This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Apostle's Creed

As we continue our study on the ancient creeds of the Church after a couple of weeks interim, we go now to the oldest one that the Church universally uses, called the Apostles Creed.  It dates back, according to a Wikipedia article, to approximately AD 390 and the Council of Milan, and is thus somewhat older than the later Nicene Creed that we discussed earlier.  In the Western Church, it is used as part of devotions such as the Rosary, various Novenas, and in Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican tradition, while in the East it is found primarily used in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts celebrated during the Lenten season, as well as the Akathist Hymn. 

Here is a basic breakdown of the Creed, with its Scriptural references:

1.    God the Father and Creator (Genesis 1:1)
2.    Jesus Christ, the only Son of God and our Lord (John 14:6)
3.    The divine conception of Jesus by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:34-35)
4.    His suffering, the Crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus (I Corinthians 15:1-4)
5.    His descent into hell (Matthew 12:40)
6.    His resurrection from the dead on the third day (John 10:18)
7.    His ascension into heaven (John 20:17; Acts 1)
8.    His seat at the right hand of God the Father (Matthew 22:24)
9.    The Second Coming of Jesus (I Thessalonians 4:15-5:4)
10.  The Holy Spirit (numerous Old and New Testament references)
11.  The Holy Catholic Church (Romans 12:4-5; Revelation)
12.  The communion of saints (Revelation 13)
13.  The forgiveness of sins
14.  The future resurrection of the body (I Thessalonians 4)
15.   Everlasting life for the righteous in Christ (John 3:16)

The doctrines stated in the Apostles Creed are very basic, fundamental beliefs that are universally held and accepted by all orthodox Christians, and are ultimately foundated in Scripture and are thus Apostolic in origin, hence the fact it is an Apostles creed.

The purpose of creeds such as this were to refute heretical teachings that began to plague the Church once it was free of persecution, and to this day the historic Creeds of the Church all are effective weapons against both apostasy and heresy.  As it was true then, so is it now, and perhaps more so - being many of us believe these days we are in are those prophesied just before the return of Christ, there are many weird and bizarre doctrines being propagated in the Church, and many of them are in stark opposition to both Christianity in general and the Holy Scriptures in particular.  In my studies, I have come to understand that heresy is varied, and seems to come in two forms:

1.  Practical Heresy - this involves questionable practices and innovations, as well as an over-emphasis on certain things that are otherwise orthodox, rather than belief.  As a matter of fact, a practical heresy can uphold orthodox doctrine and still be abherrent in practice.

2.  Doctrinal Heresy - this involves challenging and outright rejection of orthodox tenets of the Christian faith, and in many cases they involve the person of Christ, thus a subcategory called Christological heresies.  The great Creeds of the Church were often drawn up in response to these, as they are dangerous attacks on the faith.

It must be understood that practical heresy can become a doctrinal heresy if it is allowed to continue unchecked, and we now see that in our day with the proliferation of things such as the "seeker church" movement, Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven" philosophy, and the so-called "emerging church" movement.  All of these are technically practical heresies, but by ignoring the Tradition of the Church and seeking conformity with the world and flesh, they have begun to compromise essential teachings on sin, redemption, and heaven and hell, as well as ignoring Bible prophecy totally, so as not to "offend" the "seeker."  As a result, open doors have been created allowing for some bizarre syncretism with New Age religion - in the case of the "emerging church," the line has become very blurry as to what is Christian and what isn't - and secular psychology.  It is because of the widespread acceptance of these movements that today more than ever a Christian needs to know the historic Creeds of the Church in order to sharpen their discernment of false spiritualities and doctrine, and thus is the purpose of these lessons I have been led to share here.   ONLY in the historic Church can you find the true faith, once and for all handed to us directly from the Apostles, and ONLY in the historic Church, with its two-millenia-long legacy of faith, can doctrinal orthodoxy be established in the individual believer.  Fads and fashions come and go - once the Purpose Driven Life becomes a book you can only find on the dusty shelves of thrift stores, a new fad will take its place and be just as off-base - but the truth of the Gospel remains steadfast!  And, the Creeds effectively summarize that faith for us so that we may, as Psalm 119:11 exhorts us, get the Word hidden in our hearts.  It also, as 2 Timothy 2;15 states, allows us to "rightly divide the word of truth," so that we will not be deceived.  Praise be to God, and thanks be to Him, for His Holy Church, of which all of us who are true believers in Him are a part.  in her wisdom, the Church protects and safeguards us against the wolf-packs of heresy that seem to increase in number with every passing year as the return of the Lord draws nigh, and through our acceptance and embrace of that faith, we shall prevail in the Savior Whose blood has washed our sins away and saved us.  Sorry to preach at you, but knowing that I am part of the wonderful legacy of Christ's Holy Church excites me, as it should all true Christians.

As we continue these studies, I hope too that you will gain an appreciation for the true faith of the Holy Church that Christ Himself established, and may her wisdom be your nourishment, and may God's Word ultimately be our foundation as individual believers as well as a Church.  Thanks be to God, and may he bless each of you until next time.