A creed, confession, symbol, or statement of faith is a statement of the shared beliefs of a religious community. Creeds are not intended to be comprehensive, but to be a summary of core beliefs. The term "creed" can also refer to a person's political or social beliefs, or is sometimes used to mean religious affiliation.
One of the most widely used creeds in Christianity is the Nicene Creed, first formulated in AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. It was based on Christian understanding of the Canonical Gospels, the letters of the New Testament and to a lesser extent the Old Testament. Affirmation of this creed, which describes the Trinity, is generally taken as a fundamental test of orthodoxy for most Christian denominations. The Apostles' Creed is also broadly accepted. Some Christian denominations and other groups have rejected the authority of those creeds.
Muslims declare the shahada, or testimony: "I bear witness that there is no god but (the One) God (Allah), and I bear witness that Muhammad is God's messenger."
Whether Judaism is creedal has been a point of some controversy. Although some say Judaism is noncreedal in nature, others say it recognizes a single creed, the Shema Yisrael, which begins: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."
The word derives from the Latin credo, which means "I believe" (because the Latin translation of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed both begin with this word) so a creed may also be called a credo. A creed is sometimes referred to as a symbol signifying a "token" by which persons of like beliefs might recognize each other.
The word creed is particularly used for a concise statement which is recited as part of a religious service.
Some longer statements of faith in the Protestant tradition are instead called confessions of faith.
Within Evangelicalism, the terms doctrinal statement or doctrinal basis tend to be preferred. Doctrinal statements may include positions on lectionary and translations of the Bible, particularly in fundamentalist churches of the King James Only movement.
Several creeds have originated in Christianity.
- 1 Corinthians 15, 3–7 includes an early creed about Jesus' death and resurrection which was probably received by Paul. The antiquity of the creed has been located by most biblical scholars to no more than five years after Jesus' death, probably originating from the Jerusalem apostolic community.
- The Old Roman Creed is an earlier and shorter version of the Apostles' Creed. It was based on the 2nd century Rules of Faith and the interrogatory declaration of faith for those receiving baptism, which by the 4th century was everywhere tripartite in structure, following Matthew 28:19.
- The Apostles' Creed is widely used by most Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes.
- The Nicene Creed reflects the concerns of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 which had as their chief purpose to establish what Christians believed.
- The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 in Asia Minor. It defines that Christ is 'acknowledged in two natures', which 'come together into one person and hypostasis'.
- The Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) is a Christian statement of belief focusing on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated and differs from the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds in the inclusion of anathemas, or condemnations of those who disagree with the Creed.
- The Tridentine Creed was initially contained in the papal bull Iniunctum Nobis, issued by Pope Pius IV on November 13, 1565. The creed was intended to summarize the teaching of the Council of Trent (1545–1563).
- The Maasai Creed is a creed composed in 1960 by the Maasai people of East Africa in collaboration with missionaries from the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. The creed attempts to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the Maasai culture.
- The Credo of the People of God is a profession of faith that Pope Paul VI published with the motu proprio Solemni hac liturgia of 30 June 1968. Pope Paul VI spoke of it as "a profession of faith, ... a creed which, without being strictly speaking a dogmatic definition, repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God."
Christian confessions of faith
Protestant denominations are usually associated with confessions of faith, which are similar to creeds but usually longer.
- The Sixty-seven Articles of the Swiss reformers, drawn up by Zwingli in 1523;
- The Schleitheim Confession of the Anabaptist Swiss Brethren drawn up in 1527 – (being Anabaptist, this confession was not Protestant in the usual sense);
- The Augsburg Confession of 1530, the work of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, which marked the breach with Rome;
- The Tetrapolitan Confession of the German Reformed Church, 1530;
- The Smalcald Articles of Martin Luther, 1537
- The Guanabara Confession of Faith, 1558, the first Protestant writing in the Americas. By the martyr French Huguenots Jean du Bourdel, Matthieu Verneuil, Pierre Bourdon and André la Fon at the site of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- The Gallic Confession, 1559;
- The Scots Confession, drawn up by John Knox in 1560;
- The Belgic Confession drawn up by Guido de Bres in 1561;
- The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England in 1562;
- The Formula of Concord and its Epitome in 1577;
- The Irish Articles in 1615;
- The Westminster Confession of Faith in 1647 was the work of the Westminster Assembly of Divines and has commended itself to the Presbyterian Churches of all English-speaking peoples, and also in other languages.
- The Savoy Declaration of 1658 which was a modification of the Westminster Confession to suit Congregationalist polity;
- The Baptist Confession of 1689 which had much in common with the Westminster Confession, but differed from it on a number of distinctions held important by the English Calvinistic Baptists;
- The Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists (Presbyterians) of Wales of 1823.
Christians without creeds
Some Christian denominations, and particularly those descending from the Radical Reformation, do not profess a creed. The Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, believe that they have no need for creedal formulations of faith. The Church of the Brethren also espouses no creed, referring to the New Testament, as their "rule of faith and practice."Jehovah's Witnesses contrast "memorizing or repeating creeds" with acting to "do what Jesus said".Unitarian Universalists, who practice probably the most liberal of all religions, do not share a creed.
Many evangelical Protestants similarly reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists have been non-creedal "in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another". While many Baptists are not opposed to the ancient creeds, they regard them as "not so final that they cannot be revised and re-expressed. At best, creeds have a penultimacy about them and, of themselves, could never be the basis of Christian fellowship". Moreover, Baptist "confessions of faith" have often had a clause such as this from the First London (Particular) Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646):
Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.
Similar reservations about the use of creeds can be found in the Restoration Movement and its descendants, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Christian churches and churches of Christ.
Some religious leaders in traditional creedal Churches have also come to question the utility of creeds. Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has written that dogmas and creeds were merely "a stage in our development" and "part of our religious childhood." In his book, Sins of the Scripture, Spong claims that "Jesus seemed to understand that no one can finally fit the holy God into his or her creeds or doctrines. That is idolatry."
Many people said (the Apostles Creed), but they understood what it was saying and what they meant by that quite differently. No matter how hard they tried, they could not close out this perennial debate. They cannot establish a consensus and they could not agree on the meaning of that phrase which had been once "delivered to the saints." It did not occur to these people that the task they were trying to accomplish was not a human possibility, that the mystery of God, including the God they believed they had met in Jesus, could not be reduced to human words and human concepts or captured inside human creeds. Nor did they understand that the tighter and more specific their words became, the less they would achieve the task of unifying the church. All creeds have ever done is to define those who are outside, who were not true believers; and thus their primarily achievement has been to set up eternal conflict between the "ins" and the "outs," a conflict that has repeatedly degenerated into the darkest sort of Christian behavior, including imperialism, torture, persecution, death and war.
Latter Day Saints
Within the sects of the Latter Day Saint movement, the Articles of Faith are a list composed by Joseph Smith as part of an 1842 letter sent to "Long" John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat. It is canonized with the Pearl of Great Price, part of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Whether Judaism is creedal in character has generated some controversy. Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that "By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought" and asserted in his book Basic Judaism (1947) that "Judaism has never arrived at a creed." The 1976 Centenary Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of Reform rabbis, agrees that "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life."
Others,[who?] however, characterize the Shema Yisrael as a creedal statement in strict monotheism embodied in a single prayer: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Hebrew: שמע ישראל אדני אלהינו אדני אחד; transliterated Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad).
A notable statement of Jewish principles of faith was drawn up by Maimonides as his 13 Principles of Faith.
The Islamic creed is the Shahadah, the proclamation لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله (lā ʾilāha ʾillà-llāh, muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh) – “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is Allah's messenger.” Taking this creed is one of the five pillars of Islam.
- The American's Creed – a 1918 statement about Americans' belief in democracy
- Mission statement
- Christian Confessions: a Historical Introduction, [by] Ted A. Campbell. First ed. xxi, 336 p. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1996. ISBN 0-664-25650-3
- . Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan and Valerie Hotchkiss. Yale University Press 2003.
- Creeds in the Making: a Short Introduction to the History of Christian Doctrine, [by] Alan Richardson. Reissued. London: S.C.M. Press, 1979, cop. 1935. 128 p. ISBN 334-00264-8
- Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions. Grand Rapids, Mich.: C.R.C. [i.e. Christian Reformed Church] Publications, 1987. 148 p. ISBN 0-930265-34-3
- The Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, [and the] Canons of Dordrecht), and the Ecumenical Creeds (the Apostles' Creed, the Athanasian Creed, [and the] Creed of Chalcedon). Reprinted [ed.]. Mission Committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1991. 58 p. Without ISBN
- – A website linking to many formal Christian declarations of faith.
- – A Guide to Early Church Documents from Internet Christian Library