Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Authority of the Creeds

Many Protestants are anti-creedal. Without putting too fine a point on it, it be anti-Creedal is, at the end of the day, anti-Christian. Christianity is about confession of belief. We place our faith in a person, but we believe very specific things about that person and His Work.

Protestants are not historically anti-creedal, although they properly subordinate the creeds to Scripture.

I found this useful section when reading Philip Schaff's The Creeds of Christendom.

In the Protestant system, the authority of symbols, as of all human compositions, is relative and limited. It is not co-ordinate with, but always subordinate to, the Bible, as the only infallible rule of the Christian faith and practice. The value of creeds depends upon the measure of their agreement with the Scriptures. In the best case a human creed is only an approximate and relatively correct exposition of revealed truth, and may be improved by the progressive knowledge of the Church, while the Bible remains perfect and infallible. The Bible is of God; the Confession is man's answer to God's word.

The Bible is the norma normans; the Confession the norma normata. The Bible is the rule of faith (regula fidei); the Confession the rule of doctrine (regula doctrinæ). The Bible has, therefore, a divine and absolute, the Confession only an ecclesiastical and relative authority. The Bible regulates the general religious belief and practice of the laity as well as the clergy; the symbols regulate the public teaching of the officers of the Church, as Constitutions and Canons regulate the government, Liturgies and Hymn-books the worship, of the Church.

Any higher view of the authority of symbols is unprotestant and essentially Romanizing. Symbololatry is a species of idolatry, and substitutes the tyranny of a printed book for that of a living pope. It is apt to produce the opposite extreme of a rejection of all creeds, and to promote rationalism and infidelity.

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