Creeds

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  • Created on: 11-06-17 16:46

Creeds: Introduction.

Kelly 'A fixed formula summarising the essential articles of (the Christian) religion and enjoying sanction of the ecclesiastical authority'.

Cy is the only religion to place such importance upon creeds that outline the orthodox belief of the Church.

They were necessary to refute heresies, establish the churches beliefs, for baptism and in times of persecution.

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Creeds: Development.

New Testament: no full creeds but ‘credal fragments’ used in connection with public preaching, baptism, worship and the content of them is focussed on Jesus as the founder and centre of the Christian faith.

Single-clause confessions: Jesus, Romans 10:9 ‘Jesus is Lord’. Two-clause confessions: God the father as well, 1 Corinthians 8:6 ‘yet there is for us one God, the Father, who is the Creator… and there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ’. Three-clause confessions: three elements of the trinity, Matthew 28:19 ‘Baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’.

Some scholars: reflect a linear historical progression in three stages, Kelly: they existed side by side from the beginning. Also fuller Christological confessions and hymns which refer to Jesus and his identity. This was the first step towards the formation of a fixed and universally accepted Christian creed of belief.

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Creeds: Development.

There are three main types of creeds: creedal hymns, baptismal creeds and conciliar creeds.

Creedal hymns were not full scale creeds but were statements about the person and work of Christ. Examples can be found in the New Testament such as Philippians 2:6-11. In the Early Church hymns and creeds overlapped and cannot be easily separated. Bultmann concluded that the first confessions of faith tended to be expressed in short sentences such as ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Romans 10:9) while hymns were longer statements of belief. In the New Testament era, basic creeds did exist and were either spoken or sung.

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Creeds: Development.

Banks ‘there is a close connection between baptism and creeds from the earliest church history’. All creeds were linked to baptism, it was necessary for all new converts to make a statement of their belief before they were baptised. In the early stages of the church, no mention of confessions of faith to the Father or the Holy Spirit as the first Christians were mainly Jewish who had accepted the Jewish belief in one living and true God. Gospel spread to the Gentiles, the name of God as creator was added. Confession in the name of the trinity was made complete by the addition of the Holy Spirit. From the 2nd century onwards, 3 fold baptismal formula was used. These baptismal creeds was in the form of question and answer format, Justin Martyr (2nd century) and Hippolytus in ‘Apostolic Tradition’ (3rd century) give us examples of this. However, it developed into statement form due the Greek influence, as they had a questioning attitude so the church had to clarify what they themselves believed, the impact of heresy and the persecution Christians were facing, the martyrs needed a short but comprehensive summary of Christian beliefs.

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Creeds: Development.

Conciliary creeds were proclaimed with the authority of a church council and with the purpose of defining the true faith as distinct from the teaching of heresy. The Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed are both examples.

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Creeds: Development.

The Nicene Creed expressed the decision of the Council of Nicaea in 325AD. This council was summoned due to Arian Controversy (Arius’ claim that the son was the highest creation of the father). This creed emphasises the unity of God, Christ was ‘begotten from the father before all time’ and Christ is of the same essence as the father, basically, Jesus is God in every respect. This creed also upheld the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the belief that he comes from the Father. This is the first purely theological creed to be developed in the Church at this time, it purpose was to define the beliefs of the Church and to distinguish it from heresy at the time (especially Arian). While the Nicene creed was the first theological and ecumenical creed, there were similar beforehand: Antioch synod in 268AD issued a statement of faith and the Council of Antioch issued a doctrinal statement in 325AD. Its structure is Trinitarian and places particular emphasis on the fact Jesus was fully God and human, a perfect being that had always existed. Banks states that there are four anti-Arian statements that were added by other creeds including ‘Begotten not made’ and ‘of one substance with the father’.

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Creeds: Development.

The Apostles Creed is ‘widely accepted by Catholics and Protestants’ (Banks). The origin is from the Old Roman Creed, from the late 2nd century. Many believe it originated in South Gaul as there are many creeds that are almost identical that have appeared as early as the 5th century. The Apostle’s Creed is believed to have been developed towards the late 6th and early 7th century. Boer says ‘there is a remarkable progressions from the single reference to Christ, to the double reference to God and Christ, and finally to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, the threefold emphasis of the Apostle’s Creed formed the basis of it. Scaff states ‘the Apostles’ Creed is by far the best possible summary of the Christian faith ever made in such a brief space’.

The reason for the development of the Apostles’ Creed was due to ‘the increase in the authority of the bishops and the acceptance of certain books and scripture were not sufficient to refute the Gnostics and other heretics’ (Boer) Another reason was due to the development of baptisms.

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Creeds: Development.

Irenaeus' 'Canon of Truth' and Tertullian's 'Rule of Faith' are summaries of Christian belief that were developed due to threat of heresy. Irenaeus=gnostism and marcionism. He emphasised his theory of recapitulation. Tertullian=marcionism. He emphasised there was only one God. Both are Trititarian in structure.

Foster 'Cn's must hold fast (to the rule of faith) when others come preaching a different doctrine'.

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Creeds: Conclusion.

Creeds were essentially important to the early church to defend against heresies. However, as the church grew they became important for other reasons such as baptisms and in times of persecution.

Banks states ‘the usefulness of creeds has been appreciated throughout church history, right up to present day.’ Creeds give the church an understanding of biblical teaching in a concise way, can be recited and memorised to inspire and express worship and offer historical continuity within the Church.

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