The Apostles' Creed
A creed is a statement designed to show in summary form what one believes. Therefore a Christian creed must reflect doctrine taught in Scriptures. Creeds do not contain all doctrine of Scriptures, but usually emphasize major beliefs and additional points necessary to refute false doctrines of their time. Creeds coming after the Apostles' Creed, which is one of (if not) the earliest creed of the church, often expand on certain points due to new opposition. For example, The Nicene Creed of the 4th century spends more time emphasizing the Deity of Christ as a direct rebuttal to the Arians (a growing heresy of that time) who denied that Jesus was fully God.
While it's unlikely that the apostles directly composed this creed, it definitely reflects their beliefs wherein it also reflects the clear teaching of Scriptures. In its earliest forms it is thought to have been written in the late first century or, at the latest, in the second century. It's long time use by the church has shown it to reflect the basic doctrines of the church since its beginning.
Some Protestant churches have discarded this creed, viewing it as being tainted by continued use in the Roman Catholic Church. A church's use of this creed, even while involved in error, in no way detracts from the creed's content. If the content is Biblical and it is then it is a valid expression of Christian belief. Protestant churches who continue to use this creed, yet deny the literal virgin birth, or have discarded God creating in favor of evolution, are just as much in error... yet the truth of the creed still stands.
A number of early forms of this creed exist, showing some of its revisions and expansions. While the Apostles' Creed commonly used today grew directly out of Western forms, we've also included Eastern editions to show common content...
Minor/Egypt [known as Epistula Apostolorum] (c. 150 A.D.)
Father, the Ruler of the Universe,
Iranaeus [Against Heresies, book 3, chapter 4, section 1] (c. 180 A.D.) End Note 2
[They] believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all
Iranaeus [Against Heresies, book 1, chapter 4, section 1] (c. 180 A.D.) End Note 2
[We believe] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth,
[western, in interrogatory form] (c. 215 A.D.) End
believe in God the Father Almighty?
in one God, the Father All Governing,
Old Roman Creeds (c. 340+ A.D.)
in God almighty [the Father almighty, invisible (in one version c.
The Apostles' Creed (c. 6th Century A.D.)
in God the Father almighty,
Along with being a quick summary of Christian belief, the Apostle's creed also refuted one of the earliest heresies confronting the church: Gnosticism. The Gnostics, together with a few other groups (some coming later) denied that God had come in the flesh. Some even held that Jesus did not have a physical body. The Biblical book of 1 John actually begins with a clear statement showing that these beliefs were wrong...
Showing the need to be clear on these things, the Apostles' Creed clearly emphasized Jesus' humanity. The following is a quick look at what the Creed sought to teach in contrast to common false beliefs surrounding the early church.End Note 3 (It should be noted that many of these errors still exist today, especially in teachings of cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses.)
believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Gnostics held that creation (i.e. the whole physical universe) was evil and that God did not make it. The creed clearly points to God's special creation as testified to throughout all of Scriptures; and not only in the book of Genesis. See the response attached to this article regarding a dispute over the first lines of this creed.
conceived of the Holy Spirit,
Gnostics believed that God had never taken a human nature or a human body. Some tried to divide Christ and Jesus (the man), claiming that Christ used Jesus or spoke through him. These even went so far as to say that Jesus did not receive Christ until the Holy Spirit descended upon him at his baptism and that the Spirit left him before the crucifixion. Others claimed there was never a physical man Jesus at all, but only an appearance of a man. The creed clearly affirms that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, specifically denying the Gnostic position that the Spirit had nothing to do with Jesus until his Baptism. Additionally the creed states that He was born, showing that He had a real physical body, not just an appearance, and further that He was born of a virgin noting that his life was special from the very beginning and not just from His baptism on.
under Pontius Pilate,
There were, and are, many stories featuring gods who died and were resurrected. These myths [and that is what they are] always point to a nonspecific ancient time. The Creed points out that Jesus suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried at a real time and place in history. (Remember that dates were related to rulers in Biblical times, as our uniform calendar did not exist yet.)
He descended into hell.
Together with the line before it, the Creed emphasizes that Jesus was really dead. This was a physical death, with a dead body that was actually placed in a real tomb. He was not merely unconscious, and later revived. While Christians differ on what Jesus did, if anything, when His spirit left His body, the Creed merely points out that like all who die, His spirit left His body. The Creed's reference to Jesus' descent into Hades (or Hell, or Sheol) is only here to make it completely clear that His death was not just fainting, or a coma, but death in every sense of the word. (Read, if you have opportunity, John Calvin's view of this line, as found in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, for an interesting perspective).
The third day He arose again from the dead.
The creed emphasizes a bodily (physical) resurrection from the dead, which again refutes any who said Jesus never really died, as well as all who claim that He stayed dead in the normal manner of mankind.
ascended into heaven
Jesus, the Messiah, is clearly portrayed by the Creed as being alive, continuing forever in His role as mediator between mankind and God. Likewise He is portrayed as the one who will judge the world, a role only attributed to God throughout the Old Testament. Therefore Jesus is shown to be man and God.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
Gnostics believed that the deep or important teachings of God where only for a select few (namely them). This meant that "common" people could not find or understand the truth apart from special people who could show it (or reveal it) to them. The Creed reflected the teachings of Scripture that God, by His Spirit, imparts His gospel to everyone who will believe (Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, weak, strong, male, female, etc.). With this comes the understanding that the gospel is to be preached to the entire world. The word "catholic," that is used here, is merely an old word meaning "universal". The Creed's claim, of the church being universal, directly assaulted the Gnostic belief that deep spiritual teachings were only for a select few.
communion of saints,
Gnostics believed that man only needed more enlightenment or wisdom. To them, sin was not a problem, only ignorance. Of course, this denied any need for forgiveness. Two differing ways of living out these false beliefs came about. One believed that the body was the real problem, leading these individuals into a monastic type life, working to deny all pleasures to the body. The other believed that the body was completely separate from the soul, so you could do anything you wanted in the body (living only for pleasure) and it made no difference on the soul. To both of these groups, the Creed clearly pointed to the need of forgiveness from sin and the fellowship of believers (with each other and God).
resurrection of the body,
Again, Gnostics held that the physical world was the real problem. (As do cults of today such as Christian Science). If one could merely be free of the physical realm, everything would be all right. For this reason, Gnostics didn't want (or believe in) a resurrection. The Creed closes with the hope of the church, that the One who defeated death will raise us bodily, and make us new, to experience life forever untainted again by sin and death.
In summary, this Creed in a few short lines encompasses many of the great truths of our Christian faith. I believe... do you?
2. In context, Iranaeus shows that these points are a summary of the faith as held by all believers. Every Christian around the world, whether in his local church or a "barbarian" who came to faith by someone preaching (but not yet having written Scriptures), all will believe these things as they are the essence of the faith passed down by the Apostles and, indeed, as are recorded in the Apostolic writings of Scripture.
3. If you are looking for a longer examination of the Apostles' Creed, from a different perspective namely, better defining the basic beliefs that the church should hold dear check out R.C. Sproul's Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need to Know (Baker).
(c) 2005/11 by Brent MacDonald/LTM - Version 2b
This question did not come from an evolutionist who denies that God created, it came from a believer who believes the wording to be heresy. The following included excerpt from the letter I received and my response.
I will defend this first line of the Apostle's Creed, not because I must but because I believe it expresses the truth of Scriptures. Any summary of belief does not have to use the exact wording of Scriptures, or even a word found in Scriptures, rather the words must convey the idea(s) underlying what Scriptures teaches. It is on this basis that we can claim God to be Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Triune, because the concept behind each word is present in Scriptures, though the exact phraseology is not.
I think it's a red-herring that you would claim this to be some form of deemphasizing the divinity of Christ, a means of encouraging works and tradition for salvation. The largest body of professed Christians on this planet, the Roman Catholic Church (http://www.liontracks.org/roarlion/xrcatho.htm), unequivocally holds to the divinity of Jesus Christ and yet thoroughly espouses a works and tradition based theology of salvation. This line in the Apostle's Creed certainly was not the start of de-emphasizing the divinity of Jesus; there were individuals, cults, and movements, around for hundreds of year before that had done so outright. With this line appearing in the creed around the seventh or eighth centuries, consider that the Arian heresy (named after the Alexandrian priest Arius, circa 250-336 A.D.) had long since denied that the Son was eternal and one with God. The council of Nicaea, under Athanasius, specifically reaffirmed the coeternity and coequality of the Father and the Son in 325 A.D. It is probable that the early form of the Apostle's Creed dating to 325 A.D. was specifically formulated to help refute Arianism.
In opposition to Arian-type heretics, hosts of Bible believing Christians, all holding to salvation through Christ by faith and not works, have held to the statement that God the Father is maker (creator) of heaven and heaven. Examples include virtually every Protestant Reformer, and preachers such as Charles Spurgeon. They, of course, unwaveringly, held to the deity of Christ. The statement from the creed, correct or incorrect, can be used, distorted, or ignored for whatever purpose a person desires. But I would defend that this creedal statement is accurate and I hold to sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fides, and trust completely in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.
It is a proper understanding of Scriptures to claim that the entire Triune God created - meaning Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This does not diminish the Deity of Christ; it properly affirms His relationship within the Godhead.
God (singular) refers to Himself at creation as being "us", a plurality of one. Using passages throughout the totality of God's word, it can be shown that each person of the Trinity was involved in creating. The Holy Spirit, of course, was directly present and referenced in the same Genesis account:
The New Testament, the completion of God's progressive revelation, which certainly makes clearer many Old Testament passages and shadows, clearly shows Jesus (the Son) as being Creator too.
God the Father made the world through the Son. The Greek preposition in Hebrews 1:2 being even more clearly "through" than the one translated as "by" in some of the other passages. The "by" is obviously a synonym though. This means that it's completely proper to call the Father creator along with calling the Son creator. As such one is the primary cause and the other the secondary, yet wording such as this hardly encompasses the unity within the Godhead. On the basis of Hebrews 1:1-3 alone, the wording of the first line of the Apostle's Creed is vindicated - God the Father created. The "how" is unquestionably through the Son.
The Triune God has revealed himself as a God of order; even within His own person there is a structure of authority. Having an authority structure in no way makes one inferior to the other but assures perfect unity in purpose and action. The following statements help in understanding the relationships within the Trinity.
Jesus was made His part very clear. He was never acting on His own; rather He was imitating the Father, fully and perfectly doing His father's will.
The apostle Paul speaks of God (by implication of the context, God the Father) as Creator and the one who is accomplishing His purpose through the Son. Even if the general reference to "God" was the entirety of the Triune God, it still makes it valid to refer to the Father as being Creator, no less or more than the Son.
While not necessary to this discussion regarding the Father and Son being Creator, the following verses illustrate the earlier statement on how the Holy Spirit interacts within the authority structure of the Trinity.
The Spirit is sent by the Father:
The Spirit is sent by the Son:
Notice what the Spirit is called:
The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son:
While some verses, or passages, seem to say that only the Father sends, or only the Son sends, and others both, all are correct. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son. This makes it correct to say that the Son is the sender of the Holy Spirit and also correct to say that the Father is the sender of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, it is no less correct to call the Father creator of all and the Son creator of all.
Holding one wording up against the other, when both are correct, misses the point of the unity between the Father and the Son in the Godhead. In regards to the Holy Spirit, a thousand years ago, one of the greatest arguments fought within the church was "whose Spirit?" The western church rightly claimed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son, while the Eastern Church got hung up on wording (specifically the last half of John 15:26) and said that the Holy Spirit only proceeds from the Father. Although there were other underlying factors, both and right and wrong on each side, this was the professed primary cause of the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. By Scriptures, on this one issue, I would have to agree with the Roman Catholic Church of that day and it's adherence to the confession of faith expressed by the Council of Toledo (589 A.D.): the Spirit proceeds from the Father "and the Son". While not an exact quotation from Scriptures, it certainly summarizes what the Bible teaches.
As with the Apostle's creed, I can confidently proclaim "I believe in God the Father Maker of Heaven and Jesus". Could the creed have added another section regarding Jesus, also proclaiming Him as Creator? Certainly. But, as with all summaries of belief (instant or formulated), someone ends up determining how much detail to give. The only way you can be assured of not missing anything is to quote Genesis to Revelation. For the Son, the Apostle's Creed chose to focus on Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, and His coming again to judge. As a summary it could have also said more about His being sent by the Father. There's always ways to make a summary longer, but most of these early creeds were trying to make a memorable statement encompassing the basics. Many later creeds and confessions of faith added a whole lot more detail, but become so long that people do not, or can not, memorize them. Wherein it doesn't distort, I'd rather have someone learn and know some of the truth than none of it - in fact, we do the same when we have people memorize a single verse of Scriptures apart from its context.