I Feel The Need, The Need For Creeds

So deep is my appreciation for this creed that I commend its vocal and consistent corporate confession not only in the classroom, but in the weekly worship assembly of the local church. I did not always give this commendation, however, on account of a difficulty I had with squaring the practice with another deep conviction I have regarding the Regulative Principle of corporate worship. It took me a while to wrestle with this issue, and while I did, I searched to little avail for resources that addressed the specific question: is the corporate recitation of creeds in weekly worship at odds with the regulative principle?

…When it comes to the New Testament Church, his word commands Christians to (1) read the Scriptures publicly (1 Timothy 4:13), (2) teach/preach the Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-2), (3) pray (1 Timothy 2:1; Acts 2:42; 4:23-31), (4) sing (Colossians 3:12-17), and (5) practice the ordinances of baptism and communion (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34). The regulative principle is the commitment to build the corporate worship service around—and only around—those five elements.

This rationale assumes that if God desired for our corporate worship to include anything else, he would have said as much in his word. Theologically, the regulative principle seems to follow directly from Christ’s lordship of his Church (he sets the agenda), the sufficiency of Scripture (the word of God is capable to do the work of God among the people of God—an innovative posture seems to imply that we could improve upon what God has expressly told us to do), and the fact that God is not indifferent about how he is worshipped (as Nadab and Abihu can testify [Leviticus 10]). So, when asked the question, “Can we go beyond what Scripture commands in our corporate worship?” I respond with, “Why on earth would we want to?”

At the very least there is a historical and circumstantial argument to be made here. The regulative principle was first articulated and defended formally by the reformers and their subsequent heirs, which is why it is a staple in the Reformed tradition. Yet, these articulators and defenders of the regulative principle almost uniformly endorsed and practiced the corporate confession of creeds in their worship gatherings. By all appearances, they simply took for granted that confessing the creeds in worship is consonant with the regulative principle. It does not seem as though they even agonized over the question. So, historically, and circumstantially, I think we are safe to conclude that corporate confession of creeds is not at odds with the regulative principle; but how and why this is the case needs some elaboration.

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Samuel G. Parkinson | “The Regulative Principle and the Corporate Recitation of Creeds” | January 11, 2023


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