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Book Review: The Creedal Imperative Written by Dr. Carl R. Trueman

By Dominic Silla

 

Well here it is! The first book review of the summer of 2017! With a book like this, I can honestly say that my summer is off to a great start! The Creedal Imperative, written by Dr. Trueman was published in 2012 by Crossway books, and running just short of 200 pages, is a very well written tour of and apologetic for the use of creeds and confessions within the Church down the centuries to the modern day. As the holder of the Paul Woolley Chaired professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, he seems uniquely situated to comment on this topic and his insights are in fact, helpful.

The book contains six chapters and an appendix on precisely how creeds have come about in the Church, how they are not just historical but biblical and necessary to the life of the Christian church, and ultimately useful as a tool to promote theological orthodoxy and sound doxology. In other words, to promote right belief in God, and right praise of who God is. This insightful piece of wisdom noted in the text is who God has revealed Himself to be, or how we view how God has revealed Himself will determine how we worship Him. This theme remains constant throughout the entirety of the text. It is also of note to define what exactly is a creed or a confession, and Dr. Trueman furnishes us with the following definition, “Creeds and Confessions are human attempts to summarize the basic elements of the Christian faith.”[1]

Within the pages of the book, one is also painfully aware, as it makes up the first chapter of the text, that the arguments against the use of historical creeds and confessions are incapable of standing the attack Trueman brings to bear on them. Dr. Trueman goes so far as to argue that creeds and confessions are foundationally Biblical[2] and that to not be subject to one is to be slave to ones own interpretation. An example used within the text is that the church who has no confession or creed, but holds to a “no creed but the Bible” stance is enslaved to the particular preacher’s interpretation of that morning text. Ultimately, Trueman argues, and I think rightly, that everyone is confessional, but the difference is between a confession that is written down and one that is not. Those who have a written confession are more able to keep their ministers and elders in check by appealing to the confessions as Biblical summaries and expositions within that church. The church that does not have a creed/confession is bound to what the preacher speaks on that morning and if their opinion changes from one week to the next, the congregation is along for the ride. In this way, Trueman argues, confessions are quite useful in acting as a check on individualistic interpretations and more.

If you are looking for a good book summarizing the need for creeds and confessions, of even simply want to know what all the hubbub has been about lately with a growing return and movement toward “” or “Reformed theology” I heartily recommend Dr. Trueman’s book to you as a good resource to and starting point to work from. Additionally, Dr. Trueman includes a “For Further Reading” section in the back. Take it from someone who has taken his classes, this has always been one of my favorite parts of his syllabi and books. You can find the book here at the Westminster book store. If you can’t afford the book right now, feel free to peruse my own small essay on the subject, though I confess openly that it pales in comparison in both accuracy and depth to Dr. Trueman’s great work on creeds and confessions and why the Church ought to make them an imperative.

 

 

[1] Pg. 65

[2] Not that they are on the same level as the Bible, but that they ought to be accurate summaries of the systematic doctrines contained within Scripture