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NT Translation Project
Updated October 2015 by Roger Samsel
Everybody, it seems, has one, but it hasn’t always been so. Creeds, confessions of faith, and doctrinal statements are common in the church today. Every church, denomination, seminary and
Bible college has one. But for the first few generations, the Christian churches did not possess any such creed. The churches were independent of one another and there was no
governing authority above the local assembly to dictate what was taught. What they had were the Scriptures and an oral tradition received from the twelve apostles of Jesus.
In spite of not having a universal, authoritative statement of faith, or any hierarchical authority, the churches were nevertheless unified around a common body of doctrine.
An elder in the church at Lyons, Gaul by the name of Irenaeus gave expression to this in a book written in approximately A.D. 120. We have reproduced his statement below.
Since these early days, countless creeds, statements, and confessions have been written. Unfortunately, the history of these creeds is the history of oppression. As the church has
drifted away from the pristine faith delivered by the apostles into a multitude of directions, it has become splintered and fractured into hundreds of denominations and sects.
Each of these has defined itself by a new creed that it uses as a test to measure who is worthy of fellowship. In most cases, creeds and confessions have been the instruments
Christians have used to silence, control, and even persecute dissenters. Much blood has been spilled in the name of Christ for the sake of “doctrinal purity.”
This is an abomination!
While we are quite concerned with correct doctrine (the pristine faith), we have chosen to break with the tradition of producing Statements of Faith. All such statements are
written by men, and are therefore fallible. Their effect is almost always to stifle thought and open discussion. We have used these pages to explore and pursue a purity of faith,
but we acknowledge that since we also are fallible, we will not produce yet another fallible creed.
Nevertheless, we have reproduced Irenaeus’ statement as an example of what the earliest Christians believed and taught. It is brief. The points are not elaborated on.
We will explore these and elaborate on them in our pages in a continual pursuit of greater purity, but we will not short circuit or arrest this process by engraving in stone,
as it were, yet a another creed.
From the work, Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter X.
The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: She believes in one God,
the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation;
and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead,
and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His future manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,”
and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father,
“every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all;
that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,” and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men,
into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love,
some from the beginning of their Christian course, and others from the date of their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.
As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house,
carefully preserves it. She also believes these points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down,
with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same.
For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt,
nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world,
so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches,
however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient
in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it,
make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.