Jesus once asked His disciples. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Speaking for all the apostles, Peter gave the correct answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The world is full of wrong answers to Christ’s question. People believe all kinds of things. Some will deny that they believe anything. They smugly assert that they believe in deeds, not creeds. They will tell you that all this fuss about doctrines and beliefs is a lot of drivel. What matters most, they say, is that you are a nice person, “do unto others,” and all that sort of thing. They will tell you that all roads lead to some god or other.
But such people, despite all their protests to the contrary, do have a creed. A creed, you see, is simply a statement of what you believe. Everyone has a creed. Everyone. As soon as you open your mouth to tell me what you believe or don’t believe about God, even if it is to say that you believe there is no god, that is your creed.
Also, people who say that all paths lead to God, or that there is in fact no god at all, are as exclusive and dogmatic as they accuse Christians of being. Atheists, for instance, rule out every other belief as utter superstition. Some of them spend their entire lives trying to convert others to believe in…nothing! Remember those billboards put up by the humanistic atheists all over the country before Christmas one year? They said: “No God? No Problem.” This is an evangelism of evil of course. Ironically, atheists are exclusive and dogmatic about it. Isn’t this like someone devoting his whole life to disproving the existence of the Easter bunny?
Or consider people who say that there are many roads to heaven. You will note that they too are as intolerant as they accuse Christians of being, for they are utterly intolerant of anyone who believes that Jesus Christ alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The question nigh-well cries out to be asked: Is it intolerant to say that Washington D.C. is the only capital of our nation? If a real cure for cancer is found, does that mean sugar pills are just as effective? But here’s the real point. Everyone has a creed. The question is whether or not their creed agrees with what the Bible says.
A creed does not replace the Bible. It is a clear and necessary confession of what the Bible teaches. Suppose a Jehovah’s Witness appears on your doorstep. Not such a stretch. Let’s suppose you have never heard of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s a stretch. Suppose you ask the Jehovah’s Witness what he believes. He pulls a Bible out of his satchel and says: “I believe everything that’s in the Bible.” You, a life-long Lutheran nourished on Scripture Alone, reply: “I believe everything that’s in the Bible too! I guess Lutherans and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the same things!” In the dialect of John Wayne, “Not hardly, pilgrim.”
At some point you will end up asking the Jehovah’s Witness, or he will end up asking you, “Do you or do you not believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus is true God? Do you or do you not believe that the Bible teaches the triune nature of God? Do you or do you not believe that the Bible teaches that hell is eternal punishment?” etc. etc. You get the idea. As Christ once asked His apostles to spell out what they believed about Him, so every Christian is called upon to echo the prophets and apostles, to articulate the teachings of the Bible, to bear witness to the truth.
This is also why our pastors and teachers pledge themselves to the Lutheran Confessions when they are ordained or installed. God’s people have a right to know whether they are getting a Baptist pastor or a confessional Lutheran pastor. And in an age of “anything goes,” this is why The Athanasian Creed still matters.