Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: the Apostles’ Creed

Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1120 AD

1. We believe and and do firmly hold all that which is contained in the twelve articles of the symbol, which is called the Apostles Creed, accounting for heresy whatsoever is disagreeing and not consonant to the said twelve articles.

2. We believe that there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

3. We acknowledge for the holy canonical Scriptures, the books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicle, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Here follow the books Apocryphal, which are not received of the Hebrews. But we read them (as saith Jerome in his Prologue to the Proverbs) for the instruction of the people, not to confirm the authority of the doctrine of the Church: 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch with the Epistle of Jeremiah, Esther from the tenth chapter to the end, The Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, The History of Susanna, The History of the Dragon, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees.

Here follow the books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, #1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, the Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation of John.

4. The aforesaid books teach us that there is one God, Almighty, all wise and all good, who has made all things by his goodness. For he formed Adam in his own image and likeness. But that by the envy of the devil, and the disobedience of Adam, sin has entered into the world and that we are sinners in Adam and by Adam.

5. That Christ was promised to our fathers who received the Law, that so knowing by the Law their sin, unrighteousness and insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ, to satisfy for their sins and to accomplish the Law by himself.

6. That Christ was born in the time appointed by God the Father, that is to say in the time when all iniquity abounded, and not for the cause of good works, for all were sinners: but that he might show us grace and mercy, in being faithful.

7. That Christ is our life, truth, peace, and righteousness, as also our shepherd, advocate, sacrifice and priest, who died for the salvation of all those that believe, and is risen for our justification.

8. In like manner, we firmly hold that there is no other mediator and advocate with God the Father, save only Jesus Christ. And as for the virgin Mary, she was holy, humble and full of grace, and in like manner do we believe concerning all the other saints, that they wait in heaven for the resurrection of their bodies at the Day of Judgment.

9. We believe that after this life there are only two places, the one for the saved and the other for the damned, which two places we call Paradise and Hell, absolutely denying that Purgatory imagined by Antichrist and taught contrary to the truth.

10. We hav always accounted as an unspeakable abomination before God all those inventions of men, namely the feasts and the vigils of saints, the water which they call holy, and to abstain from flesh upon certain days, but especially their masses.

11. We esteem for an abomination and as anti-Christian all those human inventions which are a trouble and prejudice to the liberty of the Spirit.

12. We do believe that the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, or visible forms of the invisible grace, accounting it good that the faithful sometimes use the said signs or visible forms if it may be done. However, we believe and hold that the faithful may be saved without receiving the aforesaid signs in case they have no place nor any means to use them.

13. We acknowledge no other sacrament but baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

14. We ought to honour the secular powers by subjection, ready obedience and paying of tributes.

Did Jesus descend into hell?

The Apostles’ Creed says: “He descended into hell.” Or does it? This short little confession of the essentials of the faith is thought to have begun as questions that were asked of applicants for baptism: “Do you believe . . . ?” It was soon compiled into the form we have today – except for the clause “He descended into hell.” This clause was not added until the fourth century.

The Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant churches use the version containing this clause. Anabaptists have never accepted the “descended into hell” clause.

Doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus was in hell after His death on the cross? There are a few verses that might seem to give this idea, but does that impression stand up to a close examination?

Psalm 16:10 says “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Peter quotes this verse in Acts 2:27, referring to it again in verse 31, and applies it to Christ. The original words translated as hell are sheol in Hebrew and hades in Greek, both words refer to the place of the departed spirits after death, where they wait for the resurrection of the body. The basic sense of the passage is that Jesus’ body would not lie in the tomb long enough to suffer decomposition.

1 Peter 3:19 is often cited as a basis for the descent into hell. Here is the whole passage from verse 18 to verse 20: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

The Roman Catholic Church bases its doctrine of purgatory on verse 19, teaching that there will be a second chance for the lost after death. This verse does not offer any hint that the “spirits in prison” repented, nor does any other part of Scripture speak of a second chance after death. What then would have been the purpose of Jesus descending to the spirits of the lost to speak specifically to those who perished in the flood?

A simpler explanation is that Christ, “by the Spirit,” preached to them through Noah before the flood. The fact that Peter refers to Noah as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), lends considerable weight to this interpretation. The term “spirits in prison” is not used elsewhere to refer to souls in hades, the place of departed spirits, but to those who are bound in unbelief, as in Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”

Whatever our interpretation of these verses, we dare not take them as referring to a descent of Jesus into the place of eternal torment, for on the cross He promised the dying thief: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” These are Jesus’ own words, testifying that He himself would be in Paradise after His death.

Catholicism or catholicity?

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

This is the final clause of the ancient confession of faith which is commonly known as the Apostles’ Creed.  It is the earliest complete confession of the Christian faith, and is generally supposed to have originated with the questions asked at baptism: Do you believe in. . . ?

The word catholic in this final clause is a source of embarrassment and confusion to many sincere and devout Christians who do not wish to appear to be confessing a faith in the Roman Catholic Church.  This is not what the word means.  Catholic means to be universally applicable.  The Christian faith, in its pure and original form, is applicable and pertinent to people of every nation, kindred and tongue, in every age.  Thus, the early believers thought it fitting to describe it as catholic.

We know that in the course of time the Christian faith became the preferred religion of the Roman Empire, which led the bishop of Rome to claim preeminence over all Christian churches throughout the Empire and throughout the world.  Thus was born the Roman Catholic Church, a church that could claim to be catholic, but which was never very holy.  This was where our Anabaptist forefathers refused to take their orders from the bishop of Rome and his minions, and began to suffer persecution because of this refusal.

In recent generations Anabaptist and Mennonite people have developed an aversion to the term catholic.  For that reason the last clause of the Apostles’ Creed in the English translation of the Martyrs Mirror has the phrase “the holy general Christian church.”  Maybe I’m nitpicking, but I find the term general to be so general in meaning as to not give much clue as to what it might mean in this context.  I prefer catholic, so long as it is understood in its original meaning.

Catholic, when spelled with an upper case C, and Catholicism, are commonly understood to refer to the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  When spelled with a lower case c, catholic and catholicity refer to the quality of being universally applicable.

I suppose what I am getting at with all this, is to remind myself, and hopefully my readers, that the pure, unadulterated Christian faith is truly holy and catholic.  It appeared at a specific moment in history, among people of a unique ethnicity, culture and language, but it was never meant to remain a prisoner of that ethnicity, culture and language.  Or any other.  It is the only remedy for the very real spiritual needs and aspirations of all people, of every age, nation, culture and language.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30).

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