In public worship, our congregation recites the Apostles’ Creed and other historic creeds and confessions. Some worshipers express the concern that this ancient practice leads to the vain repetition of words.
And it certainly can. Even worse, if the truths that we confess fail to engage our hearts and minds, then we take the Lord’s name in vain. If profanity is the most obvious form of taking God’s name in vain, then the meaningless use of God’s name is the most serious. Using his name in worship without consideration of his character, singing hymns to Jesus without a love for Jesus, flippant prayers, and the empty recitation of creeds all involve the vain use of God’s name. God’s name is not exalted when we use it carelessly.
But if the question is, Does the recitation of creeds inevitably produce vain repetition, then the answer must be a firm no.
First, if reciting the great truths of the faith is vain repetition, then we’ve got a major spiritual problem. In our creeds we recite truths about God’s character and works. We also sing those truths in psalms and hymns, and, on the the basis of those truths, appeal to God in prayer. If all this seems empty and meaningless, then the problem is with us, not with the creed, psalm, or hymn.
Second, I doubt there’s a wife who is not thrilled to hear her husband say from the heart, “I love you.” Even if spoken often, the words are still glorious, perhaps even more so. Have you ever heard of a spouse saying, “I’d rather not hear again that you love me; it’s vain repetition?” If we believe the great truths of scripture about God and his work of salvation, let’s affirm them with conviction. God hears. So do our fellow believers and the world.
Third, recitation and memorization are essential to learning. Any responsible school curriculum demands large amounts of memorization. Why? We can’t write and speak intelligently if we are not in command of the facts. Learning is more than memorization, but not less. Few things are more frustrating than attempting to discuss an important issue with someone who is ignorant of basic facts. And our frustration only intensifies when a Christian, who should know the basic outlines of his faith, is unable to articulate them because he is not in command of the fundamental truths of God’s word. Creeds and confessions give believers a basic outline of the Christian faith.
Together as the people of God, let’s recite with conviction our creeds and confessions!