Friday, November 26, 2010

Dabney on the importance of creeds

Why should we make use of clear creeds and confessions?  Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) made these remarks when critiquing the anti-creedal views of Alexander Campbell:

As man’s mind is notoriously fallible, and professed Christians who claim to hold to the Scriptures, as they understand them, differ from each other notoriously, some platform for union or cooperation must be adopted, by which those who believe they are truly agreed may stand and work together.  It is the only possible expedient, in the absence of an inspired living umpire, such as the pope claims falsely to be, by which fidelity to truth can be reconciled with cooperation.  A creed, then, is such a means for enabling Christians to understand each other.  It is the human exposition of what is supposed to be the exact meaning of the Scriptures; and differs from those usually delivered from the pulpit only in being more carefully and accurately made by the assistance of many minds.  Its setting forth is an exercise of the church’s ordinary didactic function. It must advance nothing which its compilers do not suppose to be fully sustained by the Scriptures; and no authority is claimed for it, in any respect, save that which they believe is communicated by the word of God.

From Robert Lewis Dabney, “The System of Alexander Campbell:  An Examination of Its Leading Points” [first published in the Southern Presbyterian Review (July, 1880)], in Dabney’s Discussions, Vol. I (Sprinkle Publications, 1992):  p. 315.

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