WHI-1237 | Creeds, Councils & Heretics

Sunday, 21 Dec 2014


This week on the White Horse Inn, our hosts are joined by Justin Holcomb. Justin is an Episcopal minister and adjunct professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has written and edited a number of books, including On the Grace of God and Rid of My Disgrace. His most recent works include Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics (both Zondervan, 2014) which will be the topic of today’s discussion.

Why should we care about the early church’s creeds? Why should Christians use catechisms today? What possible relevance do they have to our worship and life? What is heresy and how can we differentiate it from the truth?

Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the rich heritage of proclaiming Christ in the tradition of the church fathers and councils.

“There are people, who out of devotion and sincerity thought, ‘Well, let’s get past all of this ritual stuff and get to the Bible and get to Jesus.’ Well, that’s what the creeds actually do. That’s what the creeds were meant to do. They’re some of the best summaries of Scripture – the highpoints of Scripture, the highpoints of revelation. And it’s the creeds which are about the revelation of God in Christ and in Scripture. Most of the creeds, because they were responding to heresies which were about Jesus, are all about Jesus. They’re focused on who he is and what he’s done – the person and work of Christ – and many of the creeds were relying on Scripture. A lot of the things that are there are summaries of Scripture or quotes. I’m an Anglican… the Book of Common Prayer, half of that thing is just quotations from Scripture.”
– Justin Holcomb
Catechism (from the Greek word catechesis) is simply instruction in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Instead of replacing or supplanting the role of the Bible in Christian education, catechism ideally serves as the basis for it. For the practice of catechism, as properly understood, is the Christian equivalent of looking at the box top of a jigsaw puzzle before one starts to put all of those hundreds of little pieces together. It is very important to look at the big picture and have it clearly in mind, so that we do not bog down in details, or get endlessly sidetracked by some unimportant or irrelevant issue. The theological categories given to us through catechism help us to make sense out of the myriad of details found in the Scriptures themselves. Catechism serves as a guide to better understanding Scripture. That being noted however, we need to remind ourselves that Protestants have always argued that creeds, confessions and catechisms are authoritative only in so far as they faithfully reflect the teaching of Holy Scripture. This means that the use of catechisms, which correctly summarize biblical teaching, does not negate or remove the role of Holy Scripture. Instead, these same creeds, confessions and catechisms, as summary statements of what the Holy Scriptures themselves teach about a particular doctrine, should serve as a kind of springboard to more effective Bible study.
(Kim Riddlebarger, “Fathers, Instruct Your Children: Recovering the Practice of Catechism in the Home,” Modern Reformation, March/April 1995)

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