Baptist Theologians Request BWA to Recite Apostles' Creed

( [email protected] ) Jul 03, 2004 11:58 AM EDT

As an effort to embrace traditional Christian doctrines proactively through recitation of the Apostles' Creed, a group of 28 Baptist theologians and educators from ten countries have signed a request, calling the BWA to recite the creed at the 100th anniversary meeting next year.

The signed request, dated June 23, was sent to Keith Jones, the chair of the BWA Resolutions Committee under the title, "Confessing the Faith."

Steve Harmon, associate professor of Christian Theology at Campbell University Divinity School; Elizabeth Newman from the Baptist Theological Seminary; and Philip E. Thompson, of the North American Baptist Theological Seminary authored the statement.

The statement showed that recitation of the Apostles’ Creed in 1905 was a surprising act for Baptists. The statement said:

"Many Baptists acquired an allergy to creeds because of the illegitimate ways they have been used to bind the individual conscience, to substitute for a personal confession of faith, or to underwrite an established church-state order."

"Creeds are misused whenever they become instruments of coercion, just as religious liberty is abused when it is invoked to legitimate deviation from the living witness of apostolic faith."

The statement added that having negative sentiment against the creed has often led to "the faulty assumption that modern Christians can leapfrog from the primitive Christianity of the Bible to the contemporary situation with relative ease."

"Ironically, in the wake of the Baptist encounter with modernity those from both ends of the theological spectrum employed the slogan, 'no creed but the Bible,' in their theological arguments," it said. "Serious Bible readers will find much needed hermeneutical guidance by returning to the ancient creeds of the church."

According to Harmon, the issue was raised during a meeting of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion Region-at-Large in Washington, D.C., from June 3-6, concerning the risk of losing old Christian tradition. Harmon explained:

"We believe that one of the most pressing issues on the Baptist agenda at the beginning of the second century of the Baptist World Alliance and its witness to the world is recovery of the connection of Baptists to the ancient tradition that they share in common with all other Christians.

“At the same time, we believe that one obstacle to such a recovery is a misunderstanding, widespread among non-fundamentalist Baptists, of the nature and function of such ancient ecumenical creeds as the Apostles' Creed and the 'Nicene' Creed, which summarize and communicate this ancient tradition that Baptists share in common with all other Christians."

Meanwhile, John Sundquist, the chair of the program committee, confirmed that the Apostle’s Creed will be recited in the open session of the meeting.

Theologians who signed the statement include: Steve Harmon and Barry Jones from Campbell University Divinity School; Curtis Freeman from Duke University's Baptist House of Studies; Luis Rivera from Princeton Theological Seminary; and Daniel H. Williams and Ralph Wood from Baylor University.