearly and succinctly (If you cannot express the fundamental truths of the Gospel, how can you assert that you believe the Gospel?)
- Define and expose heresy (Losing our connection to the historic creeds leaves us vulnerable to new, creative ideas that were likely condemned as heresy and rigorously analyzed over 1500 years ago.)
- Experience the joy of union with the Church throughout history (Rather than re-inventing the wheel and laboriously sifting through each new wave of doctrine on our own, we can link arms with our Christian brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers throughout history! As we are in union with Christ, so we are united to all those who have put their faith in Him.)
The Bible itself gives us a clear protocol for credal confessions of faith. Here are a few examples of confessions of faith found within Scripture itself. These serve as the basis for the creeds of the church.
- Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!
- Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
- Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
- John 1:50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
- John 6:68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
- John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
- Acts 8:37 And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
- 1 Corinthians 8:6 Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
- 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.
- Jude 3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
The creeds of the church are helpful tools in synthesizing the essential, orthodox teachings of the Bible. They are not themselves inspired, but they are the historical Church’s summaries of the inspired Word of God. (For more thoughts about the value of church history, check out my “Beginner’s Guide to Church History.”)
What does the Bible teach about the person and work of Jesus? What does the Bible teach about the Godhead? We all know that opinions and doctrines can vary widely across the range of Christendom. So what, on a most basic and essential level, must one believe to be truly termed a Christian? The ecumencial creeds of the church serve as doctrinal fences to protect and define orthodox Christianity.
Although the thought of a creed may make some in modern Christianity feel a bit squeamish, credal ideas are not as foreign to your Christian life as you may imagine. Christian churches today all express their statement of faith either through a historic creed or one of their own making.
Concerned that perhaps creeds take away from the value of Scripture or our relationship with Christ? Keith Matthison cleverly turns this idea on its head in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura: “Even the statement, ‘No creed but Christ’ is itself a creed…The denial of creeds is simply a self-contradiction.”
Remember: when we recite a creed, we are simply stating what we believe the Bible teaches about the Gospel. When we recite one of the ecumenical creeds accepted by the church across centuries and denominational bounds, we can be confident that we are standing firm in the faith of our fathers and eschewing heresy.
When to memorize and recite the creeds
Regardless of whether your church tradition includes a public recitation of one or more of the following creeds, they can be a wonderful addition to your morning time memory work routine, a lovely component in your family devotions, or an element of personal devotional time for you and your children. My memory work resource pack for the ecumenical creeds is the perfect tool to equip you in this journey!
I often incorporate one of the creeds in my own family’s morning time, either periodically in our memory work loop or as a daily part of our morning gathering. Sometimes we also have included a Latin version of a creed as a supplement to our language studies.
You choose the option(s) that work best for your family in this season. Choose 1 creed to memorize at a time, or loop through all 4 over the course of the week!
All ages can participate. Print out the memory pages for all to read aloud in unison, or have your pre-readers repeat a line at a time. None are too young or too old to delight in the truths of the Gospel contained in these creeds!
What is included in the Ecumenical Creeds Memory Work Resource Pack?
The memory work resource pack includes the following ecumenical creeds:
- The Apostles’ Creed (Latin and English)
- The Nicene Creed (Latin and English)
- The Creed of Chalcedon
- The Athanasian Creed
You will also find the following resources to assist you in memorizing and understanding the creeds:
- Historical and doctrinal introduction to the 4 included creeds
- Memory work pages (large print and regular print options)
- Copywork pages for the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed
- Book list for further study
May God bless your family as you delight in the glories of the Gospel! May we all by faith say together, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”