Coram Deo’s Deacon for Worship, Nick Clatterbuck, gave a great overview yesterday of why we say historic creeds and confessions out loud together during our gathered worship. Here is a transcript of what he said (you can also listen to it on the Coram Deo podcast):
In general, there are three reasons we profess our faith together every week:
The first reason we profess our faith together is to consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Even in the Old Testament, part of the regular rhythm of worshipping God involved consecrating or “setting yourself apart” to God. For the Israelites, this meant offering sacrifices or participating in ritualistic cleansing. But for us, it means being set apart through our union with Christ and our obedience to his word. Professing together the truths we believe about Jesus is one way of marking ourselves as God’s people and setting ourselves apart for his purposes.
The second reason we profess our faith together is to root ourselves in historic Christian faith. You may have heard us say before that we are always trying to think old thoughts about God. Because we believe the Bible when it says that God handed down the faith to the saints once and for all a long time ago – we believe that trying to think new or novel thoughts about God will only lead us to error and sin. Using historic professions of faith is one way that we can protect against this error and to align ourselves with what our Christian brothers and sisters have believed for centuries.
The third reason we profess our faith together is that it is just a good way to learn theology. Our professions usually state the fundamentals of Christian belief in very frank, straight-forward way that is easy to understand and easy to learn. This is beneficial training for everyone in the room on Sundays, whether you are a non-Christian trying to learn more about the faith or whether you are believing and following Jesus. We all need to be shaped in our theology, and professing our faith together is one means of accomplishing that goal.
In 2011, we are going to spend the whole year professing our way through the Heidelberg Catechism, one week at a time. Why the Heidelberg Catechism? Well, for starters, it is broken out into fifty two sections – there are fifty two weeks in the year, which is convenient. Second, it is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and gospel-centered of the historic statements of the faith.
Some historical context: The Catechism was written in the Palatinate (a region in Germany) in 1563, just as the Reformation was coming to a close. At the time, Calvinists and Lutherans, even though united in their love for Jesus and their high view of scripture, were having some bitter disputes about some secondary issues of the faith. A few of the disputes were even becoming violent. Elector Frederick the Third, who was essentially the governor of the region, decided that this couldn’t go on. So he commissioned two theologians to get together and write a catechism that could bring both sides together and unite them in their common belief in Jesus and their high view of Scripture. As a result, we get a very warm, very personal statement of the faith that is very focused on the good news of Jesus and is also very well supported by Scripture. We think it will be an excellent resource to us in consecrating ourselves to God during our worship, rooting us in the historic Christian faith and teaching us some good theology along the way.