Custom, convention, continuity.
Prescription over invention.
Nothing seems less likely to make a difference for Christ. We need to acquire the fire, or so we are told, even if it is started by arsonists. Prudence is for prudes. Revolution is in the air! Jacobin? Never heard of it. We have to win the world for Christ, even if heads must roll. But maybe, just maybe, the battle will be won in the end by those with a cool
head who have the wisdom to build on the knowledge gained in previous conflicts.
If you seek this kind of wisdom, I highly recommend that you spend some quality time with Philip Schaff’s three volume work, The Creeds of Christendom. Although there are newer or more specialized treatments of the creedal statements from church history, Schaff is more than sufficient for most of us amateurs. The price for a hardcover set of Creeds is unbeatable, and it is also freely available online.
So before you grab what is hot off the presses, pick up a cool volume of Schaff’s Creeds and begin to get a sense of what was confessed and why. Take a break from your blog reader (and even this blog post), and spend that time in Creeds.
A conservative Christian needs to know what he is conserving. He needs to know what is worth conserving and why. He needs to be equipped to recognize heresy and how it subtly comes about. He needs to discern the difference between healthy growth and a tumor. He wants a broad feel for the doctrine, practice, and worship which have best embodied God’s relationship with man. Without a broad and disciplined perspective, he will be childish, tossed back and forth with current fads and populist leaders. He will always be worried about responding to the latest crisis before the church that Christ promised to build falls to pieces. Schaff can help.
In reading Creeds, you will also learn that custom, convention, and continuity have their limits. There is a time for bold reformation, and that time is never far away. But those who would rise up to do this work must know what they are about, or their grandchildren may find themselves sifting through the ashes of the church their grandfathers thought they were saving.