In this way, tradition, including our creeds and confessions, plays an important role in the Christian faith. For example, the Apostles’ Creed has long been recognized by the church as a summary of the essentials of the Christian faith. It articulates the foundational truths of orthodoxy. More robust creeds and confessions seek to articulate what the entire Bible says on a given subject or a range of subjects. This is necessary because it is impossible to turn to one passage or book of the Bible to define baptism, prayer, atonement, or any other doctrine. But a creed or confession can detail what the entire Bible says collectively about a specific locus of theology.
But even as we employ the use of tradition, we must maintain that traditions are only as good as they are biblical. This key truth governs our use of them. The Bible alone serves as our compass. It possesses sole infallible authority over our lives, as it alone is the Word of God. And it alone is inerrant. Therefore, where our traditions, creeds, and confessions disagree with the Scriptures, they are to be rejected; where they agree, we embrace them and count them as useful for our Christian lives. Understanding this distinction is of paramount importance.
The church of every generation needs a renewal in the doctrine of sola Scriptura. History teaches that when the church forgets that the Scriptures alone are necessary and sufficient, it loses its foundation and begins to crumble. In many ways, the tradition of the church reminds us of this truth. In fact, elements of tradition such as creeds and confessions seek to promote biblical truth. So, let us confess and employ them, but recognize that they will only benefit insofar as they promote the teachings of Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over our traditions—never the other way around.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 23, 2017.