Wednesday, February 27, 2013


The first vitally important thing to note about the Creed’s statement here is the use of the word “holy” rather than “Roman.” There was no “Roman” Catholic Church when the Creed was formed! The Church of the New Testament is not Roman Catholic. Says Church historian Philip Schaff,

There is a vast difference between Catholicism and Romanism. The former embraces all Christians, whether Roman, Greek, or Protestant; the latter is in its very name local, sectarian, exclusive. The holy Catholic Church is an article of faith; the Roman Church is not even named in the ancient Creeds. Catholicism extends through all Christian centuries; Romanism proper dates from the Council of Trent [1545-63]. Medieval Catholicism looked towards the Reformation; Romanism excludes and condemns the Reformation.[1]
As we shall see, though it is hard to pinpoint an exact date when the Creed was finalised, it can be seen that it was formulated long before the Council of Trent, and, as we shall see shortly, before the formation of the universal papacy. Alan Cairns says,

Apostles’ Creed: A statement of faith put in its final form around the end of the second century. It was not written by the apostles, but is a summary of Christian doctrine.[2]

            However, the Oxford English Reference Dictionary enlarges on the date where it says,

            Apostles’ Creed: a statement of Christian belief used in the Western Church, dating (with minor variations in form) from the fourth century.[3]

            While we are on it, the Oxford English Reference Dictionary defines the words “holy” and “catholic” as follows,

Holy 1. morally and spiritually excellent or perfect, and to be revered. 2. belonging to, devoted to, or empowered by God. 3. consecrated, sacred.

Catholic 1. of interest or use to all; universal.[4]

The Church therefore is holy or sacred because it belongs to Christ and it is catholic because it is universal. Thus to the unbiased the Creed mentions nothing about the Church being universally “Roman.” To be sure this is a contentious issue for some, but in this book I am only dealing with what the Creed says and not what some might wish to read into it. Roman Catholicism was developed by the papacy. And, for the record Francis Nigel Lee sets the record straight in bold terms where he says,

"There was no Papacy in the Early Church. As predicted in Holy Scripture, it would arise only later – and to test and strengthen True Christians. Daniel chapters 7 to 12; Second Thessalonians chapter 2; First John chapters 2 to 4; Revelation chapters 11 to 18.

"This occurred especially from about A.D. 600 onward. It climaxed around A.D. 1215, when the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation was enunciated officially."[5]

            The Reformation of the Church began on October 31, 1517 with Martin Luther posting his Ninety-Five Theses. Luther (and the other Reformers such as John Calvin after him) sought to bring the Church as it was then back to the clear teaching of the Bible, away from the errors that had crept in over the centuries. What could be wrong with that? The Council of Trent began pronouncing curses on any who dared differ from its general consensus and adherence to Church tradition – even where those traditions (such as Indulgences, Purgatory, and Transubstantiation)  contradicted the clear teaching of God’s Word! Loraine Boettner brings things into perspective where he says,

"Roman Catholics often attempt to represent Protestantism as something comparatively new, as having originated with Martin Luther and John Calvin in the sixteenth century. We do indeed owe a great debt to those leaders and to the Reformation movement that swept over Europe at that time. But the basic principles and the common system of doctrine taught be those Reformers and by the evangelical churches ever since go back to the New Testament and to the first century Christian Church. Protestantism as it emerged in the 16th century was not the beginning of something new, but a return to Biblical Christianity and to the simplicity of the Apostolic church from which the Roman Church had long since departed."[6]

            Let us again look at the words, “The Holy Catholic Church.” We have seen that word “holy” refers to the nature of the Church and the word “Catholic” refers to the extent of the Church on earth. Let us now focus our attention on the word “Church.” Says Alan Cairns,

"The word ekklesia is derived from two words ek, “out,” and kaleo, “to call.” In its broadest and basic sense, it refers to any assembly of people (cf. Acts 19:32,39,41), but its usual application in the Scriptures is, of course, to Christian assemblies of the kletoi, “the called ones.”"[7]

The Holy Catholic Church in the Apostles’ Creed therefore is not referring to a building but to a people, holy, and called by God. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” 1 Peter 1:15-16.

This “calling” is in line with what we looked at earlier under the head, “I believe in the Holy Ghost,” where we read,

"All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ."[8]

We have already noted that the Church, like in the parable of the field of wheat and tares, also includes some who may not be true Christians. However, God, by the proclamation of the Gospel, calls those who belong to Him. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word of God” Romans 10:17. I have listed the three crucial “Marks of the Church” in the following,

"The particular churches that go to make up the holy catholic or universal or visible church are governed by Jesus Christ through church representatives, i.e., Presbyters, a.k.a. as Elders. These Elders, Preaching and Ruling, are to ensure that the doctrine of the Gospel is preached and embraced in their respective churches. And, that the two Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are duly and properly administered. And, that public worship is performed in accordance with the Scriptures.

"Therefore the health of the church(s) on earth may be measured by these three things: 1. The purity of the Gospel. 2. The purity of the Sacraments. And 3. The purity of worship. The checks and balances in the Presbyterian system of Elder’s courts (e.g., Acts 14:23 & 15:2) serve to preserve the purity of these three items. These are crucial for a healthy church."[9]

(Excerpted from my e-book "I Believe!" at:

[1] Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, The History of Creeds, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, First reprinted 1983 from the 1931 edition by Harper & Row, (reprinted 1996), pp. 83-4.
[2] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, Ambassador Emerald International, Belfast & Greenville, 2002, p. 37.
[3] Oxford English Reference Dictionary, University Press, Oxford, 2003.
[4] Oxford English Reference Dictionary, University Press, Oxford, 2003.
[5] Francis Nigel Lee, Calvin on the Papacy, 2000
[6] Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, The Presbyterian and Reformed  Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1962 (reprinted 1977), p. 1.
[7] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, Ambassador Emerald International, Belfast & Greenville, 2002, pp. 88-89.
[8] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter X, Of Effectual Calling, para 1a.
[9][9] Neil Cullan McKinlay, Holding Fast Our Confession, e-book, 2012.

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