These paragraphs are part of my contribution to a FaceBook conversation on the importance of the great Trinitarian creeds of the early church.
How we think about the ancient creeds and other doctrinal formulations makes a great difference in how we value them. The creeds are not human improvements on Scripture as though God didn't know what He was doing when He inspired the Bible. God gave us Scripture as a progressive and historical revelation precisely because our salvation is rooted in history, not in abstract ideas. Neither should we think of the creeds as additional revelations from God supplementing the Bible.
I think the best way to view them is to say that the Holy Spirit has been at work in the Church as a whole to enable the Church to understand Scripture and to defend the truths of Scripture from error. This is one way in which the church is "the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Spirit-guided meditation on Scripture by a host of godly teachers throughout the centuries has gradually increased our understanding of this precious treasure, the word of God. After all, the Spirit gives some the gift of teaching (Ephesians 4:11), and we learn not just from current teachers, but from those in the past as well.
I regard the Trinitarian formulations of Nicaea and Chalcedon as Spirit-guided gifts to the Church enabling the Church to stay true to the most important teachings in Scripture--the teachings about Christ and the gospel. The creeds are not infallible, as Scripture is, but neither can we safely make light of them. History shows us that whenever churches neglect or muddle the doctrine of the Trinity, they soon lose Christ.
I see a tendency among modern evangelicals to become impatient with clear thinking on these issues. Doctrine is no substitute for a warm, vital relationship with Christ, but a warm, vital relationship with Christ usually only lasts a generation or so after the loss of clear doctrinal teaching.
Nicene Creed (AD 381)
Creed of Chalcedon (451)