The girls and I were studying the reformation in history.

I could hardly believe it when I went to my local library to check out some books on Martin Luther and was not able to find even one book on Martin Luther or the reformation in the junior section of our library.   Not one.     Then I went to my local christian bookstore and asked if they had any books on Martin Luther.

The worker said quizzically to me,  “No, I don’t think we have any books on Martin Luther King?”

I reply,  “Ummm, no,  I mean Martin Luther,  the 16th century reformer who is at least partially  responsible for all the churches in this town save one.   Yeah, that guy.”

I didn’t really say that but I wanted to.    And no, they didn’t have any books on or by Martin Luther either.  Not one single solitary book.

But they had shelves and shelves and shelves of books on  every possible topic and fad that has ever passed through modern christianity:  how to be a better wife,  how to get your best life now, how to be more purpose driven, how to be financially successful and even books on how to improve your *intimacies*.

The whole ordeal made me think of the famous Rick Warren quote:

The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs.  This one is gonna be about behavior.  The first one was about creeds.  This one is going to be about deeds.   It is not going to be about what does the church believes but about what the church is doing.

The problem I have with that quote and with the whole movement in general is that christianity is not about behavior.   It is about faith.

Christ did not come to make us  more civil or successful or more socially responsible or even to make us better husbands and wives.

He came to give us life.

Our problem is not that we do bad things.

Our problem is that we are dead in our trespasses and sin.

And when we center our religion around ‘deeds not creeds’, then we center our religion around ourselves—-what we do , how we act, how we live.    And that is no different than any other modern religion that tries to appease God by its’ good behavior.    Jesus gave us the simple way to evangelize and it has never been about our deeds.  He said,  “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me.”

Creeds are crucial.   What the church believes is everything.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost of sinners, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”   I Tim. 1: 15,16.

St. Paul was an apostle with a creed.     “I have received mercy so that Christ might display to the world His perfect patience, that He could work faith even in someone like me.”   Christ shows the world His love by saving us—right where we are—in our dreadful condition—-as an example to those who would believe.   He saves us and uses us in spite of our deeds, not because of them.   The good works that flow from our life in Christ are those things we do in service to our neighbor but they should never be the focus of our attention nor the subject of our reform.

I lived for many years in a belief system that seemed to value behavior above all else.  It drove me to despair.  Christ has come to rescue us from ourselves.  And if we’re brutally honest, we must throw in the white flag of surrender.   We are nothing but poor miserable sinners in desperate need of  the life-giving words of  forgiveness.   All our deeds (even our righteousnesses) are like filthy rags.

We need deeds, to be sure—but only those  of Christ.   His perfect life, His perfect death, His perfect atonement on our behalf.

Lord save us from our unbelief.  Guard our hearts against trusting in ourselves.   And reform us with Your perfect deed of redemption.

67 comments on “Deeds not Creeds?”

  1. Oh, Edie, I couldn’t agree more……we’ve becomes more and more man-centered and cannot see past ourselves to look on Christ. It IS about creeds and the deeds of CHRIST. We have nothing good to offer, save our righteous in HIM alone. Thanks for being willing to write about it!


  2. Oh, oh, oh, don’t get me worked up! I am right there with you. When my girls and I wanted a biography of Martin Luther I ended up with a loaned copy from a teacher at our local Bible college… and with a sense of awe (not necessarily the good kind) over what the church has become.

  3. You are so right! Isn’t it amazing how our perspective totally changes when we see God for who he really is and ourselves for who we really are? At that point we can claim nothing but the gift of faith, but faith is everything. You have a great gift for putting these things into words.

  4. I have been reading your blog for a while (love it!), but this post made me decide it was time to finally leave you a comment to say AMEN! Thanks for putting my thoughts into words so nicely.

  5. could. not. agree. more! So well said, Edie. I’m right there with you. Creeds are crucial – it’s important to know what & why we believe. Then we can have an answer when someone asks why we have this HOPE.

    1 Peter 3:15
    But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

  6. Hey Edie!
    I loved your post – it’s so refreshing to hear the gospel! I thought you might like this site – I’m from Birmingham and go to the Advent. Paul Zahl was our dean for 10 years, and his son now has this mockingbird ministry (was in NYC, now it’s moving to Charlottesville, VA). It’s named that because apparently the mockingbird just sings the same song over and over — the same way they do with the gospel — never trying to make it into something it’s not (like you write about above). They’re all about the gospel, Martin Luther, the reformation, God’s grace, being a theologian of the cross and finding illustrations of those things in music, movies, pop culture, psychology, literature, etc. etc. Hope you enjoy!

    Thanks also for emailing me about the paint color a few weeks ago! I think I’ve decided on a pretty light blue from Restoration Hardware!

    Emily Jones

  7. I was raised in Eastern Idaho where as you can imagine there were a lot of people with the idea that works and good deeds can save you. MAN! are they missing out on the gift. The gift that he takes it all on and we don’t have to worry about whether or not our “numbers are good” – what a headache.

    Thank you dear Lord for your beautiful grace.


    Thank you too! Isn’t it exciting! Our God reigns!

    Sincerely, The lady of the House

  8. It isn’t a whole lot but Martin Luther is featured in Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories From the Lives of Christian Heroes. (about 9 pages specifically on Martin Luther) (and my kids LOVE reading from this book)!

  9. Well said Edie!!

    I also came out of a (very well known & popular) system which is absolutely man centered – but hey, they sing nice songs, so it must be good – right?

    Bless you girl,

  10. When I quit homeschooling, I gave the book – Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World by Paul L. Maier – to Good Shepherd for their personal library. It’s a kids picture book, but very good. I’m sure they’d let you borrow it if you tell them Kris Price sent ya!

    In my personal library, we have the Complete Sermons of Martin Luther. It’s a 7-volume set and you are welcome to borrow it anytime!

  11. Wow, I so appreciated this today. We have several MTK books, and my husband recently visited his grave. God really did a work through him.

    Great post. Miss you GF!

  12. Great post Edie! I know that I, myself was more concerned with MY behavior for a long, long time. It drove me crazy! And I had to come to understand exactly what you said, it’s about our FAITH and relationship and what God does for US! So refreshing and like taking a million lbs brick off! 🙂

  13. i loved this post. i agree with you 100%.

    “He saves us and uses us in spite of our deeds, not because of them”

    if we could save ourselves we’d have no need for a Savior, what a blessing to be reminded of the VAST need we have apart from Christ.

  14. Thank you , thank you, thank you. What a great post. I agree but often find myself stuck in the quicksand of deeds religion. It’s so easy to to revert to deeds because in our minds they are measurable where as faith requires… well, FAITH. Thank you for the reminder.

    I’m curious now about what our library has.

  15. Edie-You could try NPH- Northwestern publishing House in Wauwatosa Wi.It is the official publisher of the WELS-they will have everthing you are looking for.
    Hope this helps
    Blessings to you

  16. AMEN! I love it! I taught at a “Christian” school one year and the principal had never even heard of the Reformation. Had no idea what we were doing when we celebrated Reformation day in my classroom. It was CRAZY. (Another year I team taught at a different Christian school and the other teacher had no idea where Genesis was in the Bible, but that’s beside the point.) The point is, I agree with my WHOLE heart that “what the church believes is everything”. Our theology results in our behavior. Every day. The longer I learn at home with my kids, the more I am convinced how little I know about God and His world…and the more I want to know Him. (He is glorified.)

  17. Amen!! That is so true Edie. The other problem with the “deed” focused churches of today is that they leave out the sin problem. If you aren’t learning the “creed” – the foundations of your faith, then you have no idea why you need this faith. I think it lures people into a false sense of being OK. They do good things, so that makes them “good people”. No one is good, no matter how many good deeds they accomplish. We need to be confronted with our sin, not told that we can be good enough by doing this, this and this. There is only ONE who is good – our Saviour Jesus Christ.
    I love it when you get on a theological rampage!

  18. Edie, This post reminds me of the account where the father is begging Jesus for his son’s healing. Right after telling the Lord he believes, he immediately asks, “Lord, help my unbelief.” I have prayed those very same things. Things I believe so strongly and ask God for and then immediately have to ask him to heal my unbelief. There is only so much power in believing in God…there is LIFE CHANGING power in believing God. Believing God: Taking Him at his promises and walking in a life that believes Him for who He says he is and believing in what HE says HE will do! (Many of my thoughts reflective of a study by Beth Moore, Believing God)

  19. Amen…Christianity is about FAITH not deeds! I have a couple of suggestions for you on books about Luther. Stephen Nichols, a young academic, has written a couple of easy-to-read books on Luther which are accessible to non-theological types. The first Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of his Life and Thought and the second Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis. I think you will find them very readable. A third suggestion is the CD Luther staring Joseph Fiennes. It was produced by MGM and the Lutheran Church. It is a moving, historically accurate dramatization of the Reformation. I showed it every year to my college freshman Composition classes and had them write a movie review on it. Let me know how you find the books and video.

  20. Amen! You probably already know about the Paul Maier book about Luther. It is excellent. And I just bought Courage and Conviction: Chronicles of the Reformation Church. We haven’t used that one yet, but it looks good.

  21. Thank you. We need to keep hearing this, and keep hearing this, and keep hearing this.

    I can’t help you with Martin Luther, but I have a TON of children’s material on the Reformation in Scotland, based around a tour of St. Andrews which you might be able to do through Google Earth. I know it’s not ideal, but it might help. I developed it through teaching about Mary, Queen of Scots and my class ( unchurched kids to a man !) thought it was the best trip ever ! Email me if you are interested !

  22. Thank you for this bold post. I share your views, and I am so glad that you are taking the time to teach your girls in such a manner. To God be the glory!

  23. Thank you for this. Your posts are always inspiring! You are very impressive, and it’s inspiring how you try to become an expert in the things you take on. (homeschooling etc.)

  24. Romans, right? No works without faith, nor faith without works? The two are intertwined, not able to be separated. God does not NEED our works. But we probably do, as we work out our faith, and sanctification. And our faith leads us, sometimes, to do good works. But thank God! That is not what saves us…it is only the power of Jesus, and His sacrifice, and our joining Him in that death and resurrection. A fav quote of mine is from CS Lewis, where he says, until you give up yourself to Him, you will not have a real self. Ouch.

  25. I do quite agree with you, but I will stand up for the notion that what we do does matter a little. “People read Christians … not the Bible,” is a quote that really changed my perspective. Faith and solid creeds, I completely agree, are the only starting place, but what nonbeliever will study a creed or a verse in order to understand faith? I bet they will see it first, hopefully somewhere, in spite of our faultiness, in how we love. Which is a deed. I’m sure everyone is probably already thinking this, I just had to say it. But if it’s any condolence, our public library had a large M.L. selection when I wanted to study the reformation.

  26. It has been a very long time since visiting your blog and just a few minutes ago decided to google and found it–and what a surprise to see today’s post! I completely agree with what you said. Without sound doctrine, the church becomes just another of many “good” organizations.

  27. I normally don’t leave a comment more than once a week….and I don’t even have a new post up for you to comment on, so please don’t waste your time and come lookin’ (HA!)But I just HAD to give you an IMMENSE, a GARGANTUAN thumbs up for this post!@!!!!!!!

    Of course, I’m gonna have to show my husband (Mr. Reformed is what I call him as he’s a huge advocate of Reformed theology and after his early retirement from his current position he’s going to seminary–actually, as soon as I can get better he’s going to start seminary classes–he was supposed to last year but then…) this and he’s gonna get a hoot out of you.

    I try not to suggest films over books and I still say read the bios and commentaries FIRST…but I actually believe the movie with Joseph Fiennes (is that how you spell it?!?!) was pretty darn tootin’ good at representing the man/his beliefs/his sacrifices/the Cause.

    Anyway…I am SAD BEYOND SAD about your post, too, that not even the Christian bookstore had anything on him and that he clerk didn’t even comprehend about whom you were speaking.

    It’s sadly indicative of the time we live in!!!

    I will continue to pray for you and lift you up as you continue to grow this blog (I know that’s not your goal…BUT….I PERSONALLY want to see you grow because I think you are uniquely prepared to witness in this novel way and that you are theologically sound and what you write is resonant on SO MANY levels (to me as a wife/mom/homeschooler/interior designer/artist/CHRISTIAN!!!) and the world needs it.

    Sorry for the babbling.

    All of this to say:

    YOU GO, GIRL!!!


  28. You are smart. I’m learning so much here. I’m an up-and-coming homeschool teacher/mom and hope to do it with the smarts and cool with which you do it.

  29. There is an old black and white movie on Martin Luther that is excellent. You might try and find it. I still remember it from when I was a child, it had a big impact on me.

  30. There is an old black and white movie on Martin Luther that would be worth finding. I saw it first as a kid and still remember it, then we watched it when we home schooled our kids.

  31. The more I read about Luther…the more I think he might just be my most favorite of the theologians!! Maybe, it’s because I can really relate to him on some level.

    I love this truth that you shared today Edie. We all can’t hear it enough.

  32. Wow! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, too, but I’m not sure if I ever commented. What a great post… that’s made me think…. maybe I need to read up on Martin Luther. Thank you!

  33. What worries me (in addition to the dirth of Martin Luther books and knowledge) is how many church leaders in today’s world believe in deeds over creeds. I have witnessed it first-hand – the promotion of the social gospel over the true gospel. Deeds are important -but only faith in Christ allows us to worship God for eternity in heaven.

    Thank you for posting this!

  34. Beautiful. Here is a link to get a free book (plus free shipping) that talks about just that. I think the limit is one but if you could get more and give them to your friends it would a nice gift.

  35. Good job with the article. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. (ref?) What we think comes out in our deeds. There are so many reformers that we owe so much to. A good book about all them is “A History of the Churches” by David Cloud. from He has other good books too like “Rome and the Bible”. Should be required reading for all those who love grace.

  36. Edie, this one had me in tears by the end. I thought there were no people left in this area who believe this way (and if they do they don’t know that they are acting in opposition to what they truly believe).
    “The problem I have with that quote and with the whole movement in general is that christianity is not about behavior. It is about faith.

    Christ did not come to make us more civil or successful or more socially responsible or even to make us better husbands and wives.

    He came to give us life.”

    I have made more than one enemy in this town by daring to say anything negative about Rick Warren and his purpose driven garbage. I read the Purpose Driven Life (it was free from a church we attended) and the whole time I used a red ink pen to critique the so-called quotes from the Bible which had been twisted and made to fit whatever his chapter topic happened to be. After doing so, I let a friend borrow my copy so she could see the error in it as she read it, and afterwards she left me the book with a note that said “thanks so much, I loved this book so much I’m going to BUY a copy of my own!” Some people just dont’ and won’t ever get it. Sad.
    Thanks for this post.

  37. Edie, I’ve lurked on your blog for better than a year now and have never felt compelled (either by my will or the Holy Spirit) to leave any comments. I’ve taken away so much grace, decorating inspiration, good living, family sharing richness and today I want offer a word of encouragement. Thanks for writing passionatly, succinctly, and with sincerity about the truth of God’s word. It’s always a risk to “stick your neck out” and defy popular culture. I’m grateful for your lovely courage and strength of conviction. Very nicely done.

  38. Good thing you didn’t ask the lady at the store about Calvin, she would have gotten you a comic book of Calvin and Hobbs. It is so upsetting that so many protestants don’t know the history of their own church!

  39. I am pretty sure this may be my first comment, although I hope it isn’t. I have read quite a few of your posts, so I certainly hope I have told you how often they have given me pause. They leave me thinking about things and contemplating so much.

    Regardless, I just wanted you to know that after reading this yesterday, it has stretched my brain. I am left with more questions than statements, but I had to let you know I am thinking and look forward to reading the comments and rereading the post.

    Thank you for that.

  40. This is one of those posts where I’m standing up on my laptop keyboard in applause. YES! I agree with you whole-heartedly…to state it plainly (incase the laptop ovation wasn’t clear).

  41. Creeds AND deeds. I’d go along with the Epistle of James and say that faith without works is dead (as are of course works without faith). Apologies to Martin Luther himself who would have left James out of the canon! Your difficulty in finding a book about Martin Luther in a Christian bookstore speaks to the ahistorical streak in evangelical Christianity. It’s a shame, as our history is so important to our faith lives.

  42. shared some bloggy love today. I appreciate so much your sharing your faith, life changes, challenges. Real time.
    I’m still working on my ‘mom’s kitchen do-over’. She needs your turquoise kitchen. blessings to you and yours

  43. Creeds and deeds! I believe you cannot separate the two for out of our creeds – our deeds will flow! James is a wonderful book on this topic!

  44. I love your blog and especially this post. What an encouragement to see so many comments. May we stand strong in our faith and what we believe while adding nothing to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  45. love the new photo in the title header! i have had this exact problem as well. other historical figures are also missing. my husband thinks the fbi keeps track of who searches for stuff like this — adolf hitler, martin luther, you know what I’m talking about I’m sure.

  46. I love your spiritual posts! I have been rereading Luther lately and, having come from a works background in my early walk as so many of us do, appreciate his writings. George Whitefield is another one I love.

  47. This is such truth! And I think it is something we all need to be reminde of constantly. Everything about our world tells us it is about what we do and it is so easy to try to live out our Christian lives that way. But praise Jesus that it is not up to us and what we do.

  48. I found your blog again last night via Pinterest…Last time I read you was right after the fire. This morning I read your Deeds Not Creeds post…your voice is so eloquent, it said many things I do not know how to say. Thank you for restating the truth so beautifully. It brought tears to my eyes.

    Bless you!


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  50. creeds lead to deeds? we are saved by faith alone but that faith is never alone?
    but in our humanness, we mess it all up and can’t hold the truths together at once, falling off the horse on one side or the other…. thank you for this arm of truth to keep us from falling where it seems the whole church is going….

  51. So, I’m in the latter stages of deep blog love and am gobbling up years of your journey and blog posts.

    I came across this one and it so resonates with me. Orthodoxy creates orthopraxy. My dad taught us my whole life that we didn’t have to DO, we didn’t even have to BE, we just had to KNOW God and He would change us from the inside out (the most lasting kind of change anyway).

    He explains it much better in his blog (, and has just completed writing a book on the subject — Know Be Do. All I have to do is know Him.

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