Just what do Christians believe? Even within a single church on Sunday morning if you were to ask this question you might get many diverse answers. And yet, it’s not a new question and the issue of how to unite the church (or “The Church”) around a core set of doctrines has been with us for two millennia. The best answers given have come in the form of simple Creeds, Confessions, and Catechism, many of which are gathered together in the new book edited by Chad Van Dixhoorn appropriately titled Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms: A Reader’s Edition.
(I’ll confess I’m not entirely sure what makes this a “reader’s edition.” Maybe it’s supposed to be a contrast to all those books out there that just exist for aesthetic purposes? It is an attractive volume after all, maybe the publisher didn’t want there to be any confusion?)
Bringing together a broad spectrum of exactly what it promises, this book includes everything from the Apostle’s Creed to the Augsburg Confession to the Thirty-Nine Articles to the London Baptist Confession to the Westminster Confessions/Longer Catechism/Shorter Catechism. It is truly a wide-ranging book and having these all in one place is a helpful addition to any Christian’s bookshelf.
There are some obvious gaps here, and I don’t know that they’re necessarily bad gaps. For example, there’s nothing from the Middle Ages–we have roughly a thousand year span between The Chalcedonian Definition and the Augsburg Confession. Likewise there’s nothing from Eastern Orthodoxy, and nothing post-Westminster. While as a Protestant I’d be hard-pressed to name a creed, confession, or catechism from the Middle Ages or Eastern Orthodoxy (though as someone with some historical training I could name a few important church documents from each), it might be all the more useful to have included something representative. Though finding something that doesn’t wander into heresy or idolatry may not have been worth the trouble, again I’m not overly familiar with those specific documents from those times/regions. Likewise more modern documents would have been fair game–off the top of my head, the Philadelphia Confession or New Hampshire Confession would have been easy enough to include. But maybe there’s another volume in the works for more recent documents?
Again, this is an excellent volume and should be on your shelf for devotional reading or just for reference.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO