Creeds Confessions & Catechisms
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Book Review “The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Trueman

Book Review “The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Trueman

reviewed by Karl DahlfredThe Creedal Imperative, by Carl Trueman. (Crossway, 2012, 208pp.)Within the world of evangelical Protestantism, creeds have fallen on hard times.  They are old, irrelevant, and go into way too much detail about non-essential doctrinal points that just cause conflict.  “Doctrine divides, mission unites,” as they say.  Therefore, it is a massively difficult task that Carl Trueman has taken on in “The Creedal Imperative”, making the case that not only are creeds helpful, but also essential to the life of the church.  For many people, the whole idea of creeds conjures up words like “dry,” “dusty,” and “academic” but Trueman does a brilliant job of making his case for creeds readable and understandable for those who are not familiar with them, and are not sure whether they should be.From the very first page, Trueman addresses himself to the popular objections to creeds. His leading example is a pastor who claimed that his church had no creed but the Bible, yet at the same time taught the five points of Calvinism, dispensationalism, and form of church government drawn from the Plymouth Brethren.  Trueman points out that while this pastor’s church claimed “its only creed was the Bible, it actually connected in terms of the details of its life and teaching to almost no other congregation in the history of the church. Clearly, the church did have a creed, a summary view of what the Bible taught on grace, eschatology, and ecclesiology; it was just that nobody ever wrote it down and set it out in public.” (Kindle Locations 119-122)  

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Where can I buy Reformed literature in Thai?

Reformed literature in Thai is very hard to find.  If we define the term "Reformed" somewhat broadly, then some Reformed titles may be found at various Thai publishers.  A few of those titles don't seem to be translated well, so I can not recommend them with confidence.  However, I can recommend the following titles

Published by Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand):

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (currently out-of-print)Concise Theology by J.I. PackerPilgrim's Progress by John BunyanToday's Gospel by Walter Chantry Self-Image: How to Overcome Inferiority Judgments (Resources for Biblical Living) by Lou Priolo

Published by Biblica:

Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Available for free online:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Thai can be downloaded here.

The Heidelberg Catechism in Thai can be downloaded here.

 

Introducing the Thai Christian Catechism

Introducing the Thai Christian Catechism

For the past couple of years, I have been working together with Dr. Natee Tanchanpongs (pastor, Grace City Bangkok church) and Mr. Chaiyasit Suebthayat (elder, New City Fellowship Church in eastern Bangkok) to write a new catechism in Thai for Thai Christians.  The three of us have written a new Thai Christian Catechism from the ground up, borrowing from the Westminster Shorter Catechism at times, but organizing the catechism differently and covering slightly different ground in terms of what is included or not included, and how it is expressed.  

Why a New Catechism?

While Reformation era catechisms like Heidelberg and Westminster are superb for English speakers, especially for native speakers in a culturally Western context, translations of these catechisms end up sounding clunky and unnatural in Thai.  The truth in them is sound but it is difficult to maintain accuracy to the original without sacrificing readability.  Also, the questions and issues of Europeans hundreds of years ago are not always the same as contemporary Thai believers.  Surely there is a vast amount of overlap because the duty of all Christians is to preserve “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3).  However, we wanted a biblically faithful catechism that is readable and accessible for modern Thai Christians, addressing issues of faith that are both essential and current for Thai churches.  I hope we have accomplished that.

The catechism has been privately published with professional assistance in layout, design, and printing from Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand).  Dr. Natee will be teaching through the new catechism over the next several months at our church, Grace City Bangkok, and videos of each session to be posted on YouTube.  The catechism will also be available for purchase through Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand), and we hope that other churches will find it useful in giving their church members a solid foundation in the Christian faith.

In the remainder of this post, I want to give you a brief peak inside the catechism, share some question and answer pairs that show how we have written this for the Thai context, and provide a link for you to download a PDF of the introduction and first chapter.  Currently we do not have a full English translation of the catechism, but that will probably be coming eventually.

  Download Thai Christian Catechism (Intro and Chapter 1 only) 

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หลักข้อเชื่อไฮเดลเบิร์ก (The Heidelberg Catechism in Thai)

มรดกความเชื่อสมัยคริสตจักรปฏิรูป หลักข้อเชื่อไฮเดลเบิร์ก (The Heidelberg Catechism) แปลโดย สันติ พัฒนจิตชน

ดาวน์โหลดได้ตามลิงค์ข้างล่างนี้ครับ

Heidelberg Catechism in Thai by Karl Dahlfred

 

3 Reasons Historic Creeds & Confessions Should Be Translated for the Global Church

3 Reasons Historic Creeds & Confessions Should Be Translated for the Global Church

In the world of missions, anything that is “Western” or “traditional” is bad, while whatever is “contextualized” and “innovative” is good.  So when it comes to old creeds and confessions of the Christian faith, it is a no-brainer for many missionaries.  Don’t translate them. Don’t teach them.  It is a paternalistic waste of time that smacks of cultural and theological imperialism.  How could some antiquated Western document about Christian doctrine be appropriate for reaching Buddhists, Muslims, or animists in today’s world?  The old language and sentence structure in these documents are difficult enough for Westerners, so how could they be understandable and useful for those with little to no background in Christianity, or Western culture and languages?

The rhetorical answer to those questions is obvious but I am convinced that there are positive reasons to translate the best and most enduring documents of the church of the past into the languages of the global church of today.  The packaging may be old, but the content is good.  As a missionary and a church history teacher, I am always thinking about how we can take the good stuff from the past and from other places in the world and make it beneficial for the global church.  In my case, I am particularly thinking about the churches in Thailand, but the following reasons should be relevant for many contexts in the world today.  I want to suggest three ways that translations of the older creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the faith (as well as other writings) can benefit the global church.

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Towards Contextualized Creeds

Towards Contextualized Creeds
The following article has been republished with permission from Larry Dinkins and the International Journal of Frontier Missiology.   DOWNLOAD PDF - "Towards Contextualized Creeds" by Larry Dinkins 

One of the first things our supervisor instructed us to do as church planters in Central Thailand was to glue a card with the Apostles’ Creed into the cover of every hymnal. Every Sunday we would have our small congregation of mainly leprosy believers memorize the creed and recite it in unison. Our congregation had no real appreciation of the historic development and impact of this creed, but as preferred oral learners in a group culture, they enjoyed saying the creed out loud together and in the process gained a major dose of scriptural truth. Ancient statements of faith, like the Apostles’ Creed, have been translated and used for centuries in a variety of cultures. Much ink has been spilt analyzing the contribution and content of the historic creeds, but less has been said about how to contextualize them for non-western contexts. To contextualize a creed, one must be aware of the nature of creeds historically as well as the benefits and potential pitfalls inherent in the development process.

The Value and Dangers of Creeds 

Philip Schaff in his massive three-volume work on Creeds states, “Confessions, in due subordination to the bible, are of great value and use. They are summaries of the doctrines of the Bible, aids to its sound understanding, bonds of union among their professors, public standards and guards against false doctrine and practice.”[i] G. W. Bromiley notes the benefits, but also highlights the dangers of creedal statements:

The dangers of creed making are obvious. Creeds can become formal, complex, and abstract. They can be almost illimitably expanded.  They can be superimposed on Scripture.  Properly handled, however, they facilitate public confession, form a succinct basis for teaching, safeguard pure doctrine, and constitute an appropriate focus for the church’s fellowship in faith.[ii]

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Joshua Recites the Catechism

Joshua Recites the Catechism

Joshua is a boy always on the move but we managed to get him to slow down for moment this afternoon to answer some questions.  After dinner, we've been telling him Bible stories and helping him to memorize some questions from the Catechism for Small Children (a simplified version of the the Westminister Shorter Catechism) and some Bible verses.  We also try to sing some songs with him but Joshua usually protests (probably due to our musical incompetence). We try to make it interactive and interesting for him so that not only will great truths about God get into his head but that he will enjoy our times together learning about the big wonderful God who made all things and loves us. 

 

Karl sat Joshua down to test his memory of the things he's been learning. So far, he's memorized catechism questions 1-4, Genesis 1:1, Matthew 22:37, and a simple definition of sin.  Have a listen to the audio file below and see how Joshua did.  Please ignore the fact that Daddy didn't do as well, mistakenly asking Joshua to repeat Matthew 22:38 instead of Matthew 22:37.

 

 

(If you don't see an audio player above, click here to download the file)

 

Book Review “The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Trueman

Book Review “The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Trueman

reviewed by Karl DahlfredThe Creedal Imperative, by Carl Trueman. (Crossway, 2012, 208pp.)Within the world of evangelical Protestantism, creeds have fallen on hard times.  They are old, irrelevant, and go into way too much detail about non-essential doctrinal points that just cause conflict.  “Doctrine divides, mission unites,” as they say.  Therefore, it is a massively difficult task that Carl Trueman has taken on in “The Creedal Imperative”, making the case that not only are creeds helpful, but also essential to the life of the church.  For many people, the whole idea of creeds conjures up words like “dry,” “dusty,” and “academic” but Trueman does a brilliant job of making his case for creeds readable and understandable for those who are not familiar with them, and are not sure whether they should be.From the very first page, Trueman addresses himself to the popular objections to creeds. His leading example is a pastor who claimed that his church had no creed but the Bible, yet at the same time taught the five points of Calvinism, dispensationalism, and form of church government drawn from the Plymouth Brethren.  Trueman points out that while this pastor’s church claimed “its only creed was the Bible, it actually connected in terms of the details of its life and teaching to almost no other congregation in the history of the church. Clearly, the church did have a creed, a summary view of what the Bible taught on grace, eschatology, and ecclesiology; it was just that nobody ever wrote it down and set it out in public.” (Kindle Locations 119-122)  

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Creeds & Confessions of Faith

Creeds & Confessions of Faith

Confessions of faith, creeds, and catechisms have largely fallen into disuse among evangelical Protestant churches.  They are still around and used regularly in some churches but by and large have fallen by the wayside as many believers and churches have put more emphasis on experience and just loving Jesus.  Or some have claimed that "we have no creed but the Bible" but as soon as you say "I believe that the Bible teaches such and such" you have made a summary statement about Biblical teaching.  Such a summary is in essence a creed or confession. No statement of faith ever takes the place of the Bible but it can be a good tool to help people get an overview of what the Bible teaches and learning how to express what we believe the Bible teaches. Some confessions or creeds are better than others but a good one should contain nothing that can't be fairly clearly deduced from Scripture.  Along these lines, I wanted to share a brief story from the autobiography of Daniel McGilvary, pioneer missionary to Northern Thailand:

 

"In May 1876, Nan Inta was ordained our first ruling elder.  The story has oft been told that before his ordination the [Westminster] Confession of Faith was give him to read carefully, since he would be asked whether he subscribed to its doctrines.  When he had finished the reading, he remarked that he saw nothing peculiar in its teachings.  It was very much like what he had read in Paul's epistles!" (Daniel McGilvary, "A Half Century among the Siamese and Lao: An Autobiography", Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, 1912, p.169-170)