I have been in membership/fellowship in a church for a number of years now that would label itself as being “non-denominational”. In other words it has no affiliation with any organization outside the local church and hence governs itself through local leaders. As most who are involved in a non-denominational church, the idea of a creed/confession is generally frowned upon by most members. Creeds/Confessions are generally seen as the primary tool for the promotion of denominationalism and since they must avoid a label at all cost, many have shunned having one. There is no need for such a detailed statement of belief since the Word of God is our only guide. I have been saturated for years with this thinking and quite frankly I had bought into this mindset until recently.
A confession of faith is an open statement of what a person/group believes. It is a means of articulating the beliefs or doctrine of a church. What I think that most non-denominational churches forget is that every church has a set of beliefs that they adhere to whether orally or in written form. I have come to the conclusion that those who argue that they don’t have a confession actually have one. How can a body of believers be unified in their purpose, doctrine and worship without knowing what they believe together? Is it better to have it written out or promote it orally? Does it suffice leaving such things in the minds of men or would it not be far more beneficial to lay out for everyone to see in order to avoid confusion?
This is why I believe that there is often confusion on the interpretation of scripture and practices within a gathering simply due to these things not being available for all to see. A lack of a written confession leaves room for misunderstanding especially in light of biblical interpretation. How do we define someone as teaching falsehood when we haven’t clearly defined the church’s beliefs? I often see as well a vast amount of biblical interpretations which often leaves us wondering if God has actually spoken clearly in His word
The question I would like to address now is whether or not a confession of faith replaces or necessarily adds to scripture as some have articulated. Those who hold to a written confession however would state that they adhere to the confession so long as it is biblical. If the confession deviates from scriptural then it is to be rejected. Confessions however can be altered and clarified to better communicate doctrine biblically. The confession never should be placed on the same level as scripture but should merely be viewed as a guide for unity within a church.
I would simply like to conclude with saying that I don’t believe that a written confession of faith is mandatory for a church to function or that they are not without their problems but I do see the benefits to having such a document. I have a much deeper appreciation for the written confession and I have a greater appreciation for those churches that adhere to one.