The Creedal Imperative Paperback – 19 Oct 2012
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About the Author
Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He was editor of Themelios for nine years, has authored or edited more than a dozen books, and has contributed to multiple publications including the Dictionary of Historical Theology and The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology.
Top Customer Reviews
Trueman looks at the cultural case against creeds; the foundation of creedalism; the early church; classical Protestant Confessions; the usefulness of creeds.
I am not convinced of his 'confessions as praise' - reciting a creed in worship. This does appear to have any foundation.
Nor an I convinced of his argument on revising creeds. One only has to see the mess that has created where it has been done.
Overall - a useful contribution on confessions in an anti-creedal age. But with some problematic points.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Trueman does a great job of not making an apologetic for Presbyterianism per se, but much more of the need for a body to have a written standard of beliefs subordinate to Scripture. He draws examples from Anglicanism, Baptists, as well as Presbyterianism. He grounds the need for a confession in Scripture ("a form of sound words") and demonstrates confessionalism in the history of the church.
Ten bullet points on a website is fine for a parachurch ministry, and the Baptist Faith and Message is a mile wide and an inch deep (my assessment, not Trueman's). However, the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 is an example of what Trueman sees as necessary part of a healthy church body.
By the way, if you'd like to hear him expand on some practical implications on this and other related topics, he gave an excellent talk at Together for the Gospel 2012. It can be found at t4g.org (look for his name under "Speakers" - the topic is "Why the Reformation Isn't Over").[...]
Carl Trueman answers this important question in "The Creedal Imperative." His task is a noble one and, in my opinion, he handled it well in this book. In just under 200 pages, Trueman gives a wise, biblical, and balanced apology (defense) for the necessity and benefit of Christian creeds and confessions. The book flows in this order: 1) the sources of modern antipathy for creeds, 2) the foundations of creedalism and the early church, 3) the confessionalism of the Reformation, 4) confessions, confessing Christ, and praising God, and 5) the usefulness of creeds/confessions.
The book is well written, straight-forward, and to the point (as a side, the book is not really aimed at new Christians; it is probably written at the college level and is for more mature Christians). I'd recommend this book for those of you who question the importance of creeds/confessions, for those of you who may have strayed from creeds/confessions, and for those of you who are confessional but need a refresher course on being confessional. This book refutes the notion that creeds are "paper popes," and explains the relationship of creeds, Scripture, and tradition in a biblical, Reformation way.
In summary, this is a much needed resource on the subject of creeds and confessions in the Christian church today. In an age where culture is pulling the church away from Christ and his Word, creeds and confessions help us resist culture's pull, stand firmly in the Word, and remain centered on Christ alone.
All that being noted, the book has its shortcomings. There is definitely a polemical aspect to the work; for example, creedal skeptics are not just wrong, but their arguments are "specious" (almost once per chapter, it seems). And the reader does not really get to see the argument against creeds articulated in any objective fashion. The only real argument against creeds is offered not from a Christian viewpoint but from that of post-modern society. There is also a repetitive feel to the text that may stem from the fact that, as the author notes in his dedication, "many of the ideas in this book were debated and refined" in a series of monthly "table talks." Such works, like those drawn from blogs and other occasional writings, require more editing than the standard book project to eliminate the vestiges of the separate origins of each chapter; it is really not enough to say, "as I have repeatedly said before." And there is the issue of audience: it is unclear to me who is the intended audience for this book. The argument most likely to persuade a "Bible alone" anti-creedal Christian is chapter two; the rest of the chapters make utilitarian arguments not likely to persuade a reader not already open to the author's theme, and seem like "preaching to the converted." In a sense, this book is most like a set of extended talking points for confessional Christians to use when arguing with non-creedal Christians. If that's what you're looking for, this is your book! I was hoping for a more substantial (and irenic) work.
Recommended for Protestant Christians with the reservations noted above.
The shortcoming of the book is that the author seemed to have "sabotaged" his whole argument when he looks at both Catholic and evangelical theology - one is wrong (because he said so) and the other is weak (because he said so). I feel he just missed the boat there and stopped arguing with the same acuity he used before. Sad! But the book will stay on my bookshelf - the challenge to take a new and in-depth look at Creeds still remains valid.
What I found perhaps most valuable about the book was the opening chapter on the Cultural Case against Creeds and Confessions. In this chapter he explores cultural factors that unconsciously bias people today against creeds and confessions. Trueman adeptly addresses the loss of truth and certainty, the erosion of confidence in words, a low opinion of the past, and a suspicion of authority and institutions, all which factor into a cultural mindset that is very resistant to the idea of creeds and confessions. The next chapter breaks down the arguments and builds a positive Biblical case for creeds.
The middle chapters of the book provide a concise and excellent history of the development of creeds and later confessions, including broader factors beyond theology that were at work. In the chapter "Confession as Praise," Trueman highlights another underappreciated aspect of the confessions, which are often criticized for their polemical nature. Finally he concludes with a mixed assortment of other reasons why the creeds and confessions are useful to the church.
One of the most compelling reasons Trueman raises in his book for why the church should and must have creeds, is so that our doctrine is open to public examination and scrutiny against the Scriptures. Without publicly stated creeds, even supposedly Bible-based churches, and ministers who claim to hold the authority of Scripture, are susceptible to having their private interpretation of Scripture trump all others, and run unchallenged. Or, on the other hand, it can cause one to be less than honest or even completely unaware of formative factors or influences in their thinking and theology. Creeds and confessions, as corporate writings that have involved great tests of time and heavy scrutiny, force us to consciously think about and "confess" our beliefs, and leave them open to examination by the Scripture, which is the only final norm for all teaching and life. I highly commend the book as an introduction to and defense of creeds and confessions.