Councils, Creeds, and Confessions | The Brandon & Brian Show

We’re thrilled to announce the return of “The Brandon & Brian Show”! Join Brandon Robbins and Brian Gross as they dive into the foundational elements of our faith journey, exploring the significance of Creeds, Catechisms, Confessions, and Councils, all within the context of our 2024 Church-wide Devotional Plan though Be Thou My Vision by Jonathan Gibson.


Well hello, if you are new to Cross Creek, you probably don’t understand what’s going on here on this little YouTube channel, but this is the remix, our season two, as we say of the Brandon & Brian Show. We did this for Sunday school during COVID and we are bringing it back for another season. So, the writing strike is over and the producers are in line, and we have some marching orders from our pastor, and we’re going to just kind of go through some of the writings and some of the background of the Be Thou My Vision Daily Devotional that we are as a church are trying to use and integrate into our call to worship and in our daily devotion. So, I’m Brandon if you don’t know that already, and I’m Brian. So, welcome to the Brandon & Brian Show once again.

Brian, I’ll just kind of ask you, what are your thoughts about what we’re going to do here? We’re going to have some short, these are going to be little short sessions. So why don’t you just kind of explain what it is that we’re doing?

I think we’re just going to do some intros because Be Thou My Vision introduces catechisms. We’ve done that in our church before but it references several in there that you can do. It’s referencing Creeds, it’s referencing people in church history. So, we want to do some intro videos to really explain what those things are, why we find use in them, maybe some of the history of them, but start off in this intro with really like the Creeds, the catechisms, and the confessions. Like what are these three things? And also, the councils. So, how do they play into this larger picture?

So, we use these words and sometimes someone’s been coming to church for a long time and they might hear these words: Creeds, councils, confessions, catechisms and they don’t know what those are, where they come from, why we have them. So, I guess we’ll just start from the bottom, I mean the oldest, and then kind of move chronologically. So first, we have some things that we call councils that came out with some stuff. So, from your readings Brian, when you think of a church council, what pops into your head?

These church councils are convened to take on the largest issues of the day. So, it’s really twofold. They’re affirming what things are part of Christianity and they’re also addressing heresies or potential heresies. So, in church history, they say that there’s seven ecumenical councils that at least in principle the Orthodox, the Protestant, and the Catholic all agree on. And it’ll actually play into some of the things that we’ll see as far as Creeds. So, there’s a council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed comes out of it. So, you’ll see emphasis on things like the Trinity, things that are being discussed. And so, they’ve gathered all of the thinkers of that region, the Bishops, and they all come to a central place to debate, discuss and hammer them out.

And one thing about the councils, early on it was like how do we understand Jesus, how do we understand the Trinity like you said, what books of the Bible are actually scripture? These were not the assumption is these groups of these Bishops would come together and they would create these doctrines, like they would create. And that’s not how they functioned, right? They functioned in a way that they would kind of ask the question what is it that’s being taught in the Orthodox Church? What is it that we hold to, particularly like what books of the Bible that would come out in the early councils, which what they would ask the question what books are being read in the churches? They didn’t say oh, we like this one, we don’t like this one, right? No, we know that this has Apostolic connection, Apostolic Authority, and we are, you know. And so, when it came to like the hypostatic union or and different controversies would come up right? So, you have the Arian controversy would come up, they would convene a council and they said wait a minute, no, no, Christ is fully God and fully man, that he did not lose his godhood when he came. And so, the council would defend the Orthodox and provide, as you said, a Creed, right?

Exactly, and then those Creeds end up being kind of these boundary markers of Christian thought and non-Christian thought. So, it’s really getting to the essence of the Virgin birth, the nature of the Trinity. You’ll see these especially in this Be Thou My Vision where you’re looking at the different Creeds and they’re repeating a lot of the same things. That’s because that was what was controversial but also still what separates Christian thought from non-Christian thought. So, I think this is kind of the first five centuries approximately after Christ where we get these Creeds. It’s not the full scope of the Christian faith, it’s kind of the essentials of the Christian faith.

Right, and I would like to say we have warrant for the idea of these councils in scripture. So, the very first Council isn’t a communic council, right? It’s the council that met in Jerusalem when the big controversy of the day was okay, this Paul guy is going around and telling these Gentiles that they’re part of the people of God, that they’re part of the eklesia, the church in the assembly. And can they do that without things like circumcision, you know, and being kosher and what they’re doing. And so, scripture shows us this example of how the leaders of the church come together and they make a definitive statement on what is the reality of our truth and what scripture teaches and therefore that goes down, right?

So, anyway, so that’s good. So, there’s councils which were these collections of Bishops and they, in the first particularly the first five centuries of the church and they would come out with different Creeds that we kind of hold to for the essential faiths and then we have these confessions, right? That kind of come out particularly the ones that we talk about and the ones that you’ll find in here are the confessions that were birthed during the Reformation. That’s right, three forums of Unity, Westminster Confession of Faith. So, what’s the difference between a Creed and a confession?

I think of the confessions as we’re kind of coloring now within the lines of like denominational distinctives. So, all of those first-order things are already taken care of, Apostles Creed, Chalcedonian Creed. Those are the who is God, what is God like. So, we are not necessarily dealing with first-order issues anymore. So, you might have a London Baptist confession from 1646, right? So, you’re going to have these different confessions and you certainly have some on the Lutheran side, which may be a good way to think about these are now distinctives of how they view things like the Lord’s Supper. If the Creeds are the skeleton, the confessions are kind of the ligaments and the muscles, built around as the way I think of it.

And they, you know, are constitutional documents, right? Like, so, you know, we are bound, as we, me and you are currently. You know, we’re not on the session, but we are both ruling Elders in the PCA. Once a ruling Elder, always a ruling Elder, you know? They kick you out for some reason. You get a little crazy, we get a little squirrelly with our theology in these lectures, you know?

Right, but we are bound to hold up the confessional standards, right? You know, and so, particularly the Westminster Confession, but not some of these other confessions here, like, you know. So, the Heidelberg is, you know, kind of from the Dutch reform tradition and part of the Three Forms of Unity, which is the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. You know, those are canons, in particular, which is just the Five Points of Calvinism, you know, for the most part. Kind of an affirmation of what we believe as reformed Christians.

But these documents are rich, right? I mean, of course, of course, the joke that I was always told, you know, when I was starting to learn about these confessions is, you know, the Westminster Confession was written by a whole bunch of lawyers and the Heidelberg Catechism was written by poets, right? And if you read the two documents, there’s a lot of truth to that, right?

Yeah, and then I would just say lastly, that the catechisms are how you teach the truth of those things. So, it’s the truth of what’s Christian and non-Christian that came out of the councils and were solidified in the Creeds, and then those denominational distinctives. But it’s also kind of how to teach it to ourselves, and then particularly like new believers and children as well. You and I have both taught communicant classes where children that are ready to make a profession of faith in the church go through this, and the catechisms are great places to go for those kinds of things. So, you’ll see the Westminster and the Heidelberg Catechism both in this book.

And I haven’t looked through all the sections on that just so people know. So, there’s the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is kind of the longer, more descriptive, whole discussion of what we believe as Presbyterians. Then there’s the Larger Catechism, which used to be all the questions a little bit more detail that pastors have always been held to in the history of the church to make sure that they kind of had those memorized. And then you had the Shorter Catechism that was really used for the children. And now we’ve gone down a level over the last couple of hundred years where we’ve made the Children’s Catechism because the Shorter Catechism is too hard for our kids. And the Shorter Catechism is what pastors tend to get grilled on on what they actually have an understanding of. And so, that’s just kind of a funny reality of, you know, we keep moving. We think we, in some ways, we’re moving to greater technological understanding and sophistication of the world, but when it comes to really applying our minds to understanding the faith, you know, these things seem like too much, you know?

Yeah, but yeah, I agree with you. There’s so much richness to what is in here, and that’s what we hope to kind of do some introductions to this material that if you’ve been doing it, you’ve gone through a month now, but just getting a good sense of why these things are being included in a book that we’re looking at in 2024.

All right. I think we’ve kind of done the intro, Brian. So, we’re going to end this first session here, and then we’re going to move on next month, and we’re going to talk about one of the other particular confessions and some details that go into those. Yeah. Thanks. Thank you for watching the Brandon & Brian Show, and we’ll be back soon.