People rarely agree. Getting people to agree on one point is difficult enough; getting people to agree on 20, 30, and 50 points in nearly impossible. In matters of religion, I think it is impossible! Given the rarity of agreement, one would think that Christian denominations would limit their statements of faith to include only the most salient doctrines of Christianity, as well as a few denominational distinctives thrown in for good measure! And yet, it is common for denominational statements of faith to include many articles on secondary, tertiary, and quaternary doctrines, as well as non-biblical issues. This seems to me to be a recipe for disaster.
If an organization has, say, 30 articles in their articles of faith that one must assent to in order to belong to the group, one of at least four things will happen:
- Some will subscribe to them based solely on the authority of tradition, not because they have personally examined them and found all 30 to be true;
- Some will personally examine them and come to agree with all 30;
- Some will personally examine them and come to disagree with one or more articles, but give lip service to all 30 so that they will be able to remain in the group;
- Some will personally examine them and come to disagree with one or more articles, and on pain of conscience be forced to leave the group.
Creedal requirements in an organization should be kept to a minimum. The more creedal requirements you have, and/or the more specific you make them, the less likely it will be to forge agreement with others, and thus the less likely it will be to form a thriving organization. People will either be prohibited from joining, will be forced to leave should they change their mind on an issue, or will continue to subscribe to the statements with a “wink-wink.”
Not only should the creedal requirements (articles of faith) be kept to a minimum, but it should only contain core doctrinal issues. This may get me in trouble, but I think it is absurd that an articles of faith contain both an article on the oneness of God, and an article on mixed-gender swimming. While I agree with both, that the latter should be a defining belief of an organization, and a requirement for fellowship on the same level as belief in the oneness of God, to me at least, cannot be described as anything other than absurd.