A creed (also known as a confession, symbol, or statement of faith) is a statement of the shared beliefs of a religious community in the form of a fixed formula summarizing core tenets.
- Christian creeds
- Christian confessions of faith
- Christians without creeds
- Latter Day Saints
- Jewish creed
- Islamic creed
One of the most widely used creeds in Christianity is the Nicene Creed, first formulated in AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. It was based on Christian understanding of the canonical gospels, the letters of the New Testament and to a lesser extent the Old Testament. Affirmation of this creed, which describes the Trinity, is generally taken as a fundamental test of orthodoxy for most Christian denominations. The Apostles' Creed is also broadly accepted. Some Christian denominations and other groups have rejected the authority of those creeds.
Muslims declare the shahada, or testimony: "I bear witness that there is no god but (the One) God (Allah), and I bear witness that Muhammad is God's messenger."
Whether Judaism is creedal has been a point of some controversy. Although some say Judaism is noncreedal in nature, others say it recognizes a single creed, the Shema Yisrael, which begins: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."
The word creed is particularly used for a concise statement which is recited as part of liturgy. The term is anglicized from Latin Credo "I believe", the incipit of the Latin texts of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. A creed is sometimes referred to as a symbol in a specialized meaning of that word (which was first introduced to Late Middle English in this sense), after Latin symbolum "creed" (as in Symbolum Apostolorum = "Apostles' Creed"), after Greek symbolon "token, watchword"
Some longer statements of faith in the Protestant tradition are instead called "confessions of faith", or simply "confession" (as in e.g. Helvetic Confession). Within Evangelicalism, the terms "doctrinal statement" or "doctrinal basis" tend to be preferred. Doctrinal statements may include positions on lectionary and translations of the Bible, particularly in fundamentalist churches of the King James Only movement.
The term creed is sometimes extended to comparable concepts in non-Christian theologies; thus the Islamic concept of ʿaqīdah (literally "bond, tie") is often rendered as "creed".
Several creeds have originated in Christianity.
Christian confessions of faith
Protestant denominations are usually associated with confessions of faith, which are similar to creeds but usually longer.
Christians without creeds
Some Christian denominations, and particularly those descending from the Radical Reformation, do not profess a creed. This stance is often referred to as "non-creedalism". The Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers, believe that they have no need for creedal formulations of faith. The Church of the Brethren and other Schwarzenau Brethren churches also espouses no creed, referring to the New Testament, as their "rule of faith and practice." Jehovah's Witnesses contrast "memorizing or repeating creeds" with acting to "do what Jesus said". Unitarian Universalists, who practice probably the most liberal of all religions, do not share a creed.
Many evangelical Protestants similarly reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists have been non-creedal "in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another". While many Baptists are not opposed to the ancient creeds, they regard them as "not so final that they cannot be revised and re-expressed. At best, creeds have a penultimacy about them and, of themselves, could never be the basis of Christian fellowship". Moreover, Baptist "confessions of faith" have often had a clause such as this from the First London (Particular) Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646):
Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.
Similar reservations about the use of creeds can be found in the Restoration Movement and its descendants, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Christian churches and churches of Christ. Restorationists profess "no creed but Christ".
Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has written that dogmas and creeds were merely "a stage in our development" and "part of our religious childhood." In his book, Sins of the Scripture, Spong wrote that "Jesus seemed to understand that no one can finally fit the holy God into his or her creeds or doctrines. That is idolatry."
Many people said (the Apostles Creed), but they understood what it was saying and what they meant by that quite differently. No matter how hard they tried, they could not close out this perennial debate. They cannot establish a consensus and they could not agree on the meaning of that phrase which had been once "delivered to the saints." It did not occur to these people that the task they were trying to accomplish was not a human possibility, that the mystery of God, including the God they believed they had met in Jesus, could not be reduced to human words and human concepts or captured inside human creeds. Nor did they understand that the tighter and more specific their words became, the less they would achieve the task of unifying the church. All creeds have ever done is to define those who are outside, who were not true believers; and thus their primarily achievement has been to set up eternal conflict between the "ins" and the "outs," a conflict that has repeatedly degenerated into the darkest sort of Christian behavior, including imperialism, torture, persecution, death and war.
Latter Day Saints
Within the sects of the Latter Day Saint movement, the Articles of Faith are a list composed by Joseph Smith as part of an 1842 letter sent to "Long" John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat. It is canonized with the "Bible", the "Book of Mormon", the "Doctrine & Covenants" and Pearl of Great Price, as part of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Creedal works include:
Whether Judaism is creedal in character has generated some controversy. Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that "By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought" and asserted in his book Basic Judaism (1947) that "Judaism has never arrived at a creed." The 1976 Centenary Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of Reform rabbis, agrees that "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life."
Others, however, characterize the Shema Yisrael[Deut. 6:4] as a creedal statement in strict monotheism embodied in a single prayer: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Hebrew: שמע ישראל אדני אלהינו אדני אחד; transliterated Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad).
The shahada, the two-part statement that "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God" is often popularly called "the Islamic creed" and its utterance is one of the "five pillars" of Sunni Islam.
In Islamic theology, the term most closely corresponding to "creed" is ʿaqīdah (عقيدة) The first such creed was written as "a short answer to the pressing heresies of the time" is known as Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar and ascribed to Abū Ḥanīfa. Two well known creeds were the Fiqh Akbar II "representative" of the al-Ash'ari, and Fiqh Akbar III, "representative" of the Ash-Shafi'i. Al-Ghazali also had a ʿAqīdah.
Iman (Arabic: الإيمان) in Islamic theology denotes a believer's religious faith . Its most simple definition is the belief in the six articles of faith, known as arkān al-īmān.