Creeds and Confessions 3, TTP Sept 25th 2011

Theology, Piety, and Practice

Robert Letham wrote, “The creed of Nicaea bequeathed to the church a lexical minefield that would cause many casualties in the decades ahead.”[1] What he means by this is that after the council of Nicea people all over the Christian world were using terms they had re-interpreted with biblical meanings. But the creed made some terms off limits. The terms became standardized and now people had to reign in their language to fall into line with this. Their beliefs were not changed, just their language about the Bible.

Even though it takes time and energy to get everyone on standard terms, I am constrained to argue that the parent of heresy was not the Greek categories but the pagan meaning poured into them. Further, the daughter of careful theology is not always orthodoxy, but the daughter of ignorance is always heresy.

The real problem for Biblicism is that without standard definitions (which come from the Bible’s teachings) Biblicists inevitably will supplement the interpretation of scripture by way of the categories which they already know from secular/unbiblical sources. When you are not being transformed in your thinking by the Bible, you are conforming the Bible to fit what you already know. When the Bible uses the term spirit and soul, or mind and will, it must be interpreted in light of the original context. But without this work of contextualization and standardization of the meaning of terms from the Bible, one inevitably will define these terms, and others by humanistic contexts. That is, we will always measure the Bible by our own senses and experience.

The “Bible alone” was the source of the Anabaptist theology which eventually led to the peasant uprising in the 1500s. Which, by the way, led to millions of deaths. A whole host of people today follow their footsteps, who say, “I am just reading my Bible.”  This has historically been the case for numerous zany groups throughout history. It makes sense logically that it would come about, since human language is not checked in light of Biblical contexts. If humans are left unchecked by the Scripture, even with Scripture in hand, the only thing between us and disaster is God’s grace! Thus we should expect no different in the future from the no “creed but Christ” crowd. Even though they hold to Scripture alone, they ignore it when it comes against the pressures of personal desire for intellectual comfort.

[1] Letham, the Holy Trinity, 118