The Vault

T.C. Hammond: Scripture Rules the Creeds

From the Vault of the Australian Church Record, December 8, 1955.


39 Articles: Article 8 – Of the Creeds

The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

In considering Article VIII we have to notice, first of all, the fact of the acceptance of the three ancient creeds. It is a common charge against members of the Church of England that they established an entirely new church in the reign of Henry VIII. This popular slander is refuted by the fact here emphasised that the Church of England acknowledges that it is bound by the ancient decisions of the Christian Church.

The Nicene Creed as we use it dates from the Council of Chalcedon which was held in 451 A.D. Hort traces it to the activity of Cyril Bishop of Jerusalem who incorporated sections of  the original Nicene Creed into the earlier Apostles’ Creed used in the Jerusalem Church. The so-called creed of Saint Athanasius is usually believed to date from some time in the early fifth century. The Apostles’ Creed goes back to the second century with certain additions bringing us as far as the eighth century. The Church of England can, therefore, confidently claim affinity with the authorised and widely accepted faith of the primitive church.

In addition to this fact, it is helpful to remember that the great central truths of the Christian Faith survived the shock of the great schism between the East and the West that reached its full peak in the eleventh century. They also survived the stormy period of the Reformation. The three creeds form the basis of the Christian Faith. We may be supremely thankful for this.

The second noteworthy fact is the ground on which these ancient symbols are accepted. The Article states they “ought thoroughly to be received and believed.” There is to be no compromise. The acceptance admits of no qualification. Every statement has a warrant that demands acceptance. The ground for this unqualified assertion is that “they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy scripture.” This is the foundation on which the Church of England rests. Traditions are given most respectful consideration as is set forth more distinctly in Article XXXIV. But while traditions demand respectful consideration the authority of scripture is supreme. The warrant which assures the truth of our credal statements is that they are gathered from the undoubted revelation of God. The Church of England, in company with any who accept the message of the Gospel, bows in obedience to the express declarations of God Himself ministered to us through His inspired word. There is an authority which brooks no interference. When God speaks man can do nought else but submit. The certainty of those things which we believe finds its firm support in the declarations of Holy Writ. Whatever is there is binding. Whatever is not there may be profitable but does not command the same unquestioning obedience. It is well for members of the Church of England to recognize this unalterable standard of divine truth. When charges are levelled, as they are frequently levelled, that the Church has forsaken the appointed guide given by God to His people, we can return confidently to the assertion of the Article. We accept the Creeds not on the authority of their framers, but because of their consonance with sacred scripture. And we are prepared to give the same obedience to any declaration that has the same warrant by holy scripture. These are revealed truths and in these truths we stay our souls.

This article from the ACR Vault is part of our Articulate series, listening to T.C. Hammond unpack the 39 Articles one by one.

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