Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rethinking the Apostles' Creed

Here are several excerpts from an article by Clifton R. Loucks, from The Trinity Foundation originally.


The central message of the Bible is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Saviour from sin, and the only safety from God’s righteous punishment of sin. The only way of salvation is through belief in the purpose of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). The Apostle Paul proclaims Christ crucified as the only antidote to the deadly venom within man, called sin. He wrote: "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

Evidently, the Apostle believed that the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ was of primary importance, a message to be understood by both those who have already trusted in Christ for their eternal state, and those who were yet to hear the Gospel.

[T]he Gospel of Christ...is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith [Romans 1:16-17].

Knowing what that Gospel is, and believing it, is of first importance for those who proclaim the Word of God. If it is not first in importance, but somewhere down the list of things to be taught, or absent from the list entirely, confusion (frequently fatal) results.

How shall the justified live by faith, if the object of that faith is unknown, or at best, obscured? If the professed Christian doesn’t understand the meaning of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, how can he give a clarion call to those without hope and without God in the world?

Recitation, so it is said, aids in the understanding of Christian doctrine; but it may not do so, if the recitation is done or heard inattentively, or the creed itself is not faithful to the Gospel. Supposedly, the congregation’s "one voice" in reciting a creed reflects its unity in one belief as well. Yet, what do individual minds (and there is no other kind) understand by what they say? Is there unity of thought and meaning of the particular words expressed? Or is the creed ambiguous or incomplete?

The Apostles’ Creed is a case in point. It has a long history behind it, and in its longevity, it is unchallenged as the Christian’s creed; yet is it Christian? The apostles knew nothing of the Apostles’ Creed, for it emerged some three centuries after their passing, its author(s) lost to history. It has the honorific label "Apostles" attached to it, as if they created it, recited it, and endorsed it; when they neither wrote, recited, nor endorsed the creed attributed to them. Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Anglicans, Liberals, and Protestants all recite the Apostles’ Creed, yet the Reformers thought rightly that the Roman Catholic Church with its papacy is Antichrist. How can this be? Rome has recently called Protestant dissenters to its hierarchy and doctrine, "separated brethren," and continues to attempt to end the separation by such means as ecumenical councils, documents, and creeds. The Apostles’ Creed is one ecumenical bridge over the gap. The Apostles’ Creed is a lowest-common denominator attempt at ecumenism.

The Apostles’ Creed does not perform the requisite functions of a creed: It does not accurately summarize the content of Christian belief; it omits essential Christian doctrines; it does not distinguish heterodoxy from orthodoxy; and it is ambiguous, rather than clear. Because of these defects, it cannot unify the hearts of God’s people, for, as an ecumenical creed, it allows many who do not hold to the Gospel revealed by God to profess to be Christians.

God’s revealed truth divides men; but it also is the only basis of Christian unity.

But if the words of a creed join together believer and unbeliever, Protestant, Roman, Anglican, Liberal, and Greek, then the creed has failed to achieve Christian unity, but has accomplished the purpose of the enemy, who sows tares among wheat.

...Notice that the Apostles’ Creed neither mentions essential articles of the faith nor defines the terms it uses. Thus it becomes, at best, a mere mentioning of terms, not a confession of well-defined truths revealed by God for our instruction....

The Heidelberg Catechism seems to say that the Apostles’ Creed expresses the very things, termed "Articles of our catholic, undoubted faith," necessary for a Christian to believe: that is, it supposedly expresses that which a person must believe to be a Christian.....Then it asks, "Where can we find a short statement of everything God commands us to believe?" (This question itself seems a bit contrived given the previous answer and command "to believe everything God tells us," does it not?) The primer answers: "In The Apostles’ Creed." Now, does this Creed contain "everything God commands us to believe," even in summary? Does the Apostles’ Creed express that which a person must believe to be a Christian? Is it the "litmus test" of one’s Christian faith? Ponder these omissions of some of the articles of our Christian faith.
1. The Creed is silent on Christ’s satisfaction of the Father’s justice. The term and concept of propitiation are absent.

2. The Creed is silent on Christ’s substitutionary death. The term and concept of Atonement are absent.

3. The Creed is silent on the purpose of Christ’s death. His death is mentioned, but an historical event, without an explanation of its meaning, is not a Christian confession. The Pharisees also believed Christ died. Christians must confess, "Christ died for our sins."
4. The Creed is silent on Scripture. In his summary of the Gospel, Paul wrote: "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." How can a Creed derive its authority from Scripture if it does not even mention it? Perhaps this is one reason why the pope can confess the Apostles’ Creed too: Belief in Scripture is omitted, but belief in the "Holy Catholic Church" is included.

5. The Creed is silent on the inspiration of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture, the necessity of Scripture, the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture, the power of Scripture, the coherence of Scripture, etc. The Apostles’ Creed describes the "Catholic Church" as "Holy," but not the Word of God.
6. The Creed is silent on the Trinity. Although all three Persons are mentioned, the unity of the Godhead is not expressed, and only one Person is confessed as God. The Creed is so vague that its confessors may believe in three gods, or that only God the Father is God, and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are lesser beings.
7. The Creed is silent on the Gospel. The term and concept are absent. It makes no reference to the method and means of salvation. Salvation by God’s grace alone is not mentioned.
8. The Creed is silent on justification by faith in Christ alone. One would think a creed would say something about justification and faith. The Apostles’ Creed does not.

9. The Creed is silent on predestination, and election. It contains not even a hint of an eternal divine plan for the salvation of God’s people.

10. The Creed is silent on regeneration and sanctification—the new birth and the Christian life.

11. The Creed is silent on confession of sin to God, and offers no definition of sin.

12. The Creed mentions Pontius Pilate, but is silent on the Person of the Holy Spirit. "I believe in the Holy Ghost" does not express much of anything. Would any listener figure out who he is or what he does? The Apostles’ Creed does not even say that the Holy Ghost is God. Amazing, isn’t it? Did I say amazing? I meant appalling.

13. The Creed implies that only the Father is Creator. John says that "All things were made by him [the Logos]." Job and the Psalms proclaim that the Spirit "made the heavens and all the hosts of them."

So what kind of creedal expression is the Apostles’ Creed? It is a lowest-common denominator ecumenical confession, apparently designed to please everyone in the churches, except the Christians. It is not, as Schaff believes, "the Creed of creeds." Nor does is it "contain all the fundamental articles of the Christian faith necessary to salvation" (Creeds, 1, 14).

Omission of these central truths leaves many doors open for cunning persons to bind unsuspecting souls in ecclesiastical chains. Without God’s wrath fully appeased once for all by Christ’s death, we must sacrifice Christ afresh every day and work for our own salvation. The Apostles’ Creed does nothing to preclude or dispel damnable heresies such as the mass, taught by the largest religious organization on the planet.

Creed Articles Not Found in Scripture

These words of this ecumenical Creed—"He descended into Hell"—tend to confuse, not explain, the belief of the Christian. Must one believe that Christ went to Hell after his death and before he rose from the dead? (This is how the Apostles’ Creed states it by its word order.) What is the basis for this belief?

What do unbelievers think as they attend our assemblies and hear us say, "He [Jesus Christ] descended into Hell" after his death, and then try to explain away the obvious meaning of the words by saying that Christ really didn’t go to Hell? Why should they believe anything else they hear in our assemblies? Perhaps we have an esoteric interpretation of other statements as well. Intellectual dishonesty—or ecclesiastical dishonesty—will not persuade anyone to listen to the rest of our teaching.

One does not need to travel far from the Biblical descriptions of Christ’s suffering to learn the meaning of it all: God’s sufficient Word does not keep us hanging in suspense. But the Apostles’ Creed does.

Another example of this–not saying what we mean, and saying what we don’t mean–is found in the words: "I be-lieve...in the Holy Catholic Church." This clause is such a source of confusion that disclaimers need to be made for it upon its every utterance, and it isn’t the only one.

Commonly, Reformed and Protestant preachers will give a disclaimer immediately following the recitation of the Creed to the effect that the Creed is not to be construed as meaning the Roman Catholic Church, which calls itself "the Holy Catholic Church." If Protestants mean "We believe that there is an elect people of God that the Lord Himself gave out of the whole of mankind to the Son, and this people is ‘the church’ in view, known in Scripture as the very small remnant, and the only true children of Abraham," then they should say so: "I believe that God has chosen and saved his own people out of every race and nation." This would maintain the antithesis between true and false, which distinction is blurred by the confusing term "Holy Catholic Church." When Rome decides to call "home" the "separated brethren" of the Protestant churches, she will no doubt use the ambiguous terminology of this very Creed to further her aim. The call will be legitimized by the gentle reminder that "we all believe in the one Holy Catholic Church, do we not? You’ve been confessing it in your churches for centuries; now come home, come home to the one place you’ve been confessing for all those generations. Mother Kirk has her arms spread wide to embrace you."

Protestant Reformers protested against that very institution, the organization calling itself the Holy Catholic Church, which is a governmental power, a nation unto itself, and not a church at all. Roman Catholics recite this Creed, using the same words, without disclaimers, and people know very well what they mean. Why adopt their confession? Why can we not frame the words of a true confession to reflect Scripture?

This clause, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church" is followed by a confession of "the communion of saints," and then by "the forgiveness of sins," with no explanation given as to how one can have forgiveness. Out of all the things of importance in life, how one obtains forgiveness of sins is absolutely vital. Since it follows on the heels of "the Holy Catholic Church," would it not plausibly follow that forgiveness comes through and because of that Holy Catholic Church? It is strongly suggested by the word order of the Creed.

One possible—and plausible—reason for the order in the Apostles’ Creed is the false teaching that the dispenser of forgiveness is not God, but the Holy Catholic Church. That large and influential religious organization based in Rome teaches that very thing: Forgiveness comes from its authority, through its priests and sacraments. There is no ambiguity as to their teaching in this regard; the ambiguity lies in Protestants’ using the same words to confess some different meaning. Christians are to proclaim clearly what they mean, and not speak in ambiguities that confuse others.

The Creed says, "I believe…in the Holy Ghost." Well, so do the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The question is: What are you confessing when you say those words? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the Holy Ghost as a "radar beam" of God’s power (their words, at my door, many times) but not as a Person of the Trinity. They believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force used by God to direct people and things. The Apostles’ Creed does not rule out such a notion. To say: "I believe in the Holy Ghost," is not to say very much. The clause is devoid of definition, of predication, and therefore of clarity. It does not distinguish between meanings that differ, for no meaning is given. The antithesis between false doctrine and true teaching is absent. The clause as it occurs in the ecumenical Apostles’ Creed is devoid of the meaning that would make it Christian, i.e., Scriptural....

Is the Apostles’ Creed less than accurate? We have seen that it is. Is it less than Biblically sufficient? Absolutely. There are deficiencies in this Creed in that central doctrines are not expressed. This allows common confession of the Creed with Antichrist.

A Challenge

The Creed substitutes unexplained statements of historical events for the Gospel of an atoning Christ who is the perfect satisfaction of holy justice for his elect people.... The question is: Will the Reformed churches put away the so-called Apostles’ Creed of the Roman Church-State, or will they continue to recite it, obscuring the Gospel and erasing the distinction between a true church and a false? Will they practice the first mark of a true church of Jesus Christ–as defined by Guido de Bres in the Belgic Confession, "the preaching of the pure Gospel"—or will they sink deeper into the mire of "unity first" thinking? Will the Gospel of justification by faith alone be clearly expressed to those whom God brings to their assemblies? Shall it contain the evangel, the Gospel of the Christ who died for the sins of his people, explained according to the authority of the Scriptures, or omit it for the sake of peace, unity, and tradition, as the Apostles’ Creed has done for many centuries?

End quote.

I rather go directly to Scripture and use it as the sole authority to test all things and ever person. And so I do.


Clif said...

Good to know the message "hit home" somewhere. It was not without cost: the "reformed" denomination i was a part of excom~d me after this article was published. Is Truth worth the cost of a pastoring career, a family, a future in this earth? Absolutely. "For His Truth endureth Forever...."
Clifton R. Loucks

Denise said...

Thank you for coming by and thank you for the article, Mr. Loucks. I have NO doubt it indeed cost you much, as it always does when we fear God and not man.I think their reaction reveals just how man-centered most are, even among Reformers. They are closer to Rome than they dare admit. Even Rome knows this.

People are not willing to part with their favorite author, pastor, teacher, radio show host, musician, conference speaker, or seminary professor even when they are confronted with their error. They rather swallow the poison because the candy looks good. But HIS standard is far higher. It is the highest.

Mr. Loucks, it seems they make our point: Creeds are used in an authoritative manner, not merely a statement of faith. If you do not hold to their creed (and who decides which creeds/confessions are acceptable?), YOU ARE NOT COUNTED AS A CHRISTIAN (see Luther's Larger Catechism where he also claimed this).

I get flack when I show how Luther held to the same heresies as Rome concerning salvation and authority.

Ps. 1:2… You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.

Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

Pro 30:5 Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Pro 30:6 Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Pro 13:13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.

The only thing inspired is the Word of God. Sadly, many reformers think that the creeds and confessions are also, if not in words, they think this in practice.

Consider this:

Gal 4:16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Gal 4:17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.

I'd rather be shunned for the sake of Christ, than be flattered by those who love the applause of man. I think you do too.

So we count ourselves blessed when insulted and shunned for His sake

Mat 5:10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Denise said...

From: http://www.reformedreader.org/history/graves/ptl/chapter04.htm

Will Protestants charge the Papacy with denying that doctrine professedly so sacred to Pedobaptist--THE ALL-SUFFICIENCY of the Word of God for faith and practice?--the Bible and the Bible alone, for all religious doctrines and duties?

Can not Rome point to their Books of Common Prayer, Rubrics, etc., Confession of Faith, and authenticated Disciplines, that in every Protestant meeting-house are placed either on top of the Bible or by its side, but in every case the first required to be observed by Protestants. If the laws, and traditions, and "rules" enjoined by their elders and "chief ministers" on them are not observed, the guilty Protestant is cast out of the Church of Christ--if these organizations can be so considered. Does Rome do worse?

Sound familiar?

grateful said...

I really needed to read this! I home school and I was about to teach the Apostles Creed to my daughter and have her memorize it. I am newly Calvinized. And I appreciate much that is written from reformed sites. Yet infant baptism never sat well with me, for instance. I need not embrace everything written from the reformed sites. Thanks for your posts on the Apostles Creed etc.

Denise said...

Hi grateful,

I homeschool too! =)

I'm like that as well---there are some major and serious doctrines of Reformed theology (Calvinism) that are wrong (infant sprinkling, Covenantal theology, their view of the Lord's table, for examples). Its also why I appreciate the Baptist history and distinctives. =)

Let me suggest a few links for you to check out---




These are pretty short yet concise.

grateful said...

Thank you for the links. I spent a long time on the first one. I was amazed at the material there.

Denise said...

You are very welcome grateful. =)