Editorial: Questions, answers about adding Nicene Creed


I’m a no-creed-but-the-Bible-kind of Baptist. So, when four Southern Baptists proposed adding the Nicene Creed to the Baptist Faith and Message, I had questions.

One question is, “Why now?”

After all, the Southern Baptist Convention seemingly has bigger fish to fry right now, such as whether it will make good on sexual abuse reforms and whether the so-called Law Amendment will pass its second and final vote. Opponents of the latter say it will make the SBC creedal.

The authors of the proposed motion do a good job answering the “why now” question in an article you can read here. But “why now” isn’t my only question. More importantly, I wanted to know why a creed. They answered that question, too.

The proposed motion

Andrew Brown, Stephen Lorance, Steve McKinion and Malcolm Yarnell broke the news on X (formerly Twitter) May 29 with a teaser and a link to their proposed amendment to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

Quite simply, they propose adding the full text of the Nicene Creed as Article XIX to the 2000 statement of faith.

In case you are not familiar with the Nicene Creed, it reads as follows:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father. By him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he descended from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again, in glory, to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom shall have no end.

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We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], and who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the Prophets. And in one holy universal and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

They explained their reasoning for this motion in an article, “The Need for the Creed,” published by Credo Magazine May 30.

I read their reasons, and I still had questions. So, I sent them to the authors.

I appreciate their answers, including their thoroughness. You will see from their response their motion was not something they came up with last week. No, they have spent considerable time thinking about the need for a more orthodox understanding and clear communication of the Christian faith by Baptists.

Even so, does a creed have to be added to a Baptist statement of faith to achieve that end? I have questions. So, I asked the four authors some of them. Their responses are in the aforementioned article.

Further questions are answered below.

More questions about adding the creed


Does the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message not make Baptist Christology and trinitarian theology clear already?

“The Baptist Faith and Message on Trinity and Christology is helpful and true, but it does not go as deeply as Scripture or the creed.”

Having spent time reading and thinking about theology—and philosophy—I know just how they feel, and that it’s more a matter of what they think than how they feel. Statements of faith struggle to communicate profundity succinctly. So do creeds.


For example, the Nicene Creed holds: “We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.”

So, I asked: “As you know, Baptists have divided over this point.” And it’s not just Baptists who have differed over baptism. “How should Southern Baptists understand ‘baptism’—water or Spirit? How should they understand ‘remission of sins?’ Is baptism salvific?”

Now, I know what I believe about baptism. I was a Baptist pastor, after all, who baptized people after making sure they understood baptism the same way I and the church do.

The authors responded: “Coming under the article on the Holy Spirit, this refers to baptism in the Spirit or regeneration, which occurs with faith. Water baptism is the outward confession of that prior inward reality. … Augustine’s arguments for water baptismal regeneration, which we rightly reject, came more than a century and a half after the Council of Nicaea.”

I agree with the authors’ understanding of baptism. I suspect most Baptist Standard readers do, too.

Amendment process

If the Baptist Faith and Message doesn’t communicate Baptist Christology and trinitarian theology adequately, can those articles in the statement be amended in the same way the Baptist Faith and Message was amended during the 2023 SBC annual meeting, which changed “pastor” in Article VI: The Church to “pastor/elder/overseer?”

“This could perhaps with great difficulty be rectified by robust additions to the current articles. However, the work has already been done for us by believers in the centuries before us, and it firmly places Baptists with other believers to affirm the [Nicene] Creed,” the authors responded.

Yes, statements of faith are like tax codes. They get more complicated over time. A possible complication of adding the Nicene Creed to the Baptist Faith and Message is it could begin to function as an either/or—either the confession or the creed.

Or it nullifies the work of the SBC Cooperation Group, who just released their recommendations to clarify “what makes a church ‘to be in friendly cooperation of faith and practice’ with the SBC.”

Or it becomes a redundancy, however much it clears up critical points of doctrine.

What about 1963?

I’m also a 1963-Baptist-Faith-and-Message Baptist. So, one of my questions is, “What does it matter to me if the Nicene Creed is added to the Baptist Faith and Message, since the addition will be to the 2000 iteration?”

Adding the Nicene Creed to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message presumably would have no effect on earlier iterations of the statement and therefore no bearing on those who have not adopted the 2000 statement. Correct?

“Adding the Nicene Creed should have no effect on any prior version of the Baptist Faith and Message, unless proponents adopted that change for themselves. Baptist confessions are voluntary and temporary, not automatic and retroactive,” the authors responded.

As with baptism, this has been my understanding of confessional statements, as well. But I’m still uncertain if adding a creed to a confessional statement alters the “voluntary and temporary” nature of a confession.

Ask good questions

I’m not a messenger to the 2024 SBC annual meeting. So, I won’t be voting on the motion. You may be, however, in which case you have just a few days to think about something of great significance.

The best counsel I can give you is: Ask good questions, and expect good answers. Think carefully and critically. Look past whatever political maneuvering arises. Listen to Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

This also goes for your vote on the Law Amendment and other convention business next week.

Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

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