1. Why are Creeds and Confessions necessary, and how have they been produced?
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament having been given by inspiration of God, are for man in his present state the only and the all–sufficient rule of faith and practice. This divine word, therefore, is the only standard of doctrine which has any intrinsic authority binding the consciences of men. All other standards are of value or authority only as they teach what the Scriptures teach.
But it is the inalienable duty and necessity of men to arrive at the meaning of the Scriptures in the use of their natural faculties, and by the ordinary instruments of interpretation. Since all truth is self–consistent in all its parts, and since the human reason always instinctively strives to reduce all the elements of knowledge with which it grapples to logical unity and consistency, it follows that men must more or less formally construct a system of faith out of the materials presented in the Scriptures. Every student of the Bible necessarily does this in the very process of understanding and digesting its teaching, and all such students make it manifest that they have found, in one way or another, a system of faith as complete as for him has been possible, by the very language he uses in prayer, praise, and ordinary religious discourse. If men refuse the assistance afforded by the statements of doctrine slowly elaborated and defined by the church, they must severally make out their own creed by their own unaided wisdom. The real question between the church and the impugners of human creeds, is not, as the latter often pretend, between the word of God and the creed of man, but between the tried and proved faith of the collective body of God’s people, and the private judgment and the unassisted wisdom of the individual objector. As it would have been anticipated, it is a matter of fact that the church has advanced very gradually in this work of accurately interpreting Scripture, and defining the great doctrines which compose the system of truths it reveals. The attention of the church has been especially directed to the study of one doctrine in one age, and of another doctrine in a subsequent age. And as she has gradually advanced in the clear discrimination of gospel truth, she has at different periods set down an accurate statement of the results of her new attainments in a creed, or Confession of Faith, for the purpose of preservation and of popular instruction, of discriminating and defending the truth from the perversion of heretics and the attacks of infidels, and of affording a common bond of faith and rule of teaching and discipline.
The ancient creeds of the universal Church were formed by the first four ecumenical or general councils, except the so–called Apostle’s Creed, gradually formed from the baptismal confessions in use in the different churches of the West, and the so–called Athanasian Creed, which is of private and unknown authorship. The great authoritative Confession of the Papal Church was produced by the ecumenical council held at Trent, 1545. The mass of the principal Protestant Confessions were the production of single individuals or of small circles of individuals, e.g., the Augsburg Confession and Apology, the 2nd Helvetic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Old Scotch Confession, the Thirty–nine Articles of the Church of England etc. Two, however, of the most valuable and generally received Protestant Confessions were produced by large and venerable Assemblies of learned divines, namely: the Canons of the international Synod of Dort, and the Confession and Catechisms [larger – shorter] of the national Assembly of Westminster.
Excerpt from Outlines of Theology, A.A. Hodge (PDF)