Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition / Edition 1

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Overview


One of the world’s leading theologians offers important insights into the history and significance of Christian creeds.

“A work of keen insight, great learning, and ecumenical generosity.”—Robert Louis Wilken, First Things

“[Pelikan’s] book is learned, indeed massively so, yet because of the lucidity of its prose it is accessible to the general reader.”—Luke Timothy Johnson,Washington Post Book World

“Indispensable. . . . An achievement unlikely to be surpassed.”—Donald K.McKim, Theological Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300109740
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 12/12/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 553,004
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author

JAROSLAV PELIKAN is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and in 2004 received the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences. During his distinguished career he has received dozens of honors and awards, including 42 honorary degrees. He is the author of nearly 40 books and the editor of scores of others.

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Read an Excerpt

Credo

Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition
By Jaroslav Pelikan

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2003 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-09388-9


Chapter One

Continuity and Change in Creeds and Confessions

THE OVERWHELMING IMPRESSION that any new reader will carry away from reviewing any of the collections of creedal and confessional texts from various historical periods listed above under "Editions, Collections, and Reference Works," or the volumes of Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition, must surely be their sheer repetitiveness. Above all the creeds from the period of the early church, and then once again, though this time at much greater length, the confessions from the age of the Protestant Reformation, do seem to be making the same points over and over and over again, often in the same esoteric and archaic terminology, citing the same biblical passages as proof texts, and pronouncing the same condemnations upon the same old heresies (or upon each other's new heresies)-and all with the same sense of total self-confidence and utter rectitude. Not only are they constantly making tacit or overt cross-references to one another, in substantiation or in refutation as the case may be. But thedifferences between them, which came out of theological controversy and which went on to spawn still further theological controversy (and then, of course, to generate still further creeds and confessions, seemingly ad infinitum), must at least sometimes seem to any modern reader to be so minute as well as so marginal that only a specialist in historical theology would be able to tell the various confessional positions apart or, for that matter, would even be interested enough to care to do so. That impression is no less forceful even when such a reader happens to be a serious Christian believer, who cares deeply about the integrity of Christian faith and teaching.

Such repetitiveness is, of course, no accident. It is intended to condemn those who "rashly seek for novelties and expositions of another faith," and above all to document-even actually to celebrate-the continuity of these creeds and confessions of faith not only with the other orthodox creeds and confessions that have preceded them but above all with what is cherished as the authentic apostolic tradition. In the opening words of his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius of Caesarea, the first historian of the church and himself the source for an important creed (preserved by Athanasius), calls this tradition "the successions from the holy apostles [tas ton hieron apostolon diadochas]." As the use of Eusebius by later confessions suggests, this phrase probably refers in the first instance to the linear succession of the bishops of the church through their predecessors all the way back to the original twelve apostles, for which he himself provides some of the most important historical documentation, specifically for the diocese of Rome and the diocese of Alexandria. But his interest throughout the Ecclesiastical History is not only in these lists of bishops but also in the interrelations between the two concerns that a later chapter of this book, following ecumenical precedent, calls "faith" and "order," the apostolic teaching of the church and the apostolic structure of the church. For as the bishops who stand in the legitimate apostolic succession, according to Eusebius, are charged with responsibility for preserving and defending the true and apostolic faith of the church, so also the apostolic order of the church serves as a sign of the integrity of its faith and doctrine. Thus Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History is setting forth in narrative form an understanding of the relation between faith and order that was widely held throughout the early centuries of the church. Throughout the ensuing centuries, moreover, that understanding of continuity and change goes on characterizing the orthodox and catholic view of the relation between the changeless gospel and the creed. It is articulated epigrammatically by Charles Williams, speaking about the Council of Nicaea in 325: "The nature of the Church had not changed, and only fools suppose that it had.... It had become a creed, and it remained a Gospel," so that in later centuries of Christian history, he continues, "the Gospels may have been neglected but the Creed never failed."

1.1. Continuity versus Change in the Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils

Underlying the creedal and conciliar definition of orthodoxy from the beginning have been three shared presuppositions: first, that there is a straight line, of the kind Williams describes, from the Gospels to the creed; consequently, second, that the true doctrine being confessed by the councils and creeds of the church is identical with what the New Testament calls "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints"; and therefore, third, that continuity with that faith is the essence of orthodoxy, and discontinuity with it the essence of heresy. On the basis of those presuppositions, the affirmation of creedal continuity and the repudiation of creedal novelty dominate the decrees of each of the seven councils of the ancient church that are recognized by both East and West as "ecumenical" and authoritative:

Nicaea I (325). Already in the issuance of the first creed or statement of faith ever officially adopted to be binding on the universal church rather than merely on a local or a regional church, the creed promulgated at the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea in 325, under the watchful eye of the recently converted Emperor Constantine I, the accompanying warnings and canons make it clear that "the catholic and apostolic church anathematizes" any and all those so-called Christians who presume to deviate from this creed or who take it upon themselves to alter it. Going even beyond his predecessor Constantine in backing the authority of The Creed of Nicaea with the police power of the Roman empire, Emperor Theodosius I in an edict issued on 27 February 380 equated that creed of the year 325 with the very "faith which we believe to have been communicated by the apostle Peter to the Romans and maintained in its traditional form to the present day." Thereby he was ascribing to Nicene orthodoxy a massive and unbroken continuity of catholic and apostolic tradition, which went back three centuries to the authority of the prince of the apostles, Simon Peter, and through him to Christ himself, and which was intended to be preserved unchanged for as many more centuries into the future as the world and the church militant might stand. Moreover, Emperor Theodosius forbade any change or deviation from this apostolic and Nicene faith, at pain of both temporal and eternal punishment.

Constantinople I (381). The bishops (all of them from the East) who met at Constantinople for the second ecumenical council in 381, the year following this edict of Emperor Theodosius, warned no less solemnly in their first canon against changing or tampering with The Creed of Nicaea: "The profession of faith of the holy fathers who gathered in Nicaea in Bithynia is not to be abrogated, but is to remain in force [Me atheteisthai ten pistin ton hagin pateron ... alla menein ekeinn kyrian]." But the First Council of Constantinople in 381 did not simply repeat the text of the creed that the Council of Nicaea had decreed in 325. Rather, in response to the new problematics of the theological situation a half-century after Nicaea, it promulgated its own "new" creed, beginning "We believe in one God the Father allpowerful, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things both seen and unseen"; among other new clauses, this creed contained a greatly amplified confession about the Holy Spirit, and therefore a more comprehensive statement of the doctrine of the Trinity than that of Nicaea had been. In scholarly usage this "new creed" is now usually labeled The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which is the title being followed here; the title was not contemporary to its composition but is the invention of modern studies in creedal history. It might suggest, as was once supposed, that this was a simple revision and expansion by the Council of Constantinople of The Creed of Nicaea from 325; but there is reason to believe that it was actually an existing baptismal creed or that it was based upon one. But with the important substitution (or, if it was originally a baptismal creed, the restoration), in the usage of both the East and the West, of the singular "I believe [Pisteuo, Credo]" for the council's original plural "We believe [Pisteuomen]," as well as of singulars for plurals in later verbs, and of course with the far graver substitution in the West of the formula "from the Father and the Son [ex Patre Filioque]" for the council's original wording, "from the Father [ek patros]" in speaking about the procession of the Holy Spirit, it is this creed of the second ecumenical council that is usually identified as The Nicene Creed. Such is the title it bears not only in the service books of millions of worshipers who belong to the several major denominations that use it in their liturgies but also in the program notes read by millions of concertgoers, because of all the musical settings of the Latin mass. But the universal designation of The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (which comes from 381) as The Nicene Creed (as though it had come from 325) does raise the historically and theologically important question: What can be the meaning of the verb "to abide, to remain in force [menein]," and of the adjective "sovereign, authoritative [kyrian]" in this decree of Constantinople I in 381 about the decree of Nicaea I in 325, terms that would seem to pertain not only in general to the doctrinal content but precisely to the ipsissima verba of The Creed of Nicaea, when the text of The Creed of Nicaea has not in fact remained in force as a functioning part of Christian confession and worship and is not authoritative or even familiar at all today, except for its inclusion in one or another collection of ancient creeds such as this one?

Ephesus (431). Fifty years after the First Council of Constantinople, a council met at Ephesus in 431, which after some difficulty achieved recognition (after the fact) and "reception" as the third ecumenical council. That is how it is still counted also by the Oriental Orthodox "non-Chalcedonian" or "pre-Chalcedonian" churches, which do not accept the authority of the councils after Ephesus and which have conventionally, though imprecisely, been labeled "Monophysite." The Council of Ephesus included in its Acts the Second Letter of Cyril of Alexandria to Nestorius, in which Cyril expresses his resolve "to remove scandals and to expound the healthy word of faith to those who seek the truth." But "the most effective way to achieve this end," Cyril continues, "will be zealously to occupy ourselves with the words of the holy fathers [en tois ton hagion pateron peritynchanontes logois], to esteem their words, to examine our words to see if we are holding to their faith as it is written [en tei pistei kata to gegrammenon]." These formulas are a reference not only to the orthodox and catholic tradition in general but specifically to the creed as it was legislated and set down in writing by the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and to the very words of that first creed. And the Council of Ephesus itself, under the domination of Cyril, "decreed the following: 'It is not permitted to produce or write or compose any other creed [heteran pistin] except the one which was defined by the holy fathers who were gathered together in the Holy Spirit at Nicaea. Any who dare to compose or bring forth or produce another creed, ... if they are bishops or clerics they should be deposed of their respective charges, and if they are laymen are to be anathematized.'" But when the Council of Ephesus nevertheless went on in its Formula of Union to issue an additional affirmation of its own, beginning that affirmation with the solemn formulaic term that is employed for an official creedal statement, "We confess [Homologoumen]," it did so directly after having said that The Creed of Nicaea of 325 "is sufficient both for the knowledge of godliness and for the repudiation of all heretical false teaching," which included the new "heretical false teaching" of Nestorius that had precipitated the calling of the council. In spite of all these vigorous espousals of creedal continuity, the third ecumenical council is far better known for its innovative change in having, with equal solemnity and formality, added to the deposit of the church's normative teaching the identification of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God or Theotokos. The application of that title to her had probably begun at least a century earlier, though in the language of prayer rather than in the language of creed; the first incontestable use of it seems to be in the statement of faith coming from Alexander, bishop of Alexandria (d. 328). But only at the Council of Ephesus was it made official and binding.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Credo by Jaroslav Pelikan Copyright © 2003 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................xi
Abbreviations for Creeds and Confessions....................xvii
Editions, Collections, and Reference Works....................xlv
I. Definition of Creed and Confession....................1
1. Continuity and Change in Creeds and Confessions....................7
1.1. Continuity versus Change in the Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils....................9
1.2. Patristic Thought on Continuity and Change....................18
1.3. The Doctrine of the Trinity as Example of Continuity and of Change....................22
1.4. The Person of Christ as Exemplar of Continuity and of Change....................29
1.5. Change and the "Passing" of Creeds....................31
2. The Creedal and Confessional Imperative....................35
2.1. Believing and Confessing....................37
2.2. Faith Defined....................43
2.3. Confessing the Faith....................53
2.4. The Content of the Confession....................59
3. Confession of the Faith as Doctrine....................64
3.1. The Teaching of the Church....................66
3.2. "The Sum of Doctrine"....................71
3.3. "Doctrines" and Doctrine....................78
3.4. Doctrine as Dogma....................88
4. Faith and Order....................93
4.1. Apostolic Creed and Apostolic Ministry....................100
4.2. Doctrines of Church Order East and West....................104
4.3. Polity as Doctrine in the Reformed Confessions....................107
4.4. Faith and Order in the Ecumenical Confessional Dialogue....................114
II. The Genesis of Creeds andConfessions....................123
5. Scripture, Tradition, and Creed....................127
5.1. Creeds in Scripture....................130
5.2. Scripture in the Creeds and Confessions....................136
5.3. The Confessions and the Problem of the Canon....................139
5.4. Confessional Rules of Biblical Hermeneutics....................142
6. The Rule of Prayer and the Rule of Faith....................158
6.1. The Lord's Prayer in the Confessions....................161
6.2. Lex orandi lex credendi....................166
6.3. The Place of Creed in Liturgy....................178
6.4. Councils and Confessions on Worship....................181
7. Formulas of Concord-And of Discord....................186
7.1. Creedal Anathema and Polemics....................189
7.2. Direct and Indirect Censures....................195
7.3. Creeds and Confessions as Instruments of Concord....................199
7.4. The Holy Spirit of Concord and the Sacrament of Concord: Two Ironic Case Histories....................205
8. The Formation of Confessions and the Politics of Religion....................216
8.1. Confessing as a Political Act....................218
8.2. Civil Law on Adherence to Creeds....................225
8.3. Confessions and the Formation of Politics....................229
8.4. The Politics of Confessional Diversity....................241
III. The Authority of Creeds and Confessions....................245
9. Creedal Dogma as Church Law....................249
9.1. Creedal Formulation as Enactment....................252
9.2. Reception of Creeds, Councils, and Confessions as Ratification....................255
9.3. The Enforcement of Orthodoxy....................261
9.4. Confessional Subscription as Legal Compliance....................264
9.5. Rules of Confessional Hermeneutics....................273
10. Deeds, Not Creeds?....................278
10.1. Doctrines of Christian Discipline in the Reformation Confessions....................280
10.2. Heresy and/or Schism....................288
10.3. Orthodoxy and Asceticism....................293
10.4. Christian Love the Presupposition for Christian Confession....................300
10.5. A Modern Secular Parallel....................304
11. Transmission of Creeds and Confessions to Other Cultures....................306
11.1. Cultus, Code, and Creed Across Cultural Boundaries....................309
11.2. The Fate of Creeds in Missions and Migrations....................318
11.3. Patterns of Creedal Indigenization....................323
11.4. The Paradigm: Shema to Homoousios....................330
12. The Orthodoxy of the Body of the Faithful....................336
12.1. What Did the Laity Believe, Teach, and Confess?....................340
12.2. Popular Religion, the Rule of Prayer, and Tradition....................345
12.3. Conformity by the People of the Church to Civil and Creedal Law....................353
12.4. Code, Creed, and Folk Culture....................359
IV. The History of Creeds and Confessions....................365
13. Rules of Faith in the Early Church....................369
13.1. The Primal Creed....................374
13.2. The Kerygma and Baptismal Symbols....................377
13.3. The Deposit of the Faith, Evangelism, and Apologetics....................383
13.4. Didache, Catechesis, and Formulas of Exorcism....................388
13.5. Prescribed Forms of Praying and of Confessing....................393
14. Affirmations of Faith in Eastern Orthodoxy....................397
14.1. The Ambivalence of the Orthodox Church Toward "Symbolical Books"....................399
14.2. The Liturgy as the Church's Preeminent Confession of the Faith....................405
14.3. The Sacred Tradition of the Seven Ecumenical Councils....................413
14.4. The Eastern Confessions as Equal and Opposite Reactions....................419
15. Professions of Faith in the Medieval West....................427
15.1. The Western Reception of the Catholic Creedal and Conciliar Tradition....................428
15.2. The Confessionalization of Western Sacramental Doctrine....................437
15.3. Scholastic Theology as Reasoning on the Basis of the Creed....................444
15.4. The Rise of Ecclesiological Confessions in the Later Middle Ages....................449
16. Confessions of Faith in the Reformation Era....................457
16.1. The Proliferation of Confessions in the Age of the Reformation....................460
16.2. Lutheran, Reformed, Roman Catholic, and Radical "Confessionalisms"....................466
16.3. Catholic Substance and Protestant Principle in Reformation Confessions....................472
16.4. From Reformation Confessions to Confessional Scholasticism....................480
17. Statements of Faith in Modern Christianity....................486
17.1. The Discomfort with Creed Caused by the Consciousness of Modernity....................488
17.2. Old and New Contexts of Christian Confessing....................497
17.3. The Flowering of Creedal and Confessional Scholarship in the Modern Era....................505
17.4. In Light of Their History, Do Creeds Have a Future as Well as a Past?....................508
V. Bibliography....................517
VI. Indexes to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition....................537
A. A Comparative Creedal Syndogmaticon, with Alphabetical Index....................538
B. Ecclesiastical Index: Churches, Heresies, Creeds, Confessions, Councils....................575
VII. Indexes to Credo A. References to Scripture....................587
B. References to Creeds and Confessions....................591
C. Names of Persons....................604
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