A Brief Guide to the Redemption Creed
A common pastoral struggle is the work of reminding Christians that their salvation rests upon Christ and his finished work alone. The necessity of regularly preaching the gospel partially flows from a sin-induced, immature forgetfulness. The child of God forgets why the Father has adopted them into his family, or doubts that enough has been done to be included. A nagging pride can leave some convinced that they merited their salvation. Or fear can convince the Christian that Jesus’ work was not enough, and that there needs to be more: more faithfulness, less sin, on the Christian’s part, in order to be accepted. Sometimes sheer ignorance, or confusion, is the source of the error.
Preaching God’s word and administering the sacraments are the primary, ordinary ways which God has provided to remind his people of his work. There are other liturgical means of this as well, such as 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. The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are the two most famous examples used in all churches.
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, although it is possible for a creed to fit into both categories (e.g. The Apostles’ Creed).
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.
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: the Christian’s consistent forgetfulness of salvation’s nature in Christ, and the current liturgical gap of corporate recitation of the redemptive work of Christ from a Reformational perspective.
It 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. Its size is roughly the same as the Nicene Creed 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 not being merely consistent with, but capturing the Reformation’s understanding of salvation.