What do we really need? Is not a doctrinal statement a locally-defined statement in order to delineate one church from another (”we believe this, but the other denominations believe this — come join us as the true church”)? Do we need more than Creeds and Confessions when it comes to “what we believe”?
So, let me define “doctrinal statement” as a local-church phenomenon, “confessions” as larger denominational level articulations, and “creeds” as the ancient, orthodox articulation.
It is interesting to see the tension faced in this post between legalism, philosophical rationalism, and small c catholocism (ie inclusion). One can certainly see where creeds come into play as a nice way to balance these issues. This is mentioned down in comment #7
In terms of function I find Luke Timothy Johnson’s (The Creed) description of the role of creeds to be helpful – profession of faith (personal & communal commitment), rule of faith (measure of Christian identity), definition of faith (boundaries), and symbol of faith (community’s shared story).
To me, one of the fundamental problems inherrent in religion is its lack of non-overt direction. Schisms seem innevitable. The Catholic fear of the leavening involved in protestantism was, perhaps, justified. To combat dispertion, one has to either tighten the boundaries of acceptance, or rally around specific take on the gospel - like the Jesus Creed for example, or modern revelation to be equitable. From my point of view, the difference lies in the level of ambiguity each direction can function within.
Each specific take on the Gospel requires a certain amount of expansion. For example, an apocalypic view of religion requires a different take on Old Testament scripture than does a redeemer paradigm. The problem, as I see it, with this is that it expands religion according to one's own ideas. In effect as it becomes more specific, probability dictates it becomes less certain. This depsite the fact that perceived certainlty seems to increase with extra information.
So the challenge of religion seems to be keeping a direction in a "catholic" environment. I think the Spirit is the only thing that could ever do that. Since this is functionally invisible on a group scale, one gets left in a situation where one has to resist the organizational and directional benefits of fundamentalism by functioning in a soup of Rayleigh Taylor hydrodynamic instability (small instabilites increase very rapidly before breaking off - think water drops on the ceilings, or the coalescence of planets)