A large percentage of my life was spent in four different denominations and two non-denominational Bible churches, all of which described themselves as evangelical and fundamental. They had similar doctrinal statements which were expanded versions of the tenets of the Apostles’ Creed. Yet the notion of reciting a creed or even the Lord’s Prayer was seen essentially as meaningless ritual. And the mention of a catechism was viewed as rote learning rather than genuine Bible study.
It has only been in recent years that I had the courage to delve into the Apostles’ Creed and the Westminster Catechism. And I must admit that, even now, I feel a twinge of anxiety in doing so; as if I were rushing in where angels fear to tread. But tread I must, because those two documents have added greatly to my commitment to the fundamentals which I had blindly accepted for most of my life.
The Apostles’ Creed states: “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 Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic (universal) church; the communion of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting.”
As for whether the creed is meaningless ritual, turn to 1 Samuel 16:7. “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘. . .God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'” When someone is observed reciting the Apostles’ Creed, all that is known to the observer is that their lips are moving and words are coming from their mouth. Only God knows what is in their heart.
As for whether a catechism is indoctrination by rote, nothing could be further from the truth. I know the Westminster Catechism to be a long set of doctrinal questions with groups of Bible references for students to look up and read for themselves.
The Westminster Catechism is without question the most comprehensive, interdenominational Bible study I have ever seen. And the Apostles’ Creed is the most concise affirmation of faith in the basics of Christianity that a person could memorize for assurance of what they truly believe, if for no other reason.
The only question is whether or not a person reciting the creed or studying the catechism is genuinely and sincerely practicing their faith or merely putting on a show. Only the living God is qualified and competent to answer that question.