Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Silence of the Creeds on Sola Scriptura

[A certain well know Catholic Apologetics group refuses to reply back to my email regarding the possibility of running this show essay, so I post it for your review and comments.  I for one have not heard Sola Scripture argued from the point of the Creeds of the Catholic Church.]

If sola scriptura, in any form whether it is the strict fundamentalist Christians-must-only-believe-what-is-found-in-the-Bible or the more liberal all-Christian-traditions-and-beliefs-must-be-biblically-based, is true and has been the belief of the Christian faith since the beginning one would expect to find early Christian theology and writing to be saturated with it.  However, this is not the case.

One place a Christian would expect to find the crucial and key tenants to being a Christian is in what the Church believes.  In this case: the Creed.  Through the early church there have been several different, but remarkably similar, statements of belief found amongst the early Christians, and all are silent on the issue of Sola Scripture.

The earliest known example of a creed is the creed by St. Irenaeus (c. 180 A.D.), which is found in his writing Against Heresies.  The creed, summarizing what a Christian believes, is as follows:

. . . believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent.

One would think that if St. Irenaeus truly was a descendent of the apostles in office who was instructed in faith by St. Polycarp who was instructed by St. John the Apostle that what St. John handed on would be well preserved and that St. John himself would have at least instructed his disciples on the importance of scripture alone as the foundation for Christianity.  However, Irenaeus’ creed is silent on the role of scripture. 

A 4th century Christian writer and historian, Rufinus (c.307-309) writes to a Bishop Laurentius in which he gives not only an exposition of the Creed but also a brief history of the Creed of Rome, known as the creed of Aquileia.  In the course of his commentary, Rufinus draws out the differences between the creeds from the Eastern Churches and the Western Churches.  Though there are differences, the core content is similar in expression indicating a common source.  This common source, according to Rufinus, is the 12 apostles themselves.   Thereby, making this creed the same Creed of the Apostles.

Rufinus states that the apostles formulated the Creed in order to help distinguish the true Christians from the false Christians who sought only fame and fortune by speaking in the name of Christ while ignoring the teaching of Christ and the traditions of the Apsotles.    Drawing on a military analogy Rufinus explains the need for the Creed as follows:

Finally, they say that in civil wars, since the armour of both sides is alike, and the language the same, and the custom and mode of warfare the same, each general, to guard against treachery, is wont to deliver to his soldiers a distinct symbol or watchword . . . so that if one is met with, of whom it is doubtful to which side he belongs, being asked the symbol, he discloses whether he is friend or foe.

Rufinus even adds that the Creed was guarded from the false Christians.  He writes:the Creed is not written on paper or parchment, but is retained in the hearts of the faithful, that it may be certain that no one has learned it by reading, as is sometimes the case with unbelievers, but by tradition from the Apostles.”  Yet, in the Creed about which Rufinus writes and connects to the 12 apostles themselves, there is no mention to scripture or the role of scripture in the life of the Christian.  His creed is a follows:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, invisible and impassible
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord
Who was born from the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary
Was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried
He descended to hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead
He ascended to the heavens; he sits at the right hand of the Father
Thence he is to come to judge the living and the dead
And in the Holy Ghost
The Holy Church
The Remission of sins
The resurrection of this flesh.

Also in the 4th century (325 A.D.), an ecumenical council was held in the city of Nicea.  One, and perhaps the most famous, of writings to emerge from the council is the Nicene Creed.  This creed was the universal creed of all Christians for many centuries and is still used in the Catholic Church.  In the current formulation, the Nicene Creed makes mention to scripture in passing and only in reference to Christ rising from the dead after three days.  That is, it uses scripture to support one line of the text.  Other than that, the Nicene Creed is silent on the role scripture is to play in the life of a Christian and fails to make any kind of allusion or mention of sola scriptura.

Therefore, if sola scriptura was the rule of faith for Christians since the beginning of Christianity, the question remains, “Why are ALL the creeds silent on the subject?”   History tells us, via St. Cyril of Jerusalem, that the Creed was taught to all those preparing to receive the sacrament of baptism.  If sola scriptura was the foundation of Christianity and the crucial teaching of Christianity from the beginning, one would expect sola-scripture to be the very first thing expressed in the Creeds, or at least mentioned someplace in the Symbol of Faith.  Yet, this is not the case.  The Creeds are silent on the subject of sola scriptura because sola scripture was not and never was a teaching of the early Church.

Lastly, what history reveals is that Scripture was interpreted according to the Rule of Faith (the Creed).  That is, the Creed served as a guide to interpreting scripture.  By using the creed to interpret scripture it safeguarded the interpretation against heresies.  Those who abandoned the creed or did not have the creed fell into heresy.


Mike said...

The Vatican-2 heretic cult (founded in 1965 at the Vatican) *cannot possibly be* the Catholic Church … since it *enforces* the opposite, the opposite, and the opposite of the Catholic Dogma.

The founding documents of the vatican-2 heretic cult … the “vatican-2 council” documents … have well over 200 heresies *against* prior defined Dogma.

Site > Immaculata-one (dot) com

Section 12 > Anti-Christ vatican-2 heresies (50 listed) ... followed by many Catholic corrections.

Sections 13 and 13.1 > Photographic *proof* of heresy at the Vatican.

Because of … the Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy or for physical participation in a heretic cult (such as the V-2 cult) …

… we were all placed, body and soul, outside of Christianity (the Catholic Church) on 8 December 1965 … the close date of the “council”.

Section 13.2 > Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy or participating in a heretic cult such as ... vatican-2, lutheran, methodist, evangelical, etc.

Section 19.1 > Dogma on Abjuration for *re-entering* Christianity (the Catholic Church) … after being automatically excommunicated. A Formal Abjuration is also provided here.

Section 13.3 > Matt 16:18, Gates of Hell scripture ... is *not* about the Papacy ... defined at Second Council of Constantinople.

Section 10.2 > Returning to a state of grace, in places and times when Confession is not available, like now.

Our Lady of Conquest
Pray for us

Malvenu said...

One reason for the absence of the mention of sola scriptura in the creeds is that the Canon of Scripture was not ratified until 380 - over fifty years after Nicea.

One implication of this would be that for the first 350 years after Christ's death and resurrection those who believed in Him, even those like Polycarp and Ignatius who had such a close and verifiable link to Christ himself, would have had no New Testament upon which to authoratively base their theology.

Also, sola scriptura is UNscriptural. There are many 'proof texts' - as if we needed them - but, have a look at 2 Peter 1:20 and compare the translation of it in the Douay-Rheims (and NASB, and others) to the Protestant's favourite translation the NIV. I had heard that the NIV was unreliable - now THIS is a proof text!

Unknown said...

Technically, the canon was not formally defined by Ecumenical Council until Trent. It was agreed upon before that, but there was some discussion among the Fathers at Trent whether to go along with the Protestant position of a shorter canon or not.

To the argument in the post, I like it. It is a new argument (I've never seen anything like it), and a new argument is never a bad thing. Everyone uses the fact that it is not biblical (and thus self-defeating) or not found in the Apostolic Fathers, but this is an interesting post. Thanks.

C Sommer
U. of St Thomas
Houston, TX

Paul Cat said...


True about the canon not being formally defined till Trent. Though we know from history that the present canon was affirmed and reaffirmed for many centuries by various Popes and councils. Also, there was a historical need to formally define and declare the books of canon at the time of Trent.

I also notice you teach at UST. I'm living in the Houston Area and currently teach over at Pope John XXIII HIgh School.

Peace and God bless,

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