by Tom Kraeuter

A common mantra of many young Christians (and some older ones) today is, “Deeds, not creeds.” That sounds good on the surface. The idea is, “Let’s be the Church, not just talk about being the Church.” I actually like the underlying motivation. But there is an inherent problem in the statement.

A creed is simply a spoken or written statement of what someone believes. It is, in essence, another word for doctrine. It is what we believe to be true. And without solid theological underpinnings, then we have nothing on which to base our deeds.

Ask someone who says, “Deeds, not creeds,” what they base their deeds on. The answer will almost always be from one of two perspectives. Some will declare that they are “doing what Jesus said to do.” In making such a statement, though, they have declared a creed. They are attempting to follow the words of Jesus. They have based their deeds on a creed — albeit a somewhat simple creed — but a creed nevertheless.

Others will say that it just seems like the right thing to do. My response to this is, “And that would be based on…?” You see, if someone is doing good deeds simply because they “seem right” then that person ends up where many mainline churches are today: with no real basis for the deeds. Having abandoned the foundation — the Word of God — they float nebulously in a sea of nice feelings that have no basis in reality.

The entire “Deeds, not creeds” argument is pointless. We must have creeds — beliefs based on the solid truth of God’s Word — in order to have any reason at all for the deeds. Ignoring our beliefs leaves us in peril.

On the other hand, if you know what you believe, based solidly on the Word of God, then the deeds should flow out of that. Yes, I realize that there are too many churches today with solid, biblical theology who demonstrate very few acts of compassion toward people. However, this is not a reason to throw out theology. It is a reason to endeavor to stir hearts that may have grown cold. But discarding doctrine destroys our foundation.

Paul warned Timothy to be on guard against those who teach “a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:3). How would Timothy know if something didn’t agree with the “sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” unless he studied those words and knew them well? It was imperative for him to have a solid basis for his faith.

We are commanded to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9) and to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). How can we do such things unless we know sound doctrine?

Unless our faith is based solidly on the truth of God’s Word, we can easily wander off into our own “truth” and miss the absolute true truth of the Bible. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Deeds without creeds? Hogwash!

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