The Apostles’ Creed is one of the first (fourth century), and most universally accepted and honored, of the ancient creeds and confessions (pp. xxiii, xvii, 199). It is a summary of what the Bible teaches on many cardinal doctrines (p. xxii), however, it is not the embodiment of “the entire body of biblical truth” as Mohler claims (p. 200). John MacArthur, in his foreword, correctly states that “The creed leaves out essential doctrines like the authority of Scripture, the depravity of man, the deity of Christ, and the means of salvation: justification by faith. It also contains nonessentials like the role of Pilate and the descent to Hell” (p. xiii). Nevertheless, The Apostles’ Creed affirms fourteen core doctrines that all true Christians accept. Mohler devotes a chapter to each of these doctrines and offers seven reasons why the creed is useful (pp. xx-xxii). Included in these reasons are that the creed defines truth, corrects error, functions as a guardrail for teaching and instruction and summarizes the faith. Mohler writes, “These documents do not seek to replace Scripture. Instead, they accurately seek to summarize its content into succinct statements in order to equip Christians with brief yet crucial distillations of the faith.” (p. xxii).
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, highlights the proclamations from the Apostles’ Creed, explaining and expanding each proclamation to capture its importance. As a result, this book is a helpful summary of what Christians believe in these particular areas of theology. As a conservative Reformed scholar, Mohler is primarily reiterating what Bible-believing Christians have embraced throughout the centuries. Thus The Apostles’ Creed serves as a helpful reminder of these essential theologies. Some examples include:
- God created the universe out of nothing and therefore the cosmos is the theater of God’s glory (p. 25)
- Only the Bible informs us of who Jesus is, therefore the so-called historical quests for Jesus are folly (pp. 33-36).
- The significance of the resurrection (pp. 99-101)
- The importance of the ascension, a topic often ignored by Christians (pp. 103-108)
- The awfulness of sin: “The failure to grasp the horror of sin rests in the miniature god Christians have fashioned in their own image” (pp. 173).
In a short 200 page book an author has to be extremely selective concerning the material he chooses to cover. But I would have liked to find more about Mohler’s views on six-day creation, which he ignores. And he affirmed the virgin birth, but left out the discussion by modern detractors such as Rob Bell. The reader should also know that Mohler’s theological framework includes inaugurated eschatology (which is not drawn from the creed) (p. 112) and limited atonement (which is not either) (pp. 65-66). I was most disappointed that Mohler virtually sidestepped the most controversial statement in the creed: “He descended into Hell.” I was hopeful as I began to read this book, that the author would offer a robust discussion of the line, but he provided only three pages and skipped the debate entirely.
On a few occasions I believe Mohler is in error. He applies John 14:26, which is clearly a promise to the apostles to recall Jesus’s words by means of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, not a promise to all believers in general (p. 138). He uses Acts 4:13, “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” in an allegorical rather than literal way. And Mohler strangely states, “When sinners confess the truth that Peter proclaimed (Matt. 16), and obey Christ in baptism, they come into the church forever (p. 153).” I assume this is misspeak as he does not believe that becoming a member of the body of Christ is predicated on baptism. If he is speaking of membership in a local church Mohler should have provided fuller explanation. His most concerning statement, however, is that Christians are to pray to the Holy Spirit, and apparently to do so everyday (p. 144). At no point in Scripture is anyone instructed to pray to the Holy Spirit directly. Mohler’s lone proof text for this concept is Psalm 51:11 which is used woefully out of context and does not support his thesis, since David is not praying to the Holy Spirit, but to the Father.
With these few caveats aside, The Apostles’ Creed is a useful reminder of a number of vital truths that all Christians affirm especially for non-creedal believers, who seldom recite the Creed, or might even look disdainfully upon creeds in general. This work demonstrates the value of such to Christians today.
The Apostles’ Creed, Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019) 209 pp. + xxiii, hardback $24.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel