The Creeds as Servants of the Gospel (John Webster)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between canon and creed – not least because I am lecturing on the subject a week from today. I was delighted to come across this choice reflection from John Webster

Confession is the act of astonished, fearful, and grateful acknowledgement that the gospel is the one word by which to live and die; in making its confession, the church lifts up its voice to do what it must do–speak with amazement of the goodness and truth of the gospel and the gospel’s God. Creeds and confessional formulas exist to promote that act of confession: to goad the church towards it, to shape it, to tie it to the truth, and so to perpetuate the confessional life and activity of the Christian community. In this way, creeds and confessional formulas are the servants of the gospel in the church (Confessing God, p. 69)

I appreciate this perspective. He goes on: “the history of the creeds is part of the history of the church — part, that is, of that sphere of human life invaded and annexed by God, and characterized by astonished and chastened hearing of the Word, and by grateful and afflicted witness” (70).


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