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The Story of Creeds and Confessions: Tracing the Development of the Christian Faith

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Creeds and confessions throughout Christian history provide a unique vantage point from which to study the Christian faith. To this end, Donald Fairbairn and Ryan Reeves construct a narrative that captures both the central importance of creeds and confessions over the centuries and their unrealized potential to introduce readers to the overall sweep of church history. The book features texts of classic creeds and confessions as well as informational sidebars. Its thorough treatment of the historical and theological contexts surrounding the creeds makes this book essential for courses in historical theology and church history.

Resource Experts
  • Explores the central importance of creeds and confessions over the centuries
  • Introduces readers to the overall sweep of church history
  • Provides a thorough treatment of the historical and theological contexts surrounding the creeds
  • Part 1: The Era of the Creeds (100-500)
  • Part 2: Exploring Creedal Theology (500-900)
  • Part 3: From Creeds to Confessions in the West (900-1500)
  • Part 4: The Reformation and Confessionalism (1500-1650)
  • Part 5: Confessions in the Modern World (1650-Present)

Top Highlights

“The most important thing about us is not what we do, or even what we believe per se, but to whom we belong as shown by the one whose name we bear.” (Page 1)

“the same, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer, according” (Page 102)

“Instead, the central issue was the personal continuity of the preincarnate Logos with the earthly man Jesus. Are the Logos and the man distinct persons who can be counted together as a single presentation because the Logos indwells the man? Or is the man Jesus the same person who has always been the Father’s Son? To say it yet another way, is Christ a graced man, a divinely inspired man? Or is he the one, true, eternal Son of God himself?” (Page 90)

“The bottom line was that both Arianism and Nestorianism put our salvation in the hands of one who was not fully God” (Page 90)

“Far from being a means to depart from the Bible, creeds and confessions served to warn of the danger of straying from Scripture.” (Page 5)

For theology to be ecclesiastically and historically responsible, a knowledge of the creeds and confessions of the church is vital. Yet those unfamiliar with church history often find the field confusing and intimidating. It is therefore a pleasure to recommend this book by Fairbairn and Reeves, which is both a fine guide to creeds and confessions and an engaging narrative of church history from the perspective of doctrinal development. Of special note is the material on the early church, which will help fuel and inform current Protestant interest in the patristic discussions of the doctrines of God and Christ.

—Carl R. Trueman, Grove City College

This volume provides a wonderful introduction to the creeds and confessions of the Christian church. It attends carefully to the various historical contexts within which these diverse texts were written and deployed and offers insightful comment on the theological claims that they advance. The result is a work that spurs the reader to greater appreciation and deeper understanding of the tradition of the church and the way in which its official texts have served at different points to express unity, continuity, and disruption. Above all, Fairbairn and Reeves witness to the desirability of taking these documents seriously not only as historical artifacts but also as ongoing witnesses, insisting that what binds Christians together is of much greater significance than what separates them.

—Paul T. Nimmo, King’s Chair of Systematic Theology, University of Aberdeen

This welcome study combines detailed attention to the foundation of creedal Christianity (especially Nicaea and Chalcedon) with authoritative accounts of later confessional traditions. It is especially effective in showing how early Christian worship of one name, Christ the Lord, led over the centuries and in different local contexts to elaborate accounts of Christian faith. The Story of Creeds and Confessions is a good book for beginning theologians and an excellent review for those who have traversed this ground before.

—Mark A. Noll, editor of Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation

Donald Fairbairn (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has also taught at Denver Seminary, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven, Belgium, and numerous other institutions. His books include Life in the Trinity, Grace and Christology in the Early Church, and Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes.

Ryan M. Reeves (PhD, University of Cambridge) has taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, and the University of Cambridge. He is the author of several books, including Know How We Got Our Bible.


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  1. Darren Bradley