The Need for Creeds

Do you wonder what it means to be a confessional Presbyterian? It is one thing to understand Presbyterianism, a form of church government and worship; it is another to understand the importance and value of confessions or creeds. 

We have some resources to help understand Presbyterianism, of course; but this post is especially meant to highlight resources on confessionalism, as understood by Presbyterians, which are available at Log College Press. 

  • Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions (1824);
  • Francis Robert Beattie, "A Brief Description of the Great Christian Creeds" and "The Nature and uses of Religious Creeds" in The Presbyterian Standards: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (1896);
  • Robert Lewis Dabney, "The Doctrinal Contents of the Confession—Its Fundamental and Regulative ideas; and the Necessity and Value of Creeds" in Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897 (1897);
  • James D. Tadlock, "The Relation of the [Westminster] Standards to Other Creeds" in Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897 (1897);
  • B.B. Warfield, The Significance of the Westminster Standards as a Creed (1898); and
  • Egbert Watson Smith, The Creed of Presbyterians (1901).

    These works have much to say about why we need to articulate Scriptural truths in creedal form, and how they benefit the church. Take a look and consider especially what Miller, Beattie, and Dabney have to say about the need for creeds. 

The Creed of Presbyterians

Egbert Watson Smith (1862-1944) was a distinguished graduate of Davidson College (1882) and Union Theological Seminary (Richmond, Virginia, 1886), who went on serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Second Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Kentucky, was also noted for his love for foreign missions. In 1911, he became executive secretary of Foreign Missions for the Presbyterian Church in the United States, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he labored and authored works in support of missions and missionaries around the world. Even after he retired from that position in 1932, he took on the newly created position of field secretary of foreign missions. He served as one of the most active and able advocates of missionary activities in the American Presbyterian church. 

As a confessional Presbyterian, he also wrote in defense of the Westminster Standards, the creedal position of the Presbyterian Church. His 1901 volume on The Creed of Presbyterians is remarkable because it makes the point that the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, are simply put, a summary of essential truths that evangelical, Protestant Christians agree are taught from Scripture. They are not uniquely Presbyterian in a sectarian sense, but Catholic in nature. They affirm the principle of one true Church, in all its branches, to be the body and kingdom of Christ on earth. Smith has written this work for laymen, and it serves as a good introduction to what Protestants believe concerning the sovereignty of God, the authority of Scripture, and the value of having a summary of these things to unite believers in the truth, all of which serve as a great motivation for the spread of the gospel. 

This is a book that 21st century Christians will appreciate, as the depth and breadth of the author's humility and charity shine through as an example of how confessional Presbyterians may serve the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ with those two particular attributes, which is as much needed today as it was over a century ago. Take time to download and peruse The Creed of Presbyterians, which is a wonderful contribution to the whole church of Jesus Christ.