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“Those Hated Creeds”

By Timothy King

To: Larry Hall, Sword of the Spirit Apologetics

Re: Preterists and the Creeds

Dear Larry:

Let me address your comments concerning the preterist attitude toward the historical creeds of the church.  You characterize preterists as having “hatred and mockery of the traditional creeds of Christianity!”

Let me start here before I move on to your other comments.  I only have one question here: What have you heard or read from any preterist that would cause you to characterize their spirit toward the creeds as being “hatred and mockery?”  You quote only one preterist in this section and nothing in his statement would remotely suggest that he hates or mocks the creeds.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention our last lunch together.  I recall you making a statement to me to the effect, “The preterists hate the creeds.”  You apparently do not recall my answer or you conveniently neglected to state it.  I said, “No, the preterists do not hate the creeds.  They merely acknowledge that they are not inspired as are the Scriptures.”

Larry, this is really the crux of the preterist outlook toward the creeds of Christendom.  Let me, a preterist, clearly state this for you and please quote me.  The creeds of the historic church are good and useful for the modern church, but they do not possess the quality of God-breathed inspiration that are attributed to the Holy Scriptures.

As such, creeds are subject to examination by the Scriptures and correction if shown to be contrary to the inspired word of God.  I find it interesting that you mentioned nothing in your article about inspiration and the creeds.  Larry do you believe that the creeds of the church are God-breathed?  Do you believe that they hold the same authority over the conscience as the canon of Scriptures?

I would like a clear statement from you on this.  I can think of only two reasons you would characterize preterists as you do on the creeds and ignore the subject of inspiration.  First, you really believe that the creeds are as authoritative as the Scriptures, in which case you will wind up contradicting many of the creeds themselves.  Second, to rightly quote the preterist view would take the edge off your slanted rhetoric and make preterists seem not-so-heretical.

If preterists really do hate and mock the creeds, and if, as you say, “. . . preterists view the vast history of Christian knowledge handed down to us by godly men to be useless and wrong,” why do you not include in your article one single quote backing your assertion of preterist hatred, mockery and fear of the creeds?

You obviously went to the Preterist Archive web site.  There you could have found several articles from preterists on the creeds.  Why did you not cite just one example of hatred, mockery and fear from the preterists?  Because if you had read them, you would have found some things contradictory to your contentions.

For instance, David A. Green makes some very sensible comments that show nothing of mockery, hatred or fear.  Tell me if you disagree with these words:

“Contrary to the way things often look to full preterists, the conservative Protestant creedalists today who are using the ecumenical creeds as their first (and often only) line of defense against preterism generally believe that: The Bible is the ultimate and only infallible and absolute authority concerning faith and practice.

“The typical Protestant creedalist does not believe that the ecumenical creeds were God-breathed, or that every ‘jot and tittle’ of the creeds is necessarily infallible or inerrant. The creedalists ascribe such qualities to Scripture alone. The creedalists know that though the Lord in His providence had determined that the vital truths of the Gospel were to be communicated in the Church’s ecumenical creeds, the writers of the creeds were not inspired; they were fallible, and were subject – as all men are – to lapses in their reasoning, and to failings in their comprehension and representation of the Scriptures.

“Because of this, the creedalists do not automatically reject everyone as a Christian for every deviation from the ecumenical creeds. As the creedalist Andrew Sandlin says in his article Biblical Authority and Christian Orthodoxy, historic Christian ‘orthodoxy’ (the standard of basic Christian doctrine set by the ecumenical creeds) is a ‘much safer’ presupposition than a Bible-only approach to Bible study, so that a deviation from orthodoxy is ‘usually’ a perversion of biblical truth (Chalcedon Report, July 1997). In other words, a deviation from orthodoxy is not always necessarily a biblical error, because the creeds, though very reliable, are fallible.” (From “Preterism and the Ecumenical Creeds,” all emphases are in the original)

Did you note what this preterist said?  The creeds are “very reliable,” he says.  Would you quote Mr. Green in your next newsletter?  But he further states that they “are fallible.”  Is this not a true statement, Larry?  Do you see the creeds and their authors as infallible?

Here’s a quote from preterist Walt Hibbard: “(Let me plainly say that I am NOT ‘anti-creed’ – I have taught the Apostles’ Creed, the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism to all my children, and taught an adult Sunday school class on the Westminster Confession in the early 1980’s” (From “What About the Creeds?” the emphasis is his).

Can you say that I mock, hate and fear the creeds, or am I unorthodox if I agree with the following statement from Philip Schaff’s The Creeds of Christendom?

“In the Protestant system, the authority of (creeds), as of all human compositions, is relative and limited. It is not coordinate with, but always subordinate to, the Bible, as the only infallible rule of the Christian Faith and practice. The value of creeds depends upon the measure of their agreement with the Scriptures. In the best case, a human creed is only an approximate and relatively correct exposition of revealed truth, and may be improved by the progressive knowledge of the Church, while the Bible remains perfect and infallible. The Bible is of God; the Confession is man’s answer to God’s Word. The Bible has, therefore, a divine and absolute (authority), the Confession only an ecclesiastical and relative authority. Any higher view of the authority of (creeds) is unprotestant and essentially Romanizing. (Creedolatry) is a species of idolatry, and substitutes the tyranny of a printed book for that of a living Pope. It is apt to produce the opposite extreme of a rejection of all creeds, and to promote rationalism and infidelity.” (Quoted by Walt Hibbard; the emphases are mine).

You say, “. . . the doctrine of Sola Scriptura itself demands that we place a great deal of weight to gifted teachers and leaders (Hebrews 13:17), including those men who wrote the creeds” (the emphasis is yours).   Larry, it would be an unworthy thing for a preterist (or anyone else) to hate, mock and fear the creeds (and, thus far, you have shown no proof that any preterist has done so).  But an equally critical error would be to exalt the creeds to a position of authority equal to the Scriptures.  Your quote above seems to indicate that you are doing just that.  Would you care to comment?

You say, “. . . to automatically dismiss the creeds on the grounds of “Sola Scriptura” alone is the height of arrogance and pride!  It is not only ironic, but shear (sic) hypocrisy that the very men who have such an ingrained hatred for the creeds would affix their signatures and give allegiance to the ‘Mother of all Creeds’ known as the 9.5 Theses for the Next Reformation’!”

Again, let’s regain some unbiased perspective here.  First, the preterist does not “automatically dismiss the creeds on the grounds of ‘Sola Scriptura’ alone.”  I will publicly acknowledge that there are many wonderful and glorious statements made in many of the creeds which we would be foolish to “dismiss.”  For instance, I deny any “ingrained hatred” and I will profess a profound agreement with these statements from the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith (A.D. 1566):

“We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men. For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.  And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.”

“We judge, therefore, that from these Scriptures are to be derived true wisdom and godliness, the reformation and government of churches; as also instruction in all duties of piety; and, to be short, the confirmation of doctrines, and the rejection of all errors, moreover, all exhortations according to that word of the apostle, All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, etc. (2 Timothy 3:1617). Again, I am writing these instructions to you, says the apostle to Timothy, So that you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, etc. (1 Timothy 3:1415)” (emphases mine).

Further, I will deny any “ingrained hatred” for section one of the (Southern) Baptist Faith and Message which states: “…(the Bible) will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and religious opinions should be tried” (emphasis mine).

I am in full agreement and will rebuke any who would mock, hate or fear this from Section VII of the London (Baptist) Confession of 1644 (quoted unedited in its original style, emphasis mine): “The Rule of this Knowledge, Faith and Obedience concerning the worship and service of God and all other Christian duties, is not mans inventions, opinions, devices, lawes, constitutions, or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but onely the word of God contained in the Canonicall Scriptures.”

I will stand whole-heartedly behind this from chapter one, section 10 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647): “The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

I will profess full agreement with chapter one, section 10 of the Second London Confession (1677, quoted unedited in its original wording and spelling): “The supream judge by which all controversies of Religion are to be determined, and all Decrees of Councels, opinions of antient Writers, Doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.”

I fully agree with this statement from The Orthodox Creed of the General Baptists (1678): “And no decrees of popes, or councils, or writings of any person whatsoever, are of equal authority with the sacred scriptures.”

Need I go on?  I could quote many more sections of the creeds with which I could happily agree.  There is another thing you failed to mention: Close comparison of these creeds would reveal that there are many areas of disagreement and contradiction among them.  Which ones do you hold up as authoritative?

In short, Larry, rather than having hatred, mockery and fear of the creeds, I and most preterists that I know (and, I believe, a great host of futurists) will stand behind the spirit of the Protestant creeds in holding to the Scriptures alone as binding on the conscience.

This means that if studies in the inspired word of God mean a challenge to any point of the creeds, we will go forth with clear consciences to alter the position of the creeds and hold to the unfailing nature of the sacred Scriptures.  If I ever come to the place where I cease to “regurgitate” the cry of Sola Scriptura, then would someone please stick their finger down my throat?

One more thing on this: Would you cite the source who called the 9.5 Theses the “Mother of All Creeds”?

You ask (concerning The 9.5 Theses), “Is it not just as binding on the preterist as the Nicene Creed is binding on the Christian?”  Hear the answer of one of the original signatories of the 9.5 Theses – “No, the 9.5 Theses is not binding on the preterist.”

Further, your comparison of The 9.5 Theses with the Nicene Creed (or any other creed for that matter) is fallacious.  It is better compared to its namesake, The 95 Theses.  It was never meant to be a creed at all, binding or otherwise.  As with Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, they were intended to stimulate thought, discussion and debate.  I would not have signed a creed, but I could in good conscience sign this document meant to stimulate discussion of the Scriptures among Christians.

And I’m curious; do you really believe that the Nicene Creed is binding on the Christian?  I’m not knocking the Nicene Creed, but I am saying, “Why would you make the creed binding instead of the Scriptures upon which the creed is supposed to be founded?”  As I said, the 9.5 Theses are not binding, but the Scriptures appealed to in the Theses are.

The matter at hand is that the preterist is challenging what many (not all) of the creeds have to say on one particular point of doctrine – eschatology.  It is a colossal and fraudulent leap to say that our disagreement with the historic creeds on this one point constitutes “an ingrained hatred for the creeds.”

Your argument on this front is a straw man.  Only by dressing up the preterist falsely as scoffers of the creeds can you mount any case against them.  You can get a conviction only by planting false evidence and bringing forth lying witnesses.  If you address what I and other preterists actually do say about creeds, you have no argument.

This is your big problem, Larry.  As the saying goes, “If you have the facts, pound the facts; if you don’t have the facts, pound the table.”  My biggest difficulty now is less in biblically defending my views of preterism as it is slogging through the quagmire of your distorted display of preterism and preterists.

In closing, here are some questions for you to ponder: If you are so confident that your interpretation on eschatology is solidly based on the Scriptures, why are you so insistent in your appeal to the creeds?  If your brand of futurism can be clearly laid out by virtue of “Sola Scriptura,” then why lean so heavily on the creeds?  Why are you hesitant to meet the preterist on his own ground of “Sola Scriptura?”

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