Modern Christians should be more aware of the early great creeds of the Church.
These creeds were carefully formulated by sincere and devout early leaders of the Church in order to combat the first christianic heresies. They were concerned to protect the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ against any attempts to pervert or subvert this vital message from God to Man. Their approach was:
What can we definitely say about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and about the human spiritual predicament and state in the light and understanding of Holy Scripture?
The amazing thing is that, looking at these creeds almost 2,000 years later, it is very hard to see how they could have carried out their task any better! Sure, the wording might occasionally appear a little clumsy with some points appearing a little over-stressed but do not forget that they were very conscious of using careful wording in order to negate the influence of false teachers which were soon attempting to lead the flock astray.
The Apostle's Creed (150-250 AD)
The Nicean Creed (325 AD)
Chalcedonian Creed (451 AD)
The Athanasian Creed (circa 500 AD)
The 25 Canons of the Council of Orange (529 AD)
(This is a great creed. Grace is rightly emphasised in the second paragraph of its conclusion, at the same time as wisely rejecting limited atonement and any indications of fatalism. This is in happy contrast to the 'covenant theology' and 'limited atonement' legalism very much present within the much later 'Westminister Confession').
Statement of Faith of the Third Council of Constantinople (681 AD)
The Augsburg Confession (1530)
Apart from infant baptism and a few other somewhat questionable areas, this great Lutheran confession is in amazing substantial overall agreement with modern evangelicalism. This is a great Protestant confession. (This link is to a different website, use the left-facing arrow on your browser to return here).
The 39 Articles of the Church of England (1563)
These 39 Articles seem to represent an amazingly mature conservative evangelicalism minus the doctrinal excesses of things such as 'limited atonement.' Only the inclusion of various apochryphal books in the listing of the books of the Bible would raise a few modern eyebrows.
(No links but these confessions are widely available on the internet).
Obviously, those above are not all the creeds and confessions which sincere Christians have drawn up but they are probably very significant. Here are two later ones:
The Synod of Dort (1619).
There are many good things in this, unfortunately there are also indications of legalism. Many statements concerning election and calling, for instance, are unquestionably fatalistic and go beyond Scripture.
The Westminster Confession (1646).
'Covenant Theology' makes an appearance here (Chapter VII), and lamentably, the Lord's Day becomes a 'continued Sabbath' (Chaper XXI: VII-VIII). This starts to represent hardened, reformed Calvinistic theology. Of course, as early as 538AD the 3rd Council of Orleans banned agricultural work on Sundays and all Sunday work was banned in the 2nd Council of Macon (585AD). Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome, wisely condemned the application of sabbath laws and rituals to the Lord's Day in the same century, nevertheless by about 900AD working on a Sunday was discouraged in many areas even though (mostly) The Lord's Day was carefully separated from the Old Covenant Sabbath; however, it was the Westminster Confession - as a major Protestant confession which would affect thousands of people - which clearly stated that Protestant believers should look upon The Lord's Day as the continued Christian Sabbath for the very first time. This we lament for 'Covenant Theology' now brought Protestants under a new legalism which the reformers had fought long and hard to be free of.