Almost a year ago, I wrote this piece arguing for a more precise system of organization doctrine. It seemed to me, and still does, that while beliefs like “murder is wicked sin” are obviously true to every genuine Christian – and while their denial would be strong evidence against belief – they don’t fit into a standard hierarchy of doctrine, which have at their pinnacle those truths which are required to accept the Gospel: the existence of God, the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of man, etc. One might argue that to repent, we must first know what sin is, but I don’t think a full and enumerated list of all possible sins is part of the highest tier of doctrinal hierarchy in most minds.

I proposed using a scheme to evaluate the role of doctrine in salvation, in maturity, and in church membership. I still think that’s a significant improvement.

Today, however, I want to consider doctrinal statements/confessions/creeds themselves and what purpose they have. To do this, let’s imagine a hypothetical Baptist church doctrinal statement which enumerates all the things we’d normally consider “primary” (see above), along with a few items normally considered “secondary” like the inerrancy of Scripture, which while tremendously important aren’t absolutely required for faith. Now suppose in the wake of the cultural insanity the church also inserts a section affirming biblical views on human sexuality. I’ll refer to this doctrinal statement (DS) for the rest of the post.

Ten years go by after the authoring of the DS, and the culture descends further into madness. The leaders of the church propose removing the statement on sexuality from the DS. Is this wise or unwise?

To know the answer, we must consider a new purpose of doctrinal statements/creeds/confessions that has not been brought up yet. So far, we’ve considered how beliefs in these documents might be structured or ranked, but we haven’t yet considered the primary motivation for creating the documents in the first place. For that, let’s go back to the earliest creeds.

The Apostle’s creed enumerates the bare essentials of what a Christian ought to believe. Earlier creedal statements are also short and to the point (1st Cor 15:3-8). “Christ is Lord” is even pithier.

As Christians began dealing with large disagreements like the Arian heresy, they began creating larger creedal statements to refute false belief. Church doctrine began to be refined on points that the first generation perhaps took for granted, like the two natures of Christ, the Trinity, the physical resurrection, etc. The purpose of these creedal statements was to take an unmovable position on doctrines under dispute and to say, in effect, that you’re either affirming these things and one of us, or attacking these things and not one of us.

I see a direct connection to the way Jesus refers to His people as His sheep and the elders among the people as either His sons, looking after the sheep, or if they are wicked, as hired hands who don’t care at all about the sheep. The good shepherd will fight wolves and protect and love the sheep. The hired hand will effectively love the wolves by letting them ravage the pasture. Many churches call their leaders pastors because of this illustration.

The connection to creedal statements is to see them as the fence around the flock. When attacked, the shepherds can rely on the fence to help provide some defense against attack. The DS above functions like this; it defines the boundary between where the sheep are safe and where they aren’t. We can jump to a parallel analogy by continuing to see the DS as a wall, and I think that’s where the answer to the question asked earlier (is removing the statement on biblical sexuality wise or unwise) will become most obvious.

Imagine a large city with a thick stone wall in the ancient world along with an enemy that needs to assault the city quickly. Their best bet is to focus on a single point of attack. If the enemy can break open the wall and the defenders don’t rally to the breach, the city is lost. The authors of the clarification on sexual ethics understood that there was a focused attack on the doctrinal wall. Not on the gatehouses of the Trinity or the deity of Christ, but on sexual ethics off to the side and out of sight most of the time.

The wall that the DS provided was fortified where the enemy forces rallied. Now, ten years into the siege, with even more forces at their disposal and cracks in the wall, the leadership of our hypothetical church wants to remove the extra defenses. The battle is exhausting. It hasn’t been won, and probably won’t be for a long time. The gatehouses and towers of primary doctrine, never subject to even the faintest hostility, are pristine. Why not focus on those? It’s obvious why not.

The average Christian in the church might be mocked for believing in the Trinity. He might be thought weird for thinking Jesus saves him. But he could talk about these things with his HR department and they’d rhetorically pat him on the head and send him on his way. Deluded, sure, but not dangerous.

Try telling your HR rep that you think marriage is between a man and a woman, that “trans” is fake, or that same-sex acts are an abomination. You’ll be fired and made into an untouchable. No one who hears about you will want to hire you. They have their gods of DEI to worship, and you won’t burn the incense. You must be destroyed.

If a church won’t stand up against the gods of the age, it’s hard to expect that Christians will under such relentless hatred. “My livelihood or my conscience, with the church whispering but never taking a stand? Maybe I should whisper, too”.

The purpose of doctrinal statements is not merely to organize doctrine. It’s not to figure out what’s important and what’s not. A doctrinal statement, creed, or confession, in practice, is to demarcate borders. Borders that need to be defended from attack. These are military documents in a spiritual war.