During her interview with Annemiek Schrijver, in her Sunday morning program on Dutch television, pastor Christian Crouwel—the new general secretary of the Dutch Council of Churches—referred to a creed or confession of faith as a “solidified faith tradition.” Crouwel has served for many years as a minister in the United Protestant Church in the Netherlands, which stands in the Reformed tradition, with John Calvin as the most important forefather. This tradition cherishes a number of confessional documents, as the Dutch Confession of Faith (Confessio Belgica) and the Heidelberger Catechism. When the Dutch Reformed Church united with the Christian Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church, the Lutheran confessional documents were added. These documents may have a long and revered history, but they reflect in many ways the time in which they were written. I can understand perfectly well why Crouwel called these documents “solidified”.
All faith communities carry such “solidified” faith traditions with them. This is also true for communities that have a shorter history than the “established” churches, such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Adventist Church claims officially that it has no confession of faith or creed. But in reality the statement of the Fundamental Beliefs functions as such, and every church member—and certainly every minister—is expected to agree with all 28 points. In addition, the books of Ellen G. White have acquired a significant degree of authority. The early Adventist leaders warned against “solifdiied” faith traditions, in which all things would be set in concrete. Initially, they flatly refused to compile a list of teachings, because of the danger that such a list would evolve into a “solidified” creed. And Ellen White gave repeated warnings that what she had written carried no absolute authority but was always to be tested by the Bible.
In her interview Crouwel suggested that a believer must compose his/her own confession of faith, that is a genuine reflection of one’s own faith experience and convictions. Of course, a believer is inspired by the faith tradition of his/her church, but the believer’s individual confession of faith must be more and go deeper than being just a repetition of what the church corporately believes.
I find that thought very appealing. Your faith tradition you have received—either by birth and upbringing and/or by a later conscious choice—is important. It determines to a major extent your identity as a Christian. It makes clear in what “packaging” you want to be a Christian. For me the Adventist “packaging” is valuable. I see more than enough reasons to remain a Seventh-day Adventist. But, like pastor Crouwel, I must admit that the faith tradition of my church has to a large extent become “solidified.” Just repeating what the Fundamental Beliefs telll me I should believe, is not the kind of faith that comes from the heart. I must develop my own confession of faith. What a group of people to which I belong officially states as their beliefs is not of primary importance, but what I personally believe is crucial. Being part of a faith tradition will naturally “color” my personal confession of faith, but believing must be more than giving assent to a list of doctrines that happens to be agreed upon by my church. True faith is based on a “credo” (literally: I believe) that has been internalized. It must be the result of my continuous quest for answers and of my search for what is truly “fundamental” in my faith, rather than being content with repeating a “solidified” faith tradition.