“We have no creed by the Bible” is a slogan I have heard from childhood. And it is a noble slogan. We have been a fellowship of sloganeers. “We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent.” That is one of my favorites. I only wish it were true. If we have genuinely lived by these kinds of directives then why all the splits and divisions within our religious movement over matters about which scripture has usually been deafeningly silent? No, slogans do not make us a people of God’s own choosing.
Leaders among the “restoration churches” have for years been saying that we have no creed/creeds. It appears to me that we have fooled ourselves into believing that if we repeat something often enough and loudly enough sooner or later people will believe it. It’s sort of how creeds are developed in the first place. In other words, if we practice or teach something long enough it will become an “old paths” tradition. Then, if the tradition doesn’t die, it becomes canon law (a creed) and is now a vital enough matter to debate.
Of course not all of us are guilty of accepting all of the creeds that will be here mentioned. So we may pick and choose those of which we are guilty of obeying and enforcing. Not all of the creeds “we” have sired will be here mentioned for two main reasons: 1) I can’t recall them all, 2) Lack of space and/or literary license from brother Charles. Now, if your kindness, dear readers, will allow, I shall launch into my laundry list of ecclesiastical creedalisms developed over myriad of decades of institutional evolution. These are not necessarily listed in order of importance.
First is the matter of the liturgical (orthodox) prayer of the churches of Christ. Our forms and expressions of worship can easily become crystalized. Involved in our prayer creed is the business of who to address. One must direct his prayer to God the Father and to Him alone; never the God the Son, Jesus Christ. Forget that we have a biblical example of Stephen praying directly to Christ. Forget that Jesus is our intermediary to the Father (can you imagine a client never getting to talk to his attorney?). Forget that some may occasionally desire to slip in a small, “I love you, dear Jesus, for what you did for me!”
Not only must we pray exclusively to the Father and never utter a word to Christ or the Holy Spirit (who also mediates on our behalf), but we must at home juncture within the prayer speak the words, “In Jesus’ name.” It is preferable to say this at the closing in a public prayer so that the congregants may Amen in agreement without distress.
Oh, I almost forgot, there is the matter of prayer “language” to the ultra orthodox. Majestic pronouns are often preferred over other, less regal, words (thee, thou, and thy over you and your). Somehow these pronouns are able to convey respect and humility to God in spite of the fact that there were no royal pronouns in the biblical languages. To add to this dilemma, there are also preferred cliche expressions to top things off (of course I try to avoid cliches like the plague. Expressions such as: 1) Guide, guard and direct, 2) Ready recollection, 3) Molestation, 4) Another portion of thy word, 5) Sick and afflicted, 6) Next appointed time, 7) Respective places of abode, et al.
Aside from the matter of “holy” pronouns and catch phrases is the business of regressing into Elizabethan English to speak to deity. Joseph Smith used this technique when he penned his Book of Mormon and “Inspired” version of the Bible. He assumed that if he wrote, “And it came to pass” some 2,000 times that the story would have an obvious ring of divinity. He, as we, used phrases with ancient words like wouldst and couldst and hast and loveth and coveteth. Really brethren, is a prayer more sincere if we say, “Holy Father, we loveth thee and coveteth thy bountiful grace” instead of”Dear Lord, we love you and ask for your generous mercy?” Besides, I tho’t coveting was a sin.