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Baptists Have Historically Had ‘No Trouble’ Affirming the Nicene Creed, Says Gavin Ortlund

nicene creed
Screengrab from YouTube / @TruthUnites

Baptists should have no hesitation with affirming the Nicene Creed, said author and theologian Dr. Gavin Ortlund, in a video where he made the case for his position from church history. The value of the creed has been a topic of discussion online recently, as well as at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that took place in Indianapolis last week.

“We [Baptists] have a lot of complicated issues to face today,” said Ortlund. “Affirming the Nicene Creed is not one of them. This is one that should be simple. We should be able to get right on board with it.”

The Nicene Creed and the Baptist Tradition

The Nicene Creed is a statement of faith first released on June 19, 325, by the Council of Nicea as a response to the heresy of Arianism. During a presidential forum June 10 prior to the SBC annual meeting, Dr. David Allen, dean of the Adrian Rogers Center for Preaching at Mid-America Baptist Seminary, said he thought the Nicene Creed “generally is a very good creed” but that “there are still a couple issues of wording in that creed that could be interpreted to foment or to produce doctrines or concepts of doctrines that we as Baptists would reject.”

RELATED: Southern Baptists Do Not Adopt Nicene Creed at Annual Meeting

During the meeting, several messengers put forth motions for the Nicene Creed to be adopted as part of the SBC’s statement of faith, and two of those motions have been referred to the SBC’s Executive Committee for evaluation over the coming year.

In a follow-up statement to ChurchLeaders, Allen said that his concerns center on the creed’s phrase “one baptism for the remission of sins.”  

“Though the language is directly from Scripture in Acts, the language was interpreted by many among the Church Fathers and by many today who use the creed to mean baptismal regeneration,” Allen said. “Baptists would reject such an interpretation.”

“If that language is interpreted to mean that we are baptized ‘because of’ the forgiveness of sins,” he continued, “which is the meaning in the Greek New Testament I might add, then there is no problem with the statement.”

“The Nicene Creed is otherwise a strong Trinitarian document affirming the biblical doctrine of the Trinity,” said Allen. “Baptists can wholeheartedly endorse it when properly interpreted.”

Ortlund began his video by referring to the discussion about the creed at the SBC annual meeting, noting that he is not himself a Southern Baptist but that his theology is “baptistic, broadly.” He said he feels “a little defensive of Baptists sometimes,” such as when they are maligned on social media. He also pointed out that Southern Baptists did not reject the Nicene Creed at the annual meeting but that the question of adopting it was simply referred to a committee.

On the other hand, said Ortlund, “as someone who’s a Baptist and who feels affection for fellow Baptists, I think we need to judge that there’s some real weaknesses among contemporary Baptists.”