Icon depicting Emperor Constantine (center) and the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea (325) as holding the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381

A creed, also known as a confession of faith, a symbol, or a statement of faith, is a statement of the shared beliefs of a community (often a religious community) in a form which is structured by subjects which summarize its core tenets.

Many Christian denominations use three creeds: the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed. Some Christian denominations do not use any of those creeds.

The term creed is sometimes extended to comparable concepts in non-Christian theologies. The Islamic concept of ʿaqīdah (literally "bond, tie") is often rendered as "creed".[1]


The earliest known creed in Christianity, "Jesus is Lord", originated in the writings of Paul the Apostle.[2] One of the most significant and widely used Christian creeds is the Nicene Creed, first formulated in AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea[3] to affirm the deity of Christ and revised at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381 to affirm the trinity as a whole.[4] The creed was further affirmed in 431 by the Chalcedonian Definition, which clarified the doctrine of Christ.[4] Affirmation of this creed, which describes the Trinity, is often taken as a fundamental test of orthodoxy by many Christian denominations, and was historically purposed against Arianism.[5] The Apostles' Creed, another early creed which concisely details the trinity, virgin birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, is most popular within western Christianity, and is widely used in Christian church services.

In Islamic theology, the term most closely corresponding to "creed" is ʿaqīdah (عقيدة).[1]


See also: Credo

The word creed is particularly used for a concise statement which is recited as part of liturgy. The term is anglicized from Latin credo "I believe", the incipit of the Latin texts of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. A creed is sometimes referred to as a symbol in a specialized meaning of that word (which was first introduced to Late Middle English in this sense), after Latin symbolum "creed" (as in Symbolum Apostolorum = the "Apostles' Creed", a shorter version of the traditional Nicene Creed), after Greek symbolon "token, watchword".[6]

Some longer statements of faith in the Protestant tradition are instead called "confessions of faith", or simply "confession" (as in e.g. Helvetic Confession). Within Evangelical Protestantism, the terms "doctrinal statement" or "doctrinal basis" tend to be preferred. Doctrinal statements may include positions on lectionary and translations of the Bible, particularly in fundamentalist churches of the King James Only movement.[citation needed]


The first confession of faith established within Christianity was the Nicene Creed by the Early Church in 325.[7] It was established to summarize the foundations of the Christian faith and to protect believers from false doctrines. Various Christian denominations from Protestantism and Evangelical Christianity have published confession of faith as a basis for fellowship among churches of the same denomination.[8][9]

Many Christian denominations did not try to be too exhaustive in their confessions of faith and thus allow different opinions on some secondary topics.[10] In addition, some churches are open to revising their confession of faith when necessary. Moreover, Baptist "confessions of faith" have often had a clause such as this from the First London Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646):[11]

Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.


Excommunication is a practice of the Bible to exclude members who do not respect the Church's confession of faith and do not want to repent.[12] It is practiced by all Christian denominations and is intended to protect against the consequences of heretics' teachings and apostasy.[13]

Christians without creeds

Some Christian denominations do not profess a creed. This stance is often referred to as "non-creedalism".

Anabaptism, with its origins in the 16th century Radical Reformation, spawned a number of sects and denominations that espouse "No creed, but the Bible/New Testament".[14] This was a common reason for Anabaptist persecution from Catholic and Protestant believers.[15] Anabaptist groups that exist today include the Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, Schwarzenau Brethren (Church of the Brethren), River Brethren, Bruderhof, and the Apostolic Christian Church.

The Religious Society of Friends, the group known as the Quakers, was founded in the 17th century and is similarly non-creedal. They believe that such formal structures, “be they written words, steeple-houses or a clerical hierarchy,” cannot take the place of communal relationships and a shared connection with God.[16]

Similar reservations about the use of creeds can be found in the Restoration Movement and its descendants, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Christian churches and churches of Christ. Restorationists profess "no creed but Christ".[17]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church also shares this sentiment.[18]

Jehovah's Witnesses contrast "memorizing or repeating creeds" with acting to "do what Jesus said".[19]

Christian creeds

Main article: List of Christian creeds

Several creeds originated in Christianity.

Christian confessions of faith

Protestant denominations are usually associated with confessions of faith, which are similar to creeds but usually longer.


In the Swiss Reformed Churches, there was a quarrel about the Apostles' Creed in the mid-19th century. As a result, most cantonal reformed churches stopped prescribing any particular creed.[31]

In 2005, Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has written that dogmas and creeds were merely "a stage in our development" and "part of our religious childhood." In his book, Sins of the Scripture, Spong wrote that "Jesus seemed to understand that no one can finally fit the holy God into his or her creeds or doctrines. That is idolatry."[32]

Similar concepts in other religions

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Main article: Articles of Faith (Latter Day Saints)

Within the sects of the Latter Day Saint movement, the Articles of Faith are contained in a list which was composed by Joseph Smith as part of an 1842 letter which he sent to "Long" John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat. It is canonized along with the King James Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, as a part of the standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[citation needed]

Islamic aqīdah

Main articles: ʿAqīdah and Iman (concept)

In Islamic theology, the term most closely corresponding to "creed" is ʿaqīdah (عقيدة).[who?] The first such creed was written as "a short answer to the pressing heresies of the time" is known as Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar and ascribed to Abū Ḥanīfa.[33][34] Two well known creeds were the Fiqh Akbar II[35] "representative" of the al-Ash'ari, and Fiqh Akbar III, "representative" of the Ash-Shafi'i.[33]

Iman (Arabic: الإيمان) in Islamic theology denotes a believer's religious faith.[36][37] Its most simple definition is the belief in the six articles of faith, known as arkān al-īmān.

  1. Belief in God
  2. Belief in the Angels
  3. Belief in Divine Books
  4. Belief in the Prophets
  5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
  6. Belief in God's predestination

Jewish Shema Yisreal

See also: Jewish principles of faith

Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that "By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought"[38] and asserted in his book Basic Judaism (1947) that "Judaism has never arrived at a creed."[38] The 1976 Centenary Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of Reform rabbis, agrees that "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life."[39]

Still, the opening lines of the prayer Shema Yisrael can be read as a creedal statement of strict monotheism: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Hebrew: שמע ישראל אדני אלהינו אדני אחד; transliterated Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad).[40][41][42]

A notable statement of Jewish principles of faith was drawn up by Maimonides as his 13 Principles of Faith.[43]

Religions without creeds

Following a debate that lasted more than twenty years, the National Conference of the American Unitarian Association passed a resolution in 1894 that established the denomination as non-creedal.[44] The Unitarians later merged with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Instead of a creed, the UUA abides by a set of principles, such as “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning”.[45] It cites diverse sources of inspiration, including Christianity, Judaism, Humanism, and Earth-centered traditions.[46]

See also


  1. ^ a b Halverson, J. (2010). Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash'arism, and Political Sunnism. New York, NY: Springer. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-349-28721-5.
  2. ^ Harn, Roger van (2004). Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles' Creed. A&C Black. p. 58. ISBN 9780819281166.
  3. ^ Hanson, Richard Patrick Crosland; Hanson, R. P. (2005). The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381 AD. London: A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-567-03092-4.
  4. ^ a b Cone, Steven D.; Rea, Robert F. (2019). A Global Church History: The Great Tradition through Cultures, Continents and Centuries. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. lxxx. ISBN 978-0-567-67305-3.
  5. ^ Johnson, Phillip R. "The Nicene Creed." Archived 2009-03-14 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 17 May 2009
  6. ^ Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, 2nd ed., Vol. 1, p. 77.
  7. ^ Everett Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Routledge, Abingdon-on-Thames, 2013, p. 418
  8. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of Protestantism, Infobase Publishing, USA, 2005, p. 170
  9. ^ Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Academic, USA, 2001, p. 286-289
  10. ^ Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Academic, USA, 2001, p. 289
  11. ^ Barrington Raymond White, Pilgrim Pathways: Essays in Baptist History, Mercer University Press, USA, 1999, p. 275
  12. ^ Ronald F. Youngblood, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition, Thomas Nelson Inc, USA, 2014, p. 378
  13. ^ Chad Brand, Eric Mitchell, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, B&H Publishing Group, USA, 2015, p. 521-522
  14. ^ Biblical Inspiration and Authority 1979 Church of the Brethren Statement
  15. ^ Swora, Mathew (24 April 2019). "Of creeds and confessions". Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  16. ^ "Creeds and Quakers". quaker.org. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  17. ^ Scott, Harp. "George A. Klingman". Restoration History. Buford Church of Christ. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  18. ^ "Creeds".
  19. ^ "Creeds—Any Place in True Worship?", Awake!, October 8, 1985, ©Watch Tower, page 23, "The opening words of a creed invariably are, “I believe” or, “We believe.” This expression is translated from the Latin word “credo,” from which comes the word “creed.” ...What do we learn from Jesus’ words? That it is valueless in God’s eyes for one merely to repeat what one claims to believe. ...Thus, rather than memorizing or repeating creeds, we must do what Jesus said"
  20. ^ see Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus—God and Man translated Lewis Wilkins and Duane Pribe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) p. 90; Oscar Cullmann, The Early church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966) p. 66; R. E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973) p. 81; Thomas Sheehan, First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986) pp. 110, 118; Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection translated A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1977) p. 2; Hans Grass, Ostergeschen und Osterberichte, Second Edition (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1962) p. 96; Grass favors the origin in Damascus.
  21. ^ Kiefer, James E. "The Nicene Creed." Archived 2009-03-14 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 17 May 2009
  22. ^ "The Belgic Confession". Reformed.org. Archived from the original on November 9, 2020. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  23. ^ "Guido de Bres". Prca.org. 2000-04-20. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  24. ^ Ford, Alan (2007). James Ussher: Theology, History, and Politics in Early-Modern Ireland and England. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780199274444. Retrieved November 19, 2020. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  25. ^ "The Savoy Declaration 1658 – Contents". Reformed.org. Archived from the original on May 26, 2020. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  26. ^ a b Chute, Anthony L.; Finn, Nathan A.; Haykin, Michael A. G. (2015). The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement. B&H Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4336-8316-9.
  27. ^ Coffey, John (29 May 2020). The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I: The Post-Reformation Era, 1559-1689. Oxford University Press. p. 399. ISBN 978-0-19-252098-2.
  28. ^ A Short Account of the Life and Writings of Robert Barclay. Tract Association of the Society of Friends. 1827. p. 22.
  29. ^ "Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists or Presbyterians of Wales". Archived from the original on 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  30. ^ Hill, Samuel S., ed. (1997). Encyclopedia of Religion in the South (Paperback ed.). Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. p. 533. ISBN 0-86554-588-X. LCCN 97214301. OCLC 37706204. OL 305677M.
  31. ^ Rudolf Gebhard: Apostolikumsstreit in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2011-01-27.
  32. ^ John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love, Harper Collins, USA, 2005, p. 227
  33. ^ a b Glasse, Cyril (2001). New Encyclopedia of Islam (Revised ed.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 105.
  34. ^ Abu Hanifah An-Nu^man. "Al- Fiqh Al-Akbar" (PDF). aicp.org. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-08-16. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  35. ^ "Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar II With Commentary by Al-Ninowy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  36. ^ Farāhī, Majmū‘ah Tafāsīr, 2nd ed. (Faran Foundation, 1998), 347.
  37. ^ Frederick M. Denny, An Introduction to Islam, 3rd ed., p. 405
  38. ^ a b Steinberg, Milton; World, Harcourt, Brace & (1947). Basic Judaism. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-15-610698-6.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  39. ^ "The Tenets of Reform Judaism". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  40. ^ "Shema - Judaism 101 (JewFAQ)". www.jewfaq.org. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  41. ^ "The Shema". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  42. ^ "The Opening of the Shema Prayer Explained". www.brandeis.edu. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  43. ^ "Maimonides' Principles: The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith", in The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology, Volume I, Mesorah Publications, 1994
  44. ^ Meyer, Carol D. (1996). Anastos, M. Elizabeth (ed.). Our Unitarian Universalist Story: A Six-session Program for Adults. Boston, Mass: Unitarian Universalist Association. p. 41. ISBN 978-1558963429. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  45. ^ "Principles". Unitarian Universalist Association. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  46. ^ "Sources of Our Living Tradition". Unitarian Universalist Association. Retrieved February 23, 2023.

Further reading