The Apostles’ Creed More Or Less -- By: Albert W. Hitchcock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 056:223 (Jul 1899)
Article: The Apostles’ Creed More Or Less
Author: Albert W. Hitchcock


The Apostles’ Creed More Or Less

Albert W. Hitchcock.

Newburyport. Mass.

There is no more venerable or wide-spread symbol of the Christian church than that one styled the Apostles’ Creed. It has come nearer than any other formula to an adequate expression of our common faith. Augustine calls it, “Regula fidei brevis et grandis; brevis numero verborum; grandis pondere sententiarum.” It has embedded itself in ritual and covenant of prelatical and democratic churches alike, and multitudes look up to it with veneration almost equal to that accorded to the heart of the Scriptures in the teaching of Jesus. Yet it cannot be taken upon thoughtful lips to-day without many reservations, additions, and interpretations, which depart widely from the original meaning given to phrase and word. When it is brought close to the one standard and test of all creeds, the plain teaching of Jesus Christ, it appears that some things are stated in a misleading way, and others which Jesus held essential are left out altogether. Let us examine the symbol in the light of the simple teaching of Jesus, and seek a comparison between the two.

It is hardly necessary to remark that the title is a misnomer. The creed is ancient, even down to the early Christian centuries, but it is in no such sense apostolic as tradition has claimed when asserting that an apostle was author of each portion of it. Nor is it apostolic in a broader historic sense as the precise formula used by those whom Jesus appointed to serve as his ministers and organize his church on earth. It is a growth, formed through generations or even centuries, and may be intercepted by the student at several stages of its incompletion. The natural action of sympathetic minds within the faith, and of antagonists without, conspired to shape the formula hundreds of years after the last apostle had died. Doubtless the name attached to it has conferred a certain air and weight of authority. Yet it has no authority whatsoever, save as time and usage have given it. To have true authority, a creed must first command our full assent. That is the Protestant doctrine of authority.

No one employs a creed to express all of his faith, nor to declare his literal acceptance of every word and statement. There are so many ways in which to take a statement of doctrine, and every one must take it as he can. No two persons ever see the same rainbow. All who look when conditions are right see the refracted light in its prismatic coloring in the sky, but each observer really sees only his own bow. Position, atmos-

phere, subjective conditions, determine our apprehension of a creed. I cannot say to others, “You must accept my interpretation of the creed,...

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