In 1908 William Booth, founder and general of the Salvation Army, said, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and Heaven without Hell.”
In 2006 New Age guru Sylvia Browne said, “We believe that our Lord was crucified, but did not die on the cross. Instead, he went on to live his life in France with his mother and Mary Magdalene, his wife.”1
Last month, television icon Oprah Winfrey said, “God in the essence of all consciousness isn’t something to believe, God is; and God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience … If God for you is still about a belief, then it’s not truly God.”2
And this morning in a small room in the back of a Christian home, a little girl stood proudly before her mother and stated, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
While the little girl learning the creeds of the church will bring a rich inheritance with her as she moves out into this world to transform it and claim Christ’s victory over it, who will stand with her? The world will offer her a plethora of paths to “enlightenment” while scoffing at the true path her parents have set her upon. Will she walk this path with a few, or could a whole generation walk with her down the well-worn path our forefathers paved?
R. J. Rushdoony says that “Christian creedalism is [thus] basic to Western activism, constitutionalism, and hope concerning history.”3 He also observes that “the modern era has seen the growing irrelevance of Christian faith and doctrine to the world in general.”4 The ignorance many evangelicals today have of church history is a sad testament to the truth of Rushdoony’s statements.
Yet over the history of Christendom the church has spoken to the world through its creeds and confessions. As Rushdoony says, “The creed is the door to the house of faith.”5
Many have abandoned this door. Fathers and mothers neglect to teach the creeds or catechize their children. Many children grow up never learning of church history and never knowing their rich inheritance.
Eschewing the great resources handed down from generation to generation, evangelicals today have been led astray by fads, crazes, and insipid bestsellers by “Christotainers” peddling self-help humanism sprinkled with twisted Scripture. “Remember, God has put in you everything you need to live a victorious life,” grins one such “pop” preacher.6 These gurus of Gnosticism sell a feng shui–style faith that tells Christian parents that if they say the right prayer, read the right books, and recite positive slogans, they are doing something meaningful. And they leave it to the next generation to arrange the spiritual furniture in their own lives as they see fit. These parents leave no path in the shifting sands feng shui faith rests upon. Their children are left to find their own self-help books and slogans.
Yet there exists a blessed path many saints have traveled throughout history. It echoes with the voices of thousands of mothers and fathers telling their children the old, old story, reciting the ancient creeds, and asking their covenant children, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” This is our children’s inheritance. When we recite these ancient creeds and confessions, we are uniting ourselves with such a cloud of witnesses that dared to speak light into darkness, truth before lies, and life to the dying. Why would we not celebrate these treasures? Why would we rob our children of them? These are the words of a robust and vital faith! These are the ideas and truths that have changed the world. In the hearts and mouths of our covenant children, they can change the world again!
Parents must encourage their covenant children to “[f]ight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12 NIV). Imagine a whole generation of God’s people who speak the same spiritual language; who grew up on the stories of the heroes of the faith, facing down heresy and giving their lives for the church and the Word of God; a whole generation who cherishes the confessions and creeds of the church, and most importantly, applies them to society.
Pray God will raise up a generation who with one voice will confess, “We, then following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body.”7 And pray that God will give mothers and fathers a passion for and the diligence to train up their children in the way they should go.
Rushdoony says, “The foundation of true social order can only be in the triune God and His enscriptured truth and word.”8 So how can we hope, how can we pray, how can we believe in God’s Kingdom coming, His will being done on earth as it is in heaven, if we do not pass on these foundations for social order to our children? Humanism and the myriad other -isms du jour of this world are waiting to devour our children.
It won’t be a feng shui faith that defeats the enemies of Christ. It will be a faith that stands on the Word of God, the faith that is elucidated in the creeds and confessions and is illustrated in the lives of the saints. The faith that reminds our children that true faith is a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His Word is true and everything not in conformity to His Word is false. As Rushdoony warns, it is our lack of fidelity to the training of our children in the creeds, confessions, and history of the church that has had a detrimental effect on all of society. Our children face an enemy they are ill-equipped to engage.
Long ago, the iron chariots of Sisera’s army faced down the children of Israel. Defeat seemed a foregone conclusion. But Deborah assured God’s people that He had given them the victory. And victory did come. Sisera’s iron chariots became obsolete as soon as the rains came. Stuck in the mud, they ceased to intimidate. Isn’t God amazing? When we might have reached for a nuke, God sends the rain.
Today the chariots of humanism are poised to overrun our children with their own creeds and beliefs. “The creed of the state therefore requires holy warfare against the Christian creed and faith.”9 Yet we should see our enemies as already stuck in the mud. “[H]ath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). God has already sent the rain onto the battlefield. “Through God we shall do valiantly: for He it is that shall tread down our enemies” (Ps. 60:12). So now we must engage the enemy. It will be the vibrant, strong faith of our fathers that will prevail and strengthen the hearts of the next generation.
Let us be aware of the high price society pays when we fail to honor the lives, words, and deeds of the saints who have given so much to the faith. “Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Ps. 88:12). If the creed is the door to the house of faith, let us swing open the door and explore every room in that house.
Rushdoony’s words should embolden faithful fathers and mothers as they train up the next generation: “The salvation of man is to declare the Biblical creeds, to confess the triune God and to find in Him salvation, liberty, and life. When man declares, ‘I believe …’ he becomes the confessor of God’s glory and God’s truth, and the recipient of God’s grace and prosperity.”10 Our children are the next generation of confessors of God’s glory, and thus let them glory along with St. Ambrose, “I will not glory because I am righteous, but I will glory because I am redeemed. I will not glory because I am free from sin, but because my sins are forgiven.”11
We must equip our children with the creeds, councils, confessions, and history of the church. As the Reformers knew so well, we cannot fight something with nothing. The church, indeed all of society, suffers when Christians do not apply their faith to all of life. But how can we expect our children to do so if they don’t know what they believe and why they believe it? They may know a song or two or even a prayer by Jabez, but they don’t know how to apply their faith to change the world. The confessions and creeds of the church were used by our forefathers to defend the faith, stabilize society, and change the world.
Today the iron chariots of our enemies have sent the church fleeing the battlefield. We must fill our children with the Word of God and look to the rich inheritance our forefathers have left us to build their faith. What can dusty old church history offer a Christian soldier facing down iron chariots of unbelief and humanism? Its reigning catechisms and dogmas.
1 Sylvia Browne, If You Could See What I See: The Tenants of Novus Spiritus (Hay House Books, 2006).
2 Oprah Winfrey in Internet interview with Eckhart Tolle, March 2008.
3 R. J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1998), 8.
4 Ibid., 1.
5 Ibid., 3.
6 Joel Osteen, introduction to Become a Better You (Free Press, 2007).
7 The Chalcedonian Creed, A.D. 451.
8 Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order, 2.
9 Ibid., 183.
10 Ibid., 179.
11 Ambrose, De Jacob et Vita Beata 1.6.21.