Saturday, November 1, 2008

Answer 4 from Affirmative

MB’s next questions relate to the Nicene Creed, which he thinks is: “professed by every ancient Christian church in existence as containing a sound foundation to Christianity.”

The two Councils (respectively composing and revising it) provided a creed: a short recital of important Scriptural doctrines not the foundation itself.

As Augustine, in sermon 212, explained:

“We call it Creed or symbolum, transferring the term by a kind of simile, because merchants draw up for themselves a syrnbolum by which their alliance is held bound as by a pact of fidelity. Your union, moreover, is a spiritual fellowship, so that you are like traders seeking a valuable pearl, that is, the charity which will be poured forth in your hearts by the Holy Spirit who will be given to you. One makes progress toward this charity by faith in what is contained in the Creed: that you believe in God the Father Almighty, the invisible, immortal King of ages, the Creator of things visible and invisible; and in whatever else either sound reason or the authority of holy Scripture worthily tells us about Him.”

John Cassian, in Book VI, Chapter III, explained:

“For as you know a Creed (Symbolum) gets its name from being a collection. For what is called in Greek σίμβολο is termed in Latin “Collatio.” But it is therefore a collection (collation) because when the faith of the whole Catholic law was collected together by the apostles of the Lord all those matters which are spread over the whole body of the sacred writings with immense fulness of detail were collected together in sum in the matchless brevity of the Creed according to the Apostle's words: “Completing His word and cutting it short in righteousness because a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth.” This then is the short word which the Lord made collecting together in few words the faith of both of His Testaments and including in a few brief clauses the drift of all the Scriptures building up His own out of His own and giving the force of the whole law in a most compendious and brief formula. Providing in this, like a most tender father, for the carelessness and ignorance of some of his children that no mind however simple and ignorant might have any trouble over what could so easily be retained in the memory.”

Cassian described the Creed of Antioch, and Augustine apparently the so-called Apostle’s creed, but both explain that creeds were derived from the foundation of Scripture, Cassian more explicitly and Augustine less explicitly.

MB asked (first question), “Why does this Creed not profess Scripture Alone, and instead focuses on the Church?”

Only once does the creed mention why the miraculous is believed: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The one reason for believing: Scripture. Furthermore, discussing how the Holy Spirit speaks, the creed mentions only that the Holy Spirit is he “Who spake by the prophets.” The word “spake” (λαλησαν) is aorist (perfect in Latin: “locútus est”), indicating something already completed, as opposed to an ongoing process. This too is refers to Scripture, the prophets metonymically representing the inspired writings (cf. Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.). The creed does not “focus on the Church.”

Toward the end, the Creed lists “[and] (in) one holy, catholic, and apostolic church … ” (Greek version using square brackets, Latin in parentheses). Only such a church’s existence is mentioned. In contrast, the creed refers twice to Scripture, and the creed itself simply summarizes Scriptural doctrine. When it refers to Scripture explicitly, it for establishing the matter, and when it refers to Scripture indirectly (as “the prophets”) it for explaining their authority, namely that God spoke by them. In contrast, the church is not identified in the Nicene Creed as the foundation for anything.

MB continues, “Notice the Creed also does not mention Tradition either, since it is obvious that it resides in the structure of the Church.” “Either”? It seems MB has gone from missing one of the two references to Scripture in the creed to imagining that Scripture is not mentioned at all. In fact, “tradition” is not mentioned at all – but to suggest that this is because “it resides in the structure of the Church,” doesn’t explain the silence. The Scripture, being itself within Tradition (according to MB) would likewise “reside in the structure of the Church,” but it is explicitly mentioned. So, MB’s explanation of the silence isn’t and shouldn’t be persuasive.

Secondly, MB asks, “My question is, why when this Creed was written was the emphasis put on believing in the Catholic Church, rather than a profession of following the Sacred Scriptures alone?”

a) False dichotomy. We too believe in the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

b) Fallacy of selected emphasis. MB’s emphasis is on that clause, but that clause was not the emphasis of the drafters of the creed. It was only added in the revision to the creed at Constantinople. In any event, that clause is not the emphasis of the creed – the emphasis of the creed is on Christ’s divinity.

c) Fallacy of Non Sequitur. Although MB may wish that the creed suggested that men should believe what the “Catholic Church” says, that’s not what the creed says. Instead, the emphasis in the creed is on the unity, universality, and historicity of the church.

Thirdly, MB asked: “After all, if this (Sola Scriptura) is the bedrock of Christianity as you have been trying to prove, then why did this ancient council in the midst of heavy controversy neglect to include this in its Creed?”

Even the Arians were not so foolish as to deny that Scripture is the sole rule of faith; the issue that was being addressed was not the rule of faith, but the divinity of Christ; and they already addressed it as discussed above.

MB finally asked, “An inadvertent omission or error perhaps?” Already answered above.


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