By Luther W. Martin
One Thousand and One Years (529 A.D. – 1530 A.D.) From the Council of Orange (529 A.D.) when the Council quoted numerous passages of Scripture to support their conclusions, a millennium elapses. During that period of time, the Roman Catholic Church has developed, and the “Voice of the Church” plus “Oral Tradition” have supplanted the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, as the source of authority in matters religious. That which emerged as the Western Church or Roman Church, was not really interested in or concerned about the use of Holy Scripture as a guide.
Therefore, the initial Lutheran Confession at Augsburg, became prominent in directing its adherents back toward the Bible as a source of authority.
Augsburg Confession (1530 A.D.): This document was prepared at the request of the German Emperor, Charles V. In the early part of the Confession, it reads: “Wherefore, in dutiful obedience to your Imperial Majesty, we offer and present a confession of our pastors’ and preachers’ teaching and of our own faith, setting forth how and in what manner, on the basis of Holy Scripture, these things are preached, taught, communicated and embraced. . . ” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, p. 65).
The final sentence of the Augsburg Confession reads: “If anyone should consider that it (this confession) is lacking in some respect, we are ready to present further information on the basis of the divine Holy Scripture” (Ibid., p. 107).
After Martin Luther’s break with the Roman Catholic Church, there were many nominal believers who desired to move a greater distance away from Rome, than did the Lutherans. Some sixty different “Creeds” were composed that may be classed as “Reformed.” The most reactionary Reformers were four classes of Anabaptists: (a) Swiss Brethren, South German Brethren, Hutterites and Dutch Mennonites; (b) The Anti-Trinitarians; (c) The Spiritualizers; and (d) Revolutionary Prophets. These four divisions were listed by Franklin Littell in his work, “The Anabaptist View of the Church.”
The Ten Theses of Berne (1528 A.D.): Huldreich Zwingli, a Swiss reformer, had a prominent part in drafting the “Ten Conclusions” as they are sometimes called. We copy the second article: “2. The Church of Christ makes no laws and commandments without the Word of God. Hence human traditions are no more binding on us than they are founded in the Word of God” (Creeds of Christendom, by Philip Schaff, Vol. 1, p. 365).
The First Helvetic Confession (1536 A.D.): The purpose of this document was to try to bring about a union between the Swiss and German reformers. I copy a brief excerpt, in order to show their respect for the Scripture: “We wish in no way to prescribe for all churches through these article a single rule of faith. For we acknowledge no other rule of faith than Holy Scripture” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, p. 127).
The Edwardian Homilies (1547 A.D.): One of the actions of King Edward VI, of England, having to do with the Reformation, was actually enacted by his Council of Regency. Thomas Cranmer drafted these and proposed them as early as 1542. We copy the first two sentences: “Unto a Christian man there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable, than the knowledge of Holy Scripture, forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth His glory, and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is or, may be drawn out of that fountain and well of truth” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, p. 231).
Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1546-1564 A.D.): ” . . . The council follows the example of the orthodox Fathers and with the same sense of loyalty and reverence with which it accepts and venerates all the books of the Old and New Testament, since God is the author of both, it also accepts and venerates traditions concerned with faith and morals as having been received orally from Christ or inspired by the Holy Spirit and continuously preserved in the Catholic Church.” It judged, however, that a list of the Sacred Books should be written into this decree so that no one may doubt which books the council accepts.
(Then follows the list of all the books accepted by the Hebrews in their Old Testament, plus those known as the Apocrypha and rejected by the Jews; plus the regularly accepted books of the New Testament.)
“. . . if anyone does not accept these books as sacred and canonical in their entirety, with all their parts, according to the text usually read in the Catholic Church and as they are in the ancient, Latin Vulgate, but knowingly and willfully condemns the traditions previously mentioned: let him be anathema” (The Church Teaches, Documents of the Church In English Translation, By Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary’s College, St. Marys, Kansas, pp. 45-46).
Notice how the Catholic Church asserts that “tradition” is equal to Holy Scripture, in authority and revelation! Notice, too, how they accepted the apocryphal books to the Old Testament, which the Jews had not accepted as canonical.
At the time (1546) of the Council of Trent, when tradition was raised to an equality with Scripture, Pietro Bertano, the Bishop of Fano, objected with the following statement: “For there is a vast difference between Scripture and tradition. For the Holy Scripture is altogether indelible, while many of the apostolic traditions are variable, and can be changed or taken away according to the will of the Church.”
Another prelate in attendance at the Council of Trent, was Marco Medici, Bishop of Chioggia; he had this to say relative to tradition and Scripture:
“In vain we are now looking for traditions handed down to us verbally and by the observance of the whole Church, when we have the Gospel, in which everything necessary to our salvation and to the Christian life is to be found in a written form” (Romanism: A Doctrinal and Historical Examination of the Creed of Pope Pius IV by Robert Charles Jenkins, p. 57).
The Thirty-Nine Article (1563 A.D.): The Thirty-Nine Articles are based upon various English creedal statements, coming primarily from the time of King Henry VIII, who reigned from 1509-1547 A.D. The Authorized English Text was adopted in 1571. An American “revision” was made in 1801. From that text we copy as follows: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that is should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” The Thirty-Nine Articles then continued with a listing of the sixty-six canonical books of the Bible, excluding the apocryphal books. These Articles serve as the doctrinal foundation of the Anglican Church and its American counterpart, the Episcopal Church (Creeds of Christendom, by Philip Schaff, Vol. 3, p. 489).
.The Second Helvetic Confession (1566 A.D.): (Canonical Scripture) “We believe and confess that the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the true Word of God, and have sufficient authority in and of themselves, and not from men; since God himself through them still speaks to us, as he did to the Fathers, the Prophets, and Apostles. They contain all that is neccesary to a saving faith and a holy life; and hence nothing should be added to or taken from them (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).
“From the Scriptures must be derived all true wisdom and piety, and also the reformation and government of the Churches, the proof of doctrines, and the refutation of errors (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Thess. 2:13; Matt. 10:20). The apocryphal books of the Old Testament, though they may be read for edification, are not to be used as an authority in matters of faith” (Creeds of Christendom, by Philip Schaff, Vol. 1, p. 396). It may be noted that this was the first creedal exclusion of the Apocrypha, by a major Confession of Faith. Up to this time, the Lutheran Confessions had left this question open.
The Dortrecht Confession (1632 A.D.): Although this Mennonite Confession contained one hundred and sixty-six specific references to Holy Scripture, it has no statement dealing with written revelation.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646 A.D.): “. . It pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare his will unto the Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
“II. Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these:
(Then follows a list of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.)
“All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
“III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are not part of the Canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings” (Creeds of Christendom, by Philip Schaff, pp. 600-602).
The Cambridge Platform (1648 A.D.): This document was drafted in Cambridge, Massachusettes. It represented the views of colonists who were no longer content with Presbyterian Church government, and who decided to revise the Westminster Confession of England. They were Calvinists who began using the name “Congregationalists.” Thus, this group endorsed the principle of Holy Scripture as the source of religious authority.
The Confession of Dositheus (1672 A.D.): This paper was drafted by a synod of the Greek Orthodox Church which met in Jerusalem. The Patriarch Dositheus convened this synod. We copy as follows: “We believe the Divine and Sacred Scriptures to be God-taught; and, therefore, we ought to believe the same without doubting; yet not otherwise than as the Catholic Church hath interpreted and delivered the same” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, p. 486).
Theses Theologicae of Robert Barclay (1675 A.D.): Barclay’s views began with Scottish Presbyterianism, and ended with the establishment of the Quaker movement. He wrote against formal education in these words: “School divinity, (which taketh up almost a man’s whole lifetime to learn), brings not a whit nearer to God, either makes a man less wicked, or more righteous than he was.” In the third proposition of Barclay’s Theses, he wrote: “. . . the Spirit is that guide by which the saints are led into all truth: therefore according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader. And seeing we do therefore receive and believe the Scriptures, because they proceeded from the Spirit” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, pp. 325-326).
The Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675 A.D.): This document was the last of the doctrinal Confessions of the Reformed Church of Switzerland. It was one of a long series of Calvinisitc Creeds, and was composed 111 years after Calvin’s death. This Consensus made specific reference to fifty Scripture passages, thus showing the esteem and respect that these people held in regard to the authority of Holy Scripture. We copy only a brief excerpt: “I. God, the Supreme Judge, not only took care to have His word, which is the ‘power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth’ (Rom. 1:16), committed to writing by Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles, but has also watched and cherished it with paternal care ever since it was written up to the present time, so that it could not be corrupted by craft of Satan or fraud of man. Therefore the Church justly ascribes it to His singular grace and goodness that she has, and will have to the end of the world, a ‘sure word of prophecy’ and ‘Holy Scriptures’ (2 Tim. 3:15), from which, though heaven and earth perish, ‘one jot or more tittle shall in no wise pass’ (Matt. 5:18)” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, pp. 309-310).
The Articles of Religion (1784 A.D.): These Methodist Articles are developed from the original Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (1563 A.D.), and are also know as the Twenty-Five Articles of Religion. Under Article V., entitled “Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, ” we copy as follows: “The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation” (Creeds of Christendom, by Philip Schaff, Vol. 3, p. 808).
In a following paragraph, this creed then lists the canonical books of the Old Testament of the Hebrews, prior The New Hampshire Confession (1833 A.D.): This document was drafted by John Newton Brown. The text is taken from the Baptist Church Manual, published by the American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia. We copy the first article: “I. Of The Scriptures. We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.”
Abstract of Principles (1859 A.D.): This creed is a Baptist interpretation of the Westminster Confession (1646 A.D.), and was adopted by the Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, in 1859; and also adopted by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1950. We copy the first paragraph:
“1. The Scriptures. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and are the only sufficient, certain and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, pp. 340).
Statement of Baptist Faith and Message (1925 A.D.): The 1925 Southern Baptist Convention issued this statement, and in it, included the following:
“In pursuance of the instructions of the Convention and in consideration of the General denominational situation, your committee has decided to recommend the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of present needs, for approval by the Convention, in the event a statement of the Baptist faith and message is deemed necessary at this time.
“(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.”
Under the heading “The Scriptures, ” we also copy:
“1. We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and religious opinions should be tried” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, pp. 344-346).
The Barmen Declaration (1934 A.D.): The German Evangelical Church is a federation of reformed churches which developed out of the Reformation. This document was adopted May 29-30, 1934, at Barmen, Germany.
“Article 1. The impregnable foundation of the German Evangelical Church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is revealed in Holy Scripture and came again to the light in the creeds of the Reformation” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, p. 518).
“IV. The Word of God. We believe and confess: The words written in the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, are truly the Word of God. (2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are then written in this Confession, LWM.
“With this we emphasize: The Holy Scripture is completely sufficient to reveal God’s being and his will, and the Holy Scripture is also completely sufficient to teach what man must believe in order to receive eternal life. The Holy Scripture is the beginning and the end of all thoughts, wisdom, and activity in the congregation (Church) and with the believers.
“With this doctrine we refute and reject any wisdom and cleverness of men which differs from the Word of God” (Creeds of the Churches, by John H. Leith, p. 558).
In the foregoing quotations, we have shown that most of the denominations men have started, claim to revere the Holy Scriptures; yet, with the drafting of each additional “creed from man” more religious division results. The Scriptures instruct us to “walk by the same rule,” but instead, man chooses to make his own rules. How under God’s heaven can men presume to speak where and when God has spoken? “Every Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, for refuting error, for providing correct guidance, for instruction in right living: That the man serving God may be well prepared, adequately equipped for all good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 19, pp. 584-585, 596-597
October 6, 1988