Creeds. Every religion has a creed (from the Latin credo, "I believe"). Creeds, formal or not, are a record of the beliefs held by a community of believers. Many Christians undervalue the importance of creeds, claiming to need "no creed but Christ." This statement is indefensible; in fact, it is a creed in itself. No one can live without creeds. One’s creed may be vague or false. But everyone lives by a creed.
Without doubt, the modern Protestant church has inherited a confusing and conflicting doctrine. The attempt to flee from this malaise by running away from creeds is understandable but misguided. Creeds are a guide and protection against error. We need to be sure the God we worship is the Christ of the Bible. The creeds have defended true Christian belief from heresy for nearly two thousand years; why should we get rid of them now? Perhaps the very reason we are mired in the current divided mess we find ourselves in right now is that we have abandoned the anchor of the creeds and have cast ourselves loose onto the rocks of individual and self-informed opinion. Could it be that a recovery of the orthodox and faithful creeds of the church might be our way back to unity and faithfulness? We think so.
Confessions are less universal than creeds. Christian confessions represent the specific beliefs of various denominations, in most cases carefully outlined and with Scripture references. The Westminster Confession of Faith, for instance, outlines the principles and doctrines of Presbyterianism. The Belgic Confession is the standard for most German and Dutch Reformed churches. The 1689 London Baptist Confession represents the teaching and practice of many Baptist and Reformed Baptist congregations. Confessions are important for their detail. Like creeds, confessions are corrals, hemming in true doctrine and excluding the false.
Catechisms are simply distilled versions of the confessions, usually written as a series of questions and answers to be learned and repeated by the catechumen (learner). Some mistakenly infer that the word "catechism" (which derives from the Greek katecheo, "to teach;" see 1 Cor. 14:19 and Gal. 6:6) to refer refers exclusively to the practice of the Roman Catholic Church. While the Roman church does have its own catechism, many Protestant churches also use catechisms to teach children and new converts. Protestant catechisms have a history as old as Protestantism itself, and only in the late 20th century have they fallen largely out of use.
We believe the teaching of creeds, confessions, and catechisms is an important part of Christian education. Children familiar with the basis and teachings of their faith are better able to mature and grow since they have a foundation of understanding. If a boy wants to play football, he will have a hard time scoring a touchdown if he doesn't know which end zone is his. In the same way, if he wants to grow as a Christian he will be much better prepared if he clearly understands what he believes.