Who makes us who we are? What do we believe? What drives our actions? Below are twelve widely-accepted communal confessions helpful for explaining our Christian faith. The earliest confession appears first and is rendered in a new translation for use in contemporary worship.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; on the third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty, from where he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life.Amen
The eleven remaining confessions linked here are helpful proclamations of both classical Christianity and contemporary evangelicalism. Some teach certain doctrines we do not personally hold (such as infant baptism in the Heidelberg Catechism). Some use the language of “covenant” or “creed” in ways we do not. However, their central emphases may be easily affirmed, and even variations in language and doctrine provide impetus for fruitful dialogue and development.
Our personal faith is more succinctly described by the Baptist Faith and Message, which was first adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925 and received clarifications in 1963 and 2000. Respecting religious liberty and the freedom of the conscience as well as the priority of the local church covenant, true Baptists do not invest their statements of faith with any pretense to external authority. They remain personal or communal documents ranked below the perfection of Scripture and are thus revisable.
On the Apostles’ Creed
A poetic masterpiece constructed for use during worship, it is supremely suited for theological instruction. Notice its explicit Triune form. Notice, moreover, the second part, which summarizes the apostolic kerygma of Jesus Christ, is the fullest of the three articles. Strikingly, Christ’s death and resurrection, the gospel in sum, thus stands at the very center of the creed.
Because the descensus ad infero clause, which may be translated as “descended to hell” or “descended to the dead,” was not found in the earliest manuscripts and currently remains a matter of dispute among evangelical Christians, it has not been included in the translation above. This is not to say the translator necessarily disagrees with that doctrine. However, its use in worship may distract the minds of some from the centrality of the cross and the resurrection.
This version of the creed has been specifically designed for use in congregational worship, thus its style recalls a poetic cadence and a centralized emphasis upon the gospel. It was first used at Lakeside Baptist Church, Granbury, Texas, on Easter Sunday, 16 April 2019.
New translations of the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed from the original Greek and/or Latin versions may be found in the appendix to God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits. These three confessions deserve a place in our corporate worship and theological discussions, not only due to their ancient pedigree and widespread affirmation across Christian communions but also due to their deep biblical basis and their necessarily central theological concerns. For those desiring more resources regarding the relationship between classical Christianity and the Baptists, please see the Center for Baptist Renewal.
While we periodically affirm or even help author certain other common theological declarations, these statements by no means carry the historic weight of the above confessions. Until affirmed widely among the Christian churches, all such modern and/or contemporary statements should be deemed tentative and tertiary at best (no matter how enthusiastic some partisans may be in their advocacy of them).