“I believe.” We hear these words every day of our lives. Whatever the context, we use these two simple words to express our thoughts about nearly everything. When we want to tell others what we are thinking or want to reveal the innermost affections of our hearts, we will often say, “I believe.” In His wisdom, God created us not only with the capacity to believe but also with an insatiable desire to explore, examine, and express our beliefs (Prov. 2; 1 Peter 1). We possess a God-given hunger deep within our souls that causes us to examine fundamental truths about everything God has revealed to us (Deut. 4; Matt. 22).
The mere fact that we believe in something doesn’t actually do anything for us. At the most basic level, a belief in something only provides us with the overwhelming sense that we’re not alone and that something exists beyond us. Everyone has a capacity to believe in something, and in fact everyone actually does believe something (Acts 17). Although the cynical skeptic might say, “I believe in nothing,” the simple point is that he does believe in something, and according to him that something is “nothing.” But even the convinced skeptic knows that it is impossible to believe in absolutely nothing. If someone claims to believe in nothing, the truth of the matter is that he actually believes in everything that begins and ends with himself as the source and object of his self-fashioned, self-centered faith. He has an open mind about everything, which, contrary to popular opinion, is not a good thing. Someone who has an open mind about everything will uncritically allow any and all data, no matter how absurd, to enter his mind because he has no filters—no criteria—to discern right from wrong, truth from falsehood, and even truth from half-truth (Prov. 1:22, 32). The open mind of everything is an undiscerning open space, filled only with perceptions and inclinations.
For belief to have heart-changing and life-changing significance, it requires God as both its source and object (Ps. 68:26; 1 Cor. 2:5). As Christians, we are new creatures in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit has graciously ripped out our hard hearts of stone and given us new, spiritually pliable hearts so that we are now able to believe, confess, and proclaim the glorious and eternal truths of God’s sacred Word (Luke 24:45). We are to be open-minded to anything and everything that God has revealed to us, and by necessity we are to be completely, albeit graciously, closed-minded to anything that contradicts what He has revealed. As Christians, we believe, confess, and proclaim God’s truth and nothing but God’s truth. This is why we have creeds and confessions, so that with unwavering resolve we might stand firm in the faith once delivered to the saints—to the end that we and our children would believe, confess, and proclaim God’s unchanging truth for His glory, for He is the source of everything we believe and, thus, His revelation is our creedal standard for all of faith and life.
everyone has a creed
We have creeds because everyone believes in something, and even more to the point, everyone believes in God. Even self-proclaimed atheists believe there is a God, by virtue of God’s revelation about Himself in creation and the fact that all people are created in His image, and thus we are left without any excuse whatsoever (Rom. 1:18–20). So-called atheists know full well there’s a God; they just hate God and find it easier for their consciences simply to pretend He does not exist. But, as we know, even demons believe God exists and rightly tremble (Mark 5:7; James 2:19).
If everyone believes in God, the question then follows: What do we believe about God? To answer the question is to confess, or declare, our creed. Whether formal or informal, written or verbal, in one way or another we all have a creed that details our beliefs. Some of us have a formal, written creed we adhere to, while others have an informal, unwritten creed that can easily change and perhaps often does change.
We are creedal by our very nature and begin to form concepts of belief from the moment we are born. As we move from the formation of concepts to actual statements of belief, we are naturally inclined toward verbal and even written creedal formulations that express our beliefs and unite us with other people around truths to which we all agree to adhere. By God’s design, the entire human race is creedal—before the fall and after the fall—and will be throughout eternity in the new heavens and new earth. So the real question is not whether we have creeds. Rather, the questions are, What do we believe in our creeds? What is the nature of our belief? What are the authority, usefulness, foundation, and purpose of our creeds?