A Brief Guide to the Redemption Creed
I have discovered in my ministry that a common struggle for the Christian is remembering how and why they are saved. Sin-induced, immature forgetfulness of this reality is one reason why regularly preaching the gospel is necessary. The child of God forgets why the Father has adopted them into his family, or doubts that God has done enough to welcome home the sinner. A nagging pride can leave some convinced that they merited their salvation, or fear can convince them that Jesus’ work was not enough, and that there needs to be more done, either by Christ or the Christian themself.
Preaching God’s word and administering the sacraments are the primary, ordinary ways which God has provided to remind his people of his work in salvation. Yet he has provided other liturgical means of this reminder, such as prayer and singing. One of these other liturgical tools is the corporate confession of faith. The Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 and the mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16 are biblical proto-creeds: statements of faith designed to be confessed together in worship. The church has developed creeds throughout its history for this purpose, with the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed the two most famous examples.
Phillip Schaff, a 19th century German-Reformed theologian and church historian, defined creeds this way in his work Creeds of Christendom, “A Creed, or Rule of Faith, or Symbol, is a confession of faith for public use, or a form of words setting forth with authority certain articles of belief, which are regarded by the framers as necessary for salvation, or at least for the well-being of the Christian Church.” Schaff distinguishes between two kinds of creeds: the first is a confession of faith for public use, the second an authoritative standard of doctrine. A liturgical, corporate recitation of belief could fit into the former category without entering into the latter, while a doctrinal statement of a church could be the reverse, although it is possible for a creed to fit into both categories (e.g. the Apostles’ Creed).
While the earliest creeds were designed for liturgical use, the creeds of the Reformation (e.g. the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, etc.) are confessions or catechisms, designed to be standards of doctrine and used to teach, but were not written with the intent of corporate recitation. The Heidelberg Catechism, while beautiful in its prose, is not designed to be recited in the same way as the Nicene Creed. However, the Reformation confessions and catechisms are sometimes employed in this fashion, particularly the catechisms. The message is good, the mode of liturgical communication poor.
The Book of Common Prayer, whether the 1549, 1559, or 1662 edition, provides a number of beautiful prayers and collects that intersect with the topic of redemption (e.g. Holy Eucharist, Rite II). However, none of the liturgical elements, whether prayers, collects, or call and response, address the subject matter with the structure of redemptive history, or focus on what the mediation of Jesus precisely accomplished. They are also not structured as corporate recitations in the manner of a creed, leaving this specific liturgical area unaddressed.
These are the reasons for the Redemption Creed: there is currently a liturgical gap between the great ecumenical creeds and the Reformed confessions. There is no liturgical, corporate recitation that rehearses redemptive history with a focus on the redemptive work of Christ. There is a pressing need to remind the Christian of what Jesus accomplished, and the church should employ every tool in its liturgical arsenal.
The Redemption Creed is not designed to be a substitute for either the ecumenical creeds or the confessions and catechisms of the Reformation. Rather, it assumes and builds upon the theology of the ecumenical creeds and reflects the theology of the Reformation confessions and catechisms, with a particular focus on the redemptive work of Christ. It is roughly between the size of the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds in order to be useable on a congregational level. The language it employs is not technical so as to be easy to use, while intentionally mimicking the wording of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms as much as possible. Its phrasing intentionally eschews language that would alienate non-Calvinists while still capturing a Westminsterian understanding of salvation. Not every area of Reformed soteriology is explicitly addressed in the Redemption Creed in order to maintain a concise, usable size. However, every area (the pactum salutis, repentance, the last judgment, Christ’s kingdom, the fall, etc.) is either present in the creed incipiently, by necessary implication, or by its building upon the content of the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds.