A variety of creedal or confessional statements can be found in the Bible, Deut 6:4-5; 26:5-9; Mar 8:29; 1 Cor 8:6; 12:3; 15:3-7; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Tim 3:16.
Christian creeds are catholic, in the sense that they seek to express the faith of the whole church, rather than just a sectarian minority. They are communal, in the sense that they belong to the whole community, not just an individual theologian.
The best-known creeds are:-
1. The Apostles’ Creed, which originated in Rome at the beginning of the 3rd cent.
2. The Nicene Creed, which was promulgated by the Council of Nicea in 325.
3. The Athanasian Creed, which was not written by Athanasius, but by an unknown Augustinian in about the 5th cent.
Creeds serve a number of functions:-
1. Liturgical. The confession of faith is an important aspect of corporate worship. Creeds have been particularly associated with baptism.
2. Didactic. Creeds attempt to summarise the teaching of the apostles. They have often formed a basis for the teaching ministry of the church.
3. Hermeneutical. The creed is a distillation of the central message of Scripture and a bench-mark for its interpretation.
4. Apologetical. Creeds have tended to be formulated with the rebuttal of specific heresies in mind (for example, the Nicene Creed’s rejection of Arianism).
5. Motivational. In times of persecution, creeds have served as focal points and battle cries of the faithful.