‘Statements of faith’ are really long creeds for the anti-creedal

‘Statements of faith’ are really long creeds for the anti-creedal June 20, 2012

Christian Piatt discusses “The Fallacy of Statements of Faith“:

A while back, I was applying for an editing job with a fairly prominent Christian media company, and in the application process, I was asked to sign a statement of faith. For those unfamiliar, this is a list of things that the organization in question claims to believe, and they ask all who are interested in being a part of it to sign their name, claiming their personal agreement with and belief in the exact same things.

… I appreciate that some folks want to be very explicit and clear about what they believe. I also understand why those in charge of an organization would try to teach or persuade those involved with them to believe likewise.

But personally, I think the whole “sign the statement of faith” thing is more or less pointless.

The oddest thing to me about the prevalence of “statements of faith” in evangelical circles is that such statements arose due to an “aversion for all creeds but the Bible.” (That phrase is from the 1845 Address to the Public on the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

That anti-creedal Baptist impulse of “no creed but the Bible” is why most evangelical churches today, unlike their mainline Protestant counterparts, do not recite the Nicene or Apostles creeds in their worship — or pretty much ever. Instead evangelicals have statements of faith — the new creeds we refuse to call creeds.

Also consider this: The Nicene Creed is a mere 222 words long. The Apostles Creed is only half as long.

The statement of faith used by the Southern Baptist Convention and its seminaries is more than 5,000 words long.

At that length, a statement of faith no longer functions as a creed-by-another-name. At that length, the SBC’s statement of faith seems intended to provide denominational lawyers and scribes a pretext for condemning anyone who gets out of line.

* * * * * * * * *

What is evangelicalism?” John Turner asks at The Anxious Bench.

He offers his own definition of “evangelicals”:

Protestant Christians who readily talk about their experience of salvation in Jesus Christ, regard a divinely inspired Bible as the ultimate authority on matters of faith and practice, and engage the world in which they live through evangelism and other forms of mission.

Turner confesses that this is “a bit informal and imprecise,” but it’s not a bad effort at describing an American evangelical in, say, 1990.

In 2012, though, Turner’s definition is hopelessly out of date.

Evangelicals are a tribe of white Protestants who oppose legal abortion and civil rights for homosexuals. That is how evangelicals choose to define themselves today and thus that is what “evangelical” now means.

And that is all that “evangelical” now means.

You may “readily talk about your experience of salvation in Jesus Christ, regard a divinely inspired Bible as the ultimate authority on matters of faith and practice, and engage the world in which you live through evangelism and other forms of mission,” but none of that is either necessary or sufficient for membership in the evangelical tribe.

Opposition to abortion and gay rights are necessary for membership in the evangelical tribe. And they are sufficient for such membership.

That is why Jay Bakker is considered “post-evangelical.” Bakker supports full equality for LGBT people and thus he is not part of the tribe — never mind his theology and spirituality.

But Mitt Romney now opposes legal abortion and legal equality, so he therefore is part of the tribe — never mind his theology and spirituality.

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