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§ 115. The Consensus and Dissensus of Creeds.

Philip Schaff: The Antagonisms of Creeds, in the "Contemporary Review," London, Oct 1876, (Vol. XI. pp. 836–850). The Consensus of the Reformed Confessions, In the "Proceedings of the First Gen. Pres. Council," Edinburgh, 1877; separately issued, New York, 1877.

 

The Creeds of orthodox Christendom have passed before us. A concluding summary of the points of agreement and disagreement will aid the reader in forming an intelligent judgment on the possibility, nature, and extent of an ultimate adjustment of the doctrinal antagonisms which are embodied and perpetuated in the symbols of the historic Churches. The argumentation from Scripture, tradition, and reason belongs to the science of Symbolics.

A. The Catholic Consensus of Greek, Latin, and Evangelical Christendom.

The Consensus is contained in the Scriptures, and in the œcumenical Creeds which all orthodox Churches adopt. It may be more fully and clearly specified as follows:

I.—RULE OF FAITH AND PRACTICE.

The Divine Inspiration and Authority of the Canonical Scriptures in matters of faith and morals. (Against Rationalism.)

II.—THEOLOGY.

1. The Unity of the Divine essence. (Against Atheism, Dualism, Polytheism.)

2. The Trinity of the Divine Persons.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Maker, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

(Against Arianism, Socinianism, Unitarianism.)

3. The Divine perfections.

Omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, wisdom, holiness, justice, love, and mercy.

4. Creation of the world by the will of God out of nothing for his glory and the happiness of his creatures. (Against Materialism, Pantheism, Atheism.)

5. Government of the world by Divine Providence.

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III.—ANTHROPOLOGY.

1. Original innocence.

Man made in the image of God, with reason and freedom, pure and holy; yet needing probation, and liable to fall.

2. Fall: sin and death.

Natural depravity and guilt; necessity and possibility of salvation. (Against Pelagianism and Manichæism.)

3. Redemption by Christ.

IV.—CHRISTOLOGY.

1. The Incarnation of the eternal Logos or second Person in the Holy Trinity.

2. The Divine-human constitution of the Person of Christ.

3. The life of Christ.

His superhuman conception; his sinless perfection; his crucifixion, death, and burial; resurrection and ascension; sitting at the right hand of God; return to judgment.

4. Christ our Prophet, Priest, and King forever.

5. The mediatorial work of Christ, or the atonement.

'He died for our sins, and rose for our justification.'

V.—PNEUMATOLOGY.

1. The Divine Personality of the Holy Spirit.

2. His eternal Procession (ἐκπόρευσις, processio) from the Father, and his historic Mission (πέμψις, missio) by the Father and the Son.

3. His Divine work of regeneration and sanctification.

VI.—SOTERIOLOGY.

1. Eternal predestination or election of believers to salvation.

2. Call by the gospel.

3. Regeneration and conversion. Necessity of repentance and faith.

4. Justification and sanctification.

Forgiveness of sins and necessity of a holy lire.

5. Glorification of believers.

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VII.—ECCLESIOLOGY AND SACRAMENTOLOGY.

1. Divine origin and constitution of the Catholic Church of Christ.

2. The essential attributes of the Church universal.

Unity, catholicity, holiness, and indestructibility of the Church. Church militant and Church triumphant.

3. The ministry of the gospel.

4. The preaching of the gospel.

5. Sacraments: visible signs, seals, and means of grace.

6. Baptism for the remission of sins.

7. The Lord's Supper for the commemoration of the atoning death of Christ.

VIII.—ESCHATOLOGY.

1. Death in consequence of sin.

2. Immortality of the soul.

3. The final coming of Christ.

4. General resurrection.

5. Judgment of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. Heaven and Hell.

The eternal blessedness of saints, and the eternal punishment of the wicked.

7. God all in all (1 Cor. xv. 28).

B. Consensus and Dissensus of the Greek and Roman Churches.

(a) CONSENSUS.

I. The articles of the œcumenical Creeds, excepting the Filioque of the Latin recension of the Nicene Creed and the et filio of the Athanasian Creed.

II. Most of the post-œcumenical doctrines, which are not contained in the œcumenical Creeds, and from which Protestants dissent, viz.:

1. The authority of ecclesiastical tradition, as a joint rule of faith with the Scriptures.

2. The worship (τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις) of the Virgin Mary, the Saints, their pictures (not statues), and relics.

3. The infallibility of the Church—that is, the teaching hierarchy (ecclesia docens). The Roman Church lodges infallibility in the papal monarchy, 922the Greek Church in the (seven) œcumenical Councils, and the patriarchal oligarchy as a whole.17221722   We say as a whole; for the Greek Church does not claim infallibility for any individual patriarch, and has herself condemned, in œcumenical Synods, as heretics not only Pope Honorius, of Rome, but also several of her own patriarchs, e.g., Nestorius, of Constantinople; Dioscurus, of Alexandria; Peter the Fuller, of Antioch; Sallustius, of Jerusalem; Cyril Lucar, of Constantinople.

4. Justification by faith and works, as joint conditions.

5. The Seven Sacraments or Mysteries, with minor differences as to confirmation and unction.

6. Baptismal regeneration (in an unqualified sense), and the necessity of water-baptism for salvation.

7. Priestly absolution by divine authority.

8. Transubstantiation (μετουσίωσις), and the adoration of the consecrated elements.

9. The sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead.

This forms the centre of worship. Preaching is subordinate.

10. Prayers for the departed.

On the authority of the Apocryphal books of the Old Testament, transubstantiation, Purgatory, and a few other points, the Greek doctrine is not so clearly developed and formulated; but, upon the whole, much nearer the Roman view than the Protestant.

As to the popular use of the Bible, there is this important difference, that the Greek Church has never prohibited it, like the Roman, and that the Russian Church has recently favored it, and thus opened the way for a wholesome progress and possible reformation

(b) DISSENSUS.

I. The eternal Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son (Filioque): denied by the Greek, taught by the Latin Church.

II. The papal supremacy and infallibility: rejected by the Greek Church as an antichristian usurpation, asserted by the Latin Church as its corner-stone.

III. The immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary: proclaimed as a dogma by the Pope, 1854:17231723   The Greek Archbishop Lykurgos, of Syra and Tenos (d. 1876), declared, while in England, in a conference with the Bishop of Ely, Feb. 4, 1870: 'The Orthodox Church considers the immaculate conception to be blasphemous. It destroys the doctrine of the Incarnation.' But in practice the worship of the blessed Virgin is carried as far in the Greek Church as in the Latin.

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IV. The marriage of the lower clergy: allowed by the Greek, forbidden by the Latin Church.

V. Withdrawal of the eucharistic cup from the laity.

VI. A number of rites and ceremonies.

Greek rites: threefold baptismal immersion, instead of pouring or sprinkling; use of leavened, instead of unleavened, bread in the eucharist; the invocation of the Holy Ghost for the benediction of the sacred elements; infant communion; anointing baptized infants; the repetition of holy unction (τὸ εὐχέλαιον) in sickness.

C. Consensus and Dissensus of the Greek Church and the Evangelical Churches.

(a) CONSENSUS.

I. They believe the Scriptures and the doctrines of the œcumenical Creeds. (See A.)

II. They reject:

1. The supremacy and infallibility of the Pope.

2. The immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary.

3. The withdrawal of the cup from the laity.

4. The enforced celibacy of priests and deacons.

(The Greek Church, however, prohibits the second marriage of the lower clergy, and requires the celibacy of the bishops.)

(b) DISSENSUS.

I. The double Procession of the Holy Spirit.17241724   In this doctrine the Protestant Confessions side with the Latin Church, or at least they do not oppose it. The eternal procession of the Spirit was no topic of controversy in the period of the Reformation, and may be regarded as an open question subject to further exegetical and theological investigation. A number of Episcopalians in England and America would be willing to expunge the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, or to compromise with the Orientals on the single procession of the Spirit from the Father through the Son. See the Theses of the Bonn Conference of 1875, at the close of Vol. II.

II. In the post-œcumenical doctrines mentioned sub B. (a), II., the Greek Church sides with Rome against Protestantism.

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D. Consensus and Dissensus of the Roman Catholic and the Evangelical Protestant Churches.

(a) CONSENSUS. (See sub A.)

(b) DISSENSUS.

I. Scripture and Tradition, as a rule of faith.

Roman Catholic doctrine:

The necessity of ecclesiastical tradition (culminating in the infallible decisions of the papal see), as a joint rule of faith and as the sole interpreter of Scripture.

Protestant doctrine:

The absolute supremacy and sufficiency of the Scriptures as a guide to salvation.

II. Other differences concerning the Scriptures.

1. Extent of the Canon:

The Apocrypha of the Old Testament are included in the Roman, excluded from the Protestant Canon.

2. Authority of the Latin Vulgate:

Put on a par with the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures by Rome; while Protestantism claims divine authority only for the original Scriptures of the inspired authors.

3. Popular use and circulation of the Bible:

Discouraged (and relatively forbidden) by Rome; encouraged by Protestantism, which goes hand in hand with the Word of God, and must stand or fall with it.

III. Objects of Worship.

Roman Catholic doctrine:

1. God (latria);

2. The Virgin Mary (hyperdulia);

3. Angels and Saints (dulia);

4. Images and Relics of Saints. Protestant doctrine:

God alone. All other worship is gross or refined idolatry.

The Roman Catholic Christian approaches Christ through human mediators, and virtually substitutes the worship of Mary for the worship of Christ; the Protestant approaches Christ directly, 925and prays to him as his only and all-sufficient High-Priest and Intercessor with the Father.

IV. Primitive State.

Difference (asserted by Roman Catholics, denied by Protestants) between the image of God (imago, εἰκών, צֶלֶם), i.e., the natural perfection of the first man as a rational and free being, and similitude of God (similitudo, ὁμοίωσις, דְמדּת), i.e., supernatural endowment of man with righteousness and holiness together with the immortality of the body.

V. Original Sin.

Roman Catholic doctrine:

Original sin is a negative defect (carentia justitiæ originalis), or the loss of the similitude—not of the image—of God, and is entirely removed by baptism.

Protestant doctrine:

Original sin is a positive corruption and total depravity, involving the loss of (spiritual) freedom, and retains the character of sin after baptism.

VI. Justification by faith and good works (Roman Catholic);—or by faith alone (Protestant).

1. Different conceptions of justification (δικαίωσις, justificatio): a gradual process of making the sinner righteous (identical with sanctification);—or a judicial and declaratory act of God (acquittal of the penitent sinner on the ground of Christ's merits and on condition of faith in Christ), followed by sanctification.

2. Different conceptions of faith: intellectual assent and submission to divine authority;—or personal trust in Christ and living union with him.

3. Different position assigned to works: condition of justification;—or evidence of justification.

4. Assurance of justification and salvation: denied (except on the ground of a special revelation) by Roman Catholics; asserted by Protestants (though in different degrees).

Paul and James. Basis of reconciliation: faith operative in love.17251725    Gal. v. 6, (πιστις δἰ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη, is to be explained as the dynamic middle, not as the passive, 'completed in love' (the fides formata of Roman Catholic commentators).

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VII. Good works of believers.

The meritoriousness of good works (meritum ex congruo and meritum ex condigno): Works of supererogation, not commanded, but recommended (consilia evangelica), with corresponding extra merits, which constitute a treasury at the disposal of the Pope for the dispensation of indulgences.

Here is the root of the ascetic and monastic system (vota monastica: voluntary obedience, poverty, and celibacy), and the chief difference between Roman Catholic and Evangelical ethics.

VIII. The Church.

1. Identification of the Church of Christ with the Church of Rome—the fundamental error (the πρῶτον ψεῦδος) of the papacy.

2. Distinction of the invisible Church (one and universal under the sole headship of Christ), and the visible Church (existing in many organizations or denominations): asserted by Protestants; denied by Roman Catholics.

3. Different conception and application of the attributes of the Church; unity, holiness, catholicity, apostolicity, indefectibility, infallibility, and exclusiveness, especially the last (extra ecclesiam nulla salus, which is made to mean extra ecclesiam Romanam).

IX. The Pope.

The infallible head of the Universal Church, the Vicar of Christ on earth, by virtue of his office as the successor of Peter.

This is the cardinal doctrine of Romanism, but rejected by Greeks and Protestants as an antichristian usurpation of the prerogative of Christ.

X. Sacraments in general.

1. Definition: visible signs of invisible grace instituted by the express command of Christ in the New Testament (Protestant);—or simply by the authority of the Church (Roman Catholic).

2. Number: seven (Roman Catholic);—or two (Baptism and the Lord's Supper).

3. Effect: ex opere operato (i.e., by virtue of the objective act);—or through faith (as the subjective condition).

XI. Baptism.

Its effect on original sin; its relation to regeneration; its necessity for salvation; and several ritual differences.

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XII. The Eucharist. Romanism holds, Protestantism denies:

1. Transubstantiation and the adoration of the elements.

2. The withdrawal of the cup from the laity.

3. The Eucharist as a sacrifice, i.e., an actual though unbloody repetition of Christ's sacrifice on the cross by the priest for the sins of the living and the dead (the souls in purgatory).

The celebration of the Mass is the centre of Roman Catholic worship.

XIII. The other five Sacraments: Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Ordination, Extreme Unction.

Maintained by Rome as sacraments proper; rejected by Protestants, or admitted only as semi- or quasi-sacramental acts.

1. Confirmation.

Retained by the Lutheran, Anglican, and the German Reformed Churches (as supplementary to infant baptism after a course of catechetical instruction). Rejected by other Protestant Churches, in which a voluntary union with the Church by a public profession of faith takes the place of confirmation.

2. Penance (sacramentum pænitentiæ).

Auricular confession and priestly absolution; satisfaction for venial sins; indulgences. The Lutheran (and Anglican) standards approve private confession to the minister; other Churches leave it entirely optional; all Protestants deny the efficacy of priestly absolution except as an official declaration of God's forgiving mercy to the penitent

3. Ordination.

A separate priesthood and clerical celibacy (Roman Catholic); the general priesthood of the laity and the right of the laity to participate in Church government (Protestant).

4. Matrimony.

Differences in matrimonial legislation, mixed marriages, and divorce.

5. Extreme unction.

Rejected by Protestants, who in James v. 14 emphasize the praying rather than 'the anointing with oil' (a physical remedy).

XIV. Purgatory.

A temporary middle place and state (until the final judgment) between 928heaven and hell for the purification of imperfect Christians, which may be advanced by prayers and masses in their behalf.

Protestantism holds that there are only two conditions in the other world, but with various degrees of bliss or misery.

The indulgences closely connected with purgatory were the first occasion, though not the cause, of the Reformation.

E. Doctrinal Differences among Evangelical Protestants.

I.—LUTHERANISM AND CALVINISM.

1. Baptismal Regeneration.

Baptism a means of regeneration (as concurrent with the sacramental act), and hence necessary for salvation;—or only a sign and seal of regeneration (whether concurrent or preceding or succeeding, according to God's free pleasure).

2. The Encharistic presence.

Corporeal real presence (in, with, and under the elements) for all communicants;—or spiritual real (dynamic and effective) presence for believers only.

3. Christological.

The extent of the communicatio idiomatum.17261726   That is, whether it includes also the genus majestaticum, or the communication of the attributes of the divine nature to the human nature of Christ—affirmed by the Lutheran symbols, denied by the Reformed. See pp.319 sqq. The ubiquity of Christ's body: asserted by the Lutheran Church (as a dogmatic support to its doctrine of the eucharistic multipresence); denied by the Reformed (as inconsistent with the limitations of humanity and the fact of Christ's ascension to heaven).

4. Predestination and the perseverance of saints.

No difference between Luther and Calvin, who were both Augustinians, but between their followers. (Synergism of Melanchthon in his later period. Semi-Augustinianism of the Formula of Concord. Extreme Calvinism of the Synod of Dort.)

II.—CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM.

1. Election: unconditional;—or conditional.

2. Extent of redemption: limited to the elect;—or unlimited to all men.

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3 and 4. Nature of faith and grace: irresistible;—or resistible.

5. Perseverance of saints;—or the possibility of total and final apostasy.

III.—CONGREGATIONALISM.

1. Conception of a Christian congregation or local church: a self-governing body of converted believers voluntarily associated for spiritual ends.

2. Independence of such a church of foreign jurisdiction.

3. Duty of voluntary fellowship with other churches.

IV.—BAPTIST DOCTRINES.

1. Congregationalism as sub III.

2. Baptism.

(a) Its subjects: only responsible converts on the ground of a voluntary profession of their faith.

(b) Its mode: total immersion of the body.

3. Universal liberty of conscience as a sphere over which civil government has no control. ('Soul-liberty.')17271727   President Anderson, of Rochester University (article Baptists in Johnson's Cyclopædia, Vol. I. p. 383), enumerates four distinctive doctrinal principles of the Baptists: (1) immersion; (2) believers only to constitute a visible church; (3) responsible converts only entitled to baptism; (4) separation of Church and State, and independence of each individual church as a body of baptized believers of any other body, whether ecclesiastical or political. But the second article is held also by the Congregationalists, and the fourth can not be called an article of faith.

V.—QUAKER DOCTRINES.

1. Universal diffusion of the inner light for the salvation of men.

2. Immediate revelation superior to, though concordant with, the outward testimony of the Scriptures.

3. The ministry of the gospel depending on inspiration, and not confined to a class or sex.

4. The sacraments are spiritual acts, not visible rites and ceremonies, as under the old dispensation.

5. Worship is purely inward, and depends upon the immediate moving of the Holy Spirit.

6. Universal religious liberty.

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VI.—METHODIST DOCTRINES.

1. Universal offer of salvation in different dispensations.

2. Witness of the Spirit, or assurance of present acceptance with God.

3. Christian perfection, or perfect sanctification.

F. Orthodox Protestantism and Heterodox Protestantism.

I. Socinianism (Unitarianism). Denies the following œcumenical doctrines:

1. The Trinity.

2. The Incarnation and eternal Divinity of Christ.

3. Original sin and guilt.

4. The vicarious atonement.

II. Universalism departs from the orthodox doctrines of the—

1. Nature and extent of sin and its consequences.

2. Endless punishment. (Difference between Restorationism and Universalism proper).

III. Swedenborgianism asserts:

1. A new revelation and a new Church (the New Jerusalem).

2. Intercourse with the spirit world.

3. It limits the number of the canonical Scriptures.

4. It claims to unlock the deeper inner sense of the Scriptures.

5. It dissents from the evangelical doctrines of the tripersonality of the Godhead, the incarnation, the atonement, justification, the Church, the sacraments, and the resurrection.


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