This week some old and tired arguments surrounding the Apostles Creed were resurrected as it was cited at the reverent and honorable funeral of #41 George H.W. Bush. I am continually perplexed at how a statement of sound biblical beliefs is so quickly and easily dismissed by my Protestant brothers and sisters because they can’t get past the misinterpreted use of the word “catholic”, a descriptive inserted acknowledging the universal fellowship under one faith. I have even read some comment that the Creed isn’t biblical, or isn’t recorded in its current form in the Bible and is thus irrelevant or even a heterodoxy. Those opposed to its acceptance as a statement of faith are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater simply because they incorrectly assume “catholic” refers to the Roman Catholic Church exclusively, and since they find fault with Catholicism, the Creed must too be in error. Sadly, those who hold this opinion are simply echoing bad teaching without any due diligence or exegesis on their own part.
So, I thought I would go through the Creed line by line, showing scriptural foundation for each tenet so the reader can decide. First, certain elements of the Creed are recorded in many nonbiblical sources from early church fathers, including Irenaeus and Eusebius, and in a somewhat formatted form as early as 390 A.D. It is given the name Apostles Creed as it is originally based on writings and teachings recorded by the original apostles of Christ, and adopted by the provinces of the original Orthodox Church, of which Rome was a part of before 1054. The Creed continues to be cited in more liturgical Christian churches today, including but not exclusive to the Roman Catholic Church. Here is the Creed broken down by line and verse:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord,
John 3:16: God loved us so much he sent us his only begotten son.
born of the virgin Mary,
Luke 1:34-35: “How can this be”, Mary asked, “as I am still a virgin”. The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you…”.
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried.
Matthew 27: 26, 31, 50, 59, 60: Pilate had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified; then they led him away to be crucified; and Jesus cried in a loud voice and gave up his spirit; Joseph took and wrapped the body in a clean cloth and placed it in a new tomb.
He descended into hell.
Ephesians 4:9; What could “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower regions of earth?
On the third day he rose from the dead:
Luke 24:5-6: Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
Mark 16:19; After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
from there he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
2 Timothy 4:1; In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
John 14:16; I will ask the Father and he will give you and advocate to help you and be with you forever, the Spirt of Truth
the holy catholic church,
1 Corinthians 12;12-13; Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. for we are all baptized by one spirit so as to form one body, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, and given one spirit to drink.
the communion of saints,
Psalm 133; How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity
the forgiveness of sins,
John 1:9; If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness
and the resurrection of the body (earlier forms say “flesh”)
1 Corinthians 15:52; in a flash, the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will all be changed
and the life everlasting.
John 3:16; that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
I should do so well as to live my life every day by this creed. I could have selected from dozens of passages to support any of these holy tenets of faith. There is nothing here that is in any way discriminatory toward any faith except those who do not believe in the triune God. The Creed of the Apostles is a beautiful expression of sound biblical doctrine. While I would agree that it is always best to live out your beliefs in deed and action, I see nothing wrong or in error by quoting this beautiful statement if you so choose. I do find fault, however, with anyone who condemns anyone else who chooses to quote it.
We in the Protestant church often times get too wrapped up in traditions we don’t practice or understand. We are quick to condemn as idolatry any practice that varies from our own denominations. We laugh at the reverent parade of the holy Book before readings but think dancing a two step in the “spirit” is normal. We fault people who pray The Lord’s Prayer but hold parishioners in contempt for not tithing by teaching them they won’t be blessed. We treat the Word of God like we do some politicians-it’s mostly good if you overlook those parts you don’t understand or agree with. And we are simply to eager to ostracize anyone who doesn’t worship like we do. We are guilty of the same exclusion we condemn others for who cite this Creed. It is hypocritical at the very least.
Perhaps, having attended a Catholic high school and having a brother who is a priest in the Greek Orthodox church, I am a bit more objective through my exposure. But we are living in an age when we should be finding ways to “commune with the saints” in a show of love, compassion and unity in reaching out to a world who needs to hear one voice of truth. We should be very concerned with allowing the body of Christ to go the way of politics by finding partisanship due to worship styles and traditions. We are to test all teaching to confirms its alliance with scripture, but we are not to create false heresy by misinterpretation or sloppy research. We can do better than that. Peace.