The Creedal Imperative is a book for our time. With attempts to challenge the authority of the church, which also includes the authority of Scripture, this book sets forth the case of the necessary and rightful place of authority. Carl Trueman, a theologian and historian who has a good grasp on our culture, is uniquely qualified to write this book. His ability to communicate makes this an extremely important and timely book. Being in our postmodern culture, people struggle with the concept of authority, and many end with a conclusion that I am my own authority, though it may differ from others. Where this leaves us is that we determine what we believe, what is true, and whatever else we choose to add to the mix.
Trueman, standing firmly on a biblical foundation, has done an outstanding job of demonstrating, not only the need for solid authority, but for creeds and confessions. While we profess to believe that no Scripture is of private interpretation, with creeds and confessions as our boundaries and guidelines, it is easy to slip into the trap our own private interpretation of the Bible, theology, and reality itself.
This book seeks to underscore the truth that creeds and confessions are not only needed as checkpoints, not only to enable us to express our beliefs, but also to keep us from misunderstanding God’s truth in our day. Properly used, creeds and confessions, under the authority of God’s Word enable us to hear God’s voice who from the earliest in, Genesis 1, has revealed Himself and the God who speaks and enables us, in His image, to have speaking ability.
While Trueman makes it clear that ultimate allegiance is to the Word of God, creeds and confessions are our way of speaking what we understand God has spoken to us in Scripture. This is important, but there have been those in the past, as well as today, who have tried to “piously” say, “we have no creed or confession, but the Bible.” Trueman challenges that from both church history and finally the Word itself.
For those who understand the importance and place of creeds and confessions in the life of the Christian faith and church, this book is also a must read as an encourager to hold strongly to that position. It all boils down to understanding God’s truth. Using clear and careful exegesis of Scripture, sound Reformed theology, and the context of understanding church history, as well as demonstrating a good understanding of the times in which we live, Trueman has given us a usable resource and tool to encourage us to study, appreciate and benefit the creeds and confessions that have not been privately nor individually written without the accountability and input of the broader church.
Those of us who belong to a creedal and confessional church realize that they are not only summaries of what the Bible teaches on things like kingdom, grace, eschatology, ecclesiology, etc., they are safeguards of accountability that we are on the right track with our understanding of those things. Trueman reminds us that our ultimate authority is the Word of God but the creeds and confessions have been compiled and written to help us better understand his Word and to do so by coming alongside one another and testing our understandings. Given what we are seeing in the church today, generally, it should be clear that our present and future well-being of the church is at stake. In many places truth is up for grabs and people are hearing all manner of things in churches today under the umbrella of truth that have not stood the test of time and they are not discipled to discern the difference.
Another thing that you will appreciate about this book, in making his case for the imperative of creeds and confessions, Trueman exposes those who profess to believe that “it is only the Bible” and shows that even from that position they use other sources to teach and therefore not only are not honest with themselves but actually hold to an untenable position. For example, he writes, “I do want to make the point here that Christians are not divided between those who have creeds and confessions and those who do not; rather, they are divided between those who have public creeds and confessions that are written down and exist as public documents, subject to public scrutiny, evaluation, and critique, and those who have private creeds and confessions that are often impoverished, unwritten, and thus not open to public scrutiny, not susceptible to evaluation and , crucially and ironically not subject to testing by Scripture to see whether they are true.”
One other comment which I hope will convince you to read this book and encourage other church leaders and teachers and members to read this book that while creeds and confessions have divided Christians over various topics throughout church history, they have also provided a strong sense of connectionalism and enabled us to stand together with others as a witness to the truth of God’s Word, his kingdom and the church’s mission. While some have shunned tradition within fundamentalists and evangelical circles, and while there is a wrong tradition that positions itself above the Word, following Calvin and the early reformers, we have a great respect and appreciation for tradition. Trueman makes that point.
While he writes as one who is committed to a confessional church, namely the Westminster Standards, he writes not simply for those of us who are within that tradition, he writes for the broader evangelical Christian church. I hope this book will have inroads beyond our Presbyterian and Reformed churches.
If you are not convinced of the importance of this book by now, I conclude with a final quote from the author, “The fact remains that respect for the creeds and confessions which churches adopt must become an important part of our contemporary Christian lives if we are to be truly biblical. That society tells us to distrust traditional authority, to doubt all leaders, and to dismiss the past is of little relevance to applying biblical principles to our churches.”