The famous St. Augustine (354-430) once said, “Let the creed be like a mirror for you. Look at yourself in it to see whether you really believe all that you claim to believe. And rejoice every day in your faith.” I love that counsel: “Let the creed be like a mirror for you.” I have learned the great value of this mirror after not seeing it in my early Christian experience as a young man.
If you look at the early church creeds as mirrors they will reflect back to you the true image of what is and of what should be. Without these essential, core convictions the faith will dissipate into drivel and incomprehensible nonsense. The creeds are our friends, not restraints on praxis or true faith.
I was taught as a young Baptist (I am not a Baptist now since I am a minister in the Reformed Church) that we had no creed, only the Bible. While I understand the lovely Christ-honoring sentiment behind this it is, in my estimation now, simply wrong. In fact I suggest that it is badly wrong. The commonly agreed truth, as expressed in the great creeds, is the way the early Christians thought and responded together within their own community life. They looked into the “mirror” and adjusted themselves, and their beliefs, so that they conformed to the faith of the apostles. And the Apostles’ Creed was said and used long before there was a canon of the complete Bible. While I affirm sola Scriptura in principle I do not affirm it in the way that so many have popularized it and abused it. Appeals to matters of faith take us, ultimately, back to the word of the apostles, which is Scripture. But they never bypass the way the church understood the Scriptures in the process.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (135-202), an early father of the church, said: “The Church guards [faith] with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches, and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth.”
And St. Basil the Great (5th century) rightly said, “No man lives alone, no man believes alone. God speaks his word to us and in speaking it calls us together, creates a community, his people, his church. After the return of Jesus to his Father the church is the sign of his presence in the world.”
The church is NOT his presence, it is the “sign of his presence.” This should be noted very carefully. But how do we know if we are standing in conformity with the earliest Christians if we deny the creeds and refuse to consider historical realities? A church without creeds is oxymoronic at the end of the day.