By Luther W. Martin
Why do men write “creeds”? Why not be content with Holy Scripture? Why substitute man written-creeds, in place of God-inspired Scripture? The word “creed” is not found in the Bible. But let me correct that by pointing out that “creed” comes from a Latin word credo, meaning “I believe,” So, one can find the word credo in the Latin Vulgate.
Synonyms for “creed” are such expressions as “rule of faith” or “symbol.” Now the word “rule” is a biblical word, in English. “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). Also, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Phil. 3:16-17, underscoring mine, LWM).
If one’s faith or belief is strong enough, then that one may be prompted to speak forth his “creed.” “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34; Luke 6:45).
Actually, each true Christian-to-be, expresses his “creed” . . . his, “I believe,” when, in the course of obeying the Gospel of Christ, he confesses his faith in Christ as the Son of the living God! But this all comes from Holy Scripture, not the writings of mere men! “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Or, in Romans 10:9-10 – “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”
The man from Ethiopia asked: “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).
The Apostle Peter expressed a God-given creed, when he responded to Christ’s question, by affirming, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:18). The church of Christ was founded upon belief in Christ’s divinity. Here again, it was and is, a God-given “creed.” So, you see, this writer is not opposed to a “creed,” as such; just so long as it is God-breathed by way of Holy Scripture, and not a “creed” based upon the commandments and doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9).
The sad fact about creeds of men is that they are divisive. You subscribe to your creed and I’ll subscribe to mine, and never the twain shall meet! A Baptist creed produces Baptists; a Methodist creed produces Methodists; while the New Testament produces Christians!
“For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name” (1 Cor. 1:11-14). Paul condemned divisions among the brethren at Corinth. Among the seven things God hates, is that of “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16). I affirm that writers of men’s creeds, sow discord among those who would otherwise be brethren!
How Scriptures Were Respected Before Roman Catholicism
Clement of Rome (Died ca. 99 A.D.): “You have studied the Holy Scriptures, which are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing contrary to justice or truth has been written in them” (Letter to the Corinthians, Chp. 45).
Justin Martyr (Died 167 A.D.): “But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing (that the Scriptures err); and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext (for saying) that it is contrary (to some other) since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself” (Dialogue With Trypho, Ch. 65).
Irenaeus (Died 202 A.D.): “. . being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit” (Against Heresies, Bk. 2, Ch. 28).
Clement of Alexandria (Died ca. 215 A.D.): “I could adduce ten thousand Scriptures of which not ‘one title shall pass away’ without being fulfilled; for the mouth of the Lord the Holy Spirit has spoken these things” (Exhortation To The Heathen, (Ch. 8:82).
The Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) was convened by Emperor Constantine. The “creed” which was drafted by this Council, did not mention the Scriptures. The twenty canons or rules drafted by this Council, make reference to two excerpts from Scripture without identifying them. This Council was attended by 315 Greeks and 3 Latins. Its proceedings were in the Greek language. Both the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church claim this Council as “theirs.” Rome’s claim is really “too little, too late.”
The First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) was convened by Emperor Theodosius. The “creed” drafted by this Council, contained in part: “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (underscoring mine, LWM; The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Translated by Roy J. Deferrari, from the Thirtieth Edition of Henry Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, p. 35). The four canons drafted by this Council made no reference to Scripture. There were 151 delegates in attendance; 150 were Greek, I was a Latin. This Council was also conducted in the Greek language.
Augustine, in a letter to Jerome (394-395 A.D.): “I think it is extremely dangerous to admit that anything in the Sacred Books should be a lie. . . . If we once admit in that supreme authority even one polite lie, there will be nothing left of those books, because, whenever anyone finds something difficult to practice or hard to believe, he will follow this most dangerous precedent and explain it as the idea or practice of a lying author” (Letters, No. 28).
Ambrose (Died 397 A.D.): “And for this reason the divine Scripture all is called theopneustos because God inspired what the Spirit has spoken” (On the Holy Spirit, Bk. 3, Ch. 16).
Augustine, in a letter to Jerome (405 A.D.): “For, I admit to your charity that it is from those books alone of the Scriptures, which are now called canonical, that I have learned to pay them such honor and respect as to believe most firmly that not one of their authors has erred in writing anything at all. If I do find anything in those books which seems contrary to truth, I decide that either the text is corrupt, or the translator did not follow what was really said, or that I failed to understand it” (Letters, No. 82).
Jerome (Died 420 A.D.): “. . A am not, I repeat, so ignorant as to suppose that any one of the Lord’s words is either in need of correction or is not divinely inspired; but the Latin manuscripts of the Scriptures are proved to be faulty by the variations which all these exhibit, and my object has been to restore them to the form of the Greek original, from which my detractors do not deny that they have been translated” (Letters, No. 27).
Augustine, in his Reply To Faustus the Manichaean (Died 430 A.D.): “If we are perplexed by an apparent contradicton in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. . . . But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an en to that authority altogether, or involves it in helpless confusion” (Book 11, Ch. 5).
Theodoret (Died 460 A.D.): “They said, however, that all of the Psalms were not by David, but some were by others. But I say nothing about those; what do I care? . . . since all of them were written by the divine inspiration of the Spirit” (On the Psalms, Preface).
Council of Orange (529 A.D.) whose 25 canons or rules contain 44 specific references to Holy Scripture, and I only, reference to the Apocrypha. In the last portion of their proceedings, we copy as follows: “And thus according to the statements of the Holy Scriptures written above, or the explanation of the ancient Fathers, God being propitious, we ought to proclaim and to believe. .
“Innumerable are the testimonies of the Sacred Scriptures which can be brought forward to prove grace, but they are passed over out of the desire for brevity” (Enchiridion Symbolorum, by Denzinger, page 80). (See also The Church Teaches, Documents of the Church In English Translation, By Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary’s College, St. Marys, Kansas pp. 225-228.)
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 18, pp. 564-565
September 15, 1988