"The church—be it Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant—has long debated the role of creeds and councils without reaching full consensus. Evangelicals care about sound doctrine, and we would be wrong to think it didn’t exist until the Reformation. So what’s an appropriate emphasis on creeds and councils for evangelicals in particular? What authority should they have in our life and doctrine?
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Bruce Demarest, in an older Themelios article, “The Contemporary Relevance of Christendom’s Creeds” (by the way, you can look through our entire archives of Themelios, all the way back to 1975) makes the same point rather well:
[T]he creed is not only a rule; it is also a rule that is ruled. As human formulations the creeds are subordinate to Scripture, the supreme rule of faith and practice. However majestic its language, however moving its assertions, however closely it purports to approximate apostolic doctrine, the creed is a human and therefore potentially fallible document. Ultimately the creeds must be checked and ruled by the Word of God. Christendom’s creeds are worthy of honour to the degree that they accord with the teaching of the Word of God.What Kind of Authority
Since we’ve concluded that the creeds and councils don’t have ultimate authority, which is ascribed only to Scripture, do they have any authority at all? There’s a cavalier spirit in evangelicals that is quick to say, No! But that’s a tough line to plow since our evangelical understanding of the gospel is built upon the orthodox formulations of the creeds and councils. Even the most rogue, “no-creed-but-the-Bible” evangelical still uses words like orthodox and heresy. These aren’t biblical words, so to speak, but Christian words that depend upon some sort of agreement as to what our spiritual ancestors have claimed to be good and right beliefs and what is damnable, according to the Bible.
So for Protestants, creeds and councils are viewed as norma normata, which is a fancy Latin phrase for “a rule that is ruled.” Creeds and councils are rules ruled by Scripture. But note, that it is still a rule... "
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