Faith, Rule of
Faith, Rule Of
I. Regula Fidei. — In the early Church the summary of doctrines taught to catechumens, and to which they were required to give their assent before baptism, was called in Greek πίστις, the faith; ὅρος πἰστεως, the limit or determination of the faith; ἔκδοσις πίστεως, exposition of the faith; κανών, rule; and in Latin, Regula Jidei, rule of faith. This term was afterwards applied to the Apostles' Creed. SEE CREED, APOSTLES; SEE REGULA FIDEI.
II. From the ancient usage, the phrase has been adopted (not very aptly) in modern theology to denote (1) the true source of our knowledge of Christian truth; and (2) the criterion or standard of Christian doctrine. Protestants find this rule in the Scriptures alone; the Greek and Roman churches, and some Anglicans, find it not only in Scripture, but also in the Church, as the authorized (inspired) interpreter of Scripture, whose interpretations are embodied in tradition. The supreme authority, according to the Romanists, lies in tradition, and in the pope as its living expounder. Some of the mystics and the Quakers make the "inner light" the supreme rule: thus Robert Barclay says that the highest source of knowledge divine revelation and illumination is something internal, trustworthy, and self- evident, which commands reason to accept it by the indwelling evidence. The Rationalists make reason the final arbiter, and the mind of man the measure of truth.
(I.) The Protestant Doctrine. —
1. One of the chief doctrinal elements of the Reformation was the sufficiency of Scripture for faith and salvation. Wickliffe, indeed, anticipated the Reformation in asserting the authority of Scripture. "When we truly believe in Christ," he says, "the authority of Holy Writ is greater for us than that of any other writing." He makes the acknowledgment of the divine word to spring from the immediate relation of the soul to Christ, while Rome puts the Church between the soul and Christ. Luther also rejected all mediation between the soul and Christ. "Yet, before he had consciously developed the principle that the holy Scriptures must be the highest source of knowledge, his doctrine had already been formed upon it, and unconsciously he was guided by the principle to admit nothing which was at variance with the Scriptures. Controversy first brought him to carry out this principle with scientific clearness." It was, however, first "scientifically stated by Melancthon on the occasion of the Leipsig disputation, in which Eck attacked a statement made by that reformer in one of his letters, which thus acquired notoriety. He says that it is a duty to abide by the pure and simple meaning of Holy Writ, as, indeed, heavenly truths are always the simplest; this meaning is to be found by comparing Holy Writ with itself. On this account we study Holy Writ, in order to pass judgment on all human opinions by it as a universal touchstone" (Cont. Eckium Defensio, Melancthonii Opera, ed. Bretschneicder, 1:113, cited by Neander, History of Dogmas, [Ryland], page 623). Both tradition and the apocryphal books were rejected by the Reformers. While the material principle of Protestantism is justificationn by faith, its formal principle (principium cognoscendi knowledge-principle, or principle of cognition) is that the word of God, given in the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, "is the pure and proper source, as well as the only certain measure of all saving truth" (Schaff, Principle of Protestantism, Chambersburg, 1845, page 70).
2. The chief Protestant Confessions agree as to the rule of faith. The Augsburg Confessiosc repudiates the traditions of the Church of Rome as to penances, fasts, etc. (art. 15), discrimina ciborum, etc. (part 2, art. 5); and see especially Apologia Confess. cap. 8, page 206; De tradition ibus humanis in Ecclesia; and Praef. ad Conf. August. page 6, "We offer our confession ... drawn from the sacred Scriptures and the pure word of God." The Formula Concordii, Epit. 1:1, is more definite: "Credimus, confitemur et docemus unicam regulam et normam, secundum quam omnia dogmata, omnesque doctores aestimari et judicari oporteat, nullam omnino aliam esse quam prophetica et apostolica scripta cum veteris tum novi Testamenti, sicut scriptum est Ps 119:106; Ga 1:8." "Reliqua vero sive patrum sive neotericorum scripta, quocunque eniant nomine, sacris literis nequaquam sunt aequiparanda, sed universa illis ita subjicienda sunt, ut alia ratione non recipiantur, nisi testium loco, qui doceant, quod etiam post apostolorum tempora et in quibus partibus orbis doctrina illa prophetarum et apostolorum sincerior conservata sit." "Coetera autem symbola et alia scripta, quorum paullo ante mentionem fecimus, non obtinent auctoritatem judicis; haec etiam dignitas solis sacris literis debetur, sed dumtaxat pro religione nostra testimonium dicunt, etc." (We believe, confess, and teach that the one rule and criterion by which all doctrines and teaching are to be tested is Scripture ... all other writings, whether ancient or modern; all symbols, creeds, etc., are of use [not as of equal authority, but only] as witnesses of the preservation of the revealed doctrines, and testimonies for our rel'igion, etc.). Conf. Gall. art. 5: "It is not lawful to oppose either antiquity, custom, multitude, man's wisdom and judgment, or edicts, or any decrees, or councils, or visions, or miracles, unto this holy Scripture, but rather that all things ought to be examined and tried by the rule and square thereof. Wherefore we do for this cause also allow those three creeds, namely, the Apostles', the Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, because they be agreeable to the written word of God." Conf. Helvet. 2:1: "In controversies of religion on matters of faith, we cannot admit any other judge than God himself, pronouncing by the holy Scripture what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided. So we do not rest but in the judgment of spiritual men drawn from the Word of God." Conf. Belgic. art. 7: "We believe also that the holy Scripture doth most perfectly contain all the will of God, and that in it all things are abundantly taught whatsoever is necessary to be believed of man to attain salvation." Westminster Confessions, art. 1: "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Seripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless, cem acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word," etc. "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other,' that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them." Church of England, art. 6 (5th of the Methodist Episcopal Church): "Holy Scripture containeth all thing's necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith." So the Creeds (art. 8) are commanded to reception and belief only because they may be proved by certains "warrants of holy Scripture;" works of supererogation (14) are rejected as contradicted by the word of Christ; things ordained even by general councils are affirmed (21) to have neither strength nor authority unless it be declared that they "be taken out of holy Scripture;" purgatory, pardons, image worship, relics, saintly invocation (22), and transubstantiation (28) are rejected as grounded "upon no warrant of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."
(II.) The Romanist Doctrine. — The Council of Trent (sess. 4, April 8, 1546, On the Canon) declares that the "Gospel promised before by the prophets in the sacred Scriptures was first orally published by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who afterwards commanded it to be preached by his apostles to every creature, as the source of all saving truth and discipline; and that this truth asnd discipline are contained both in written books and in unwritten traditions, which have come down to us, either received by the apostles from the lip of Christ himself, or transmitted by the hands of the same apostles, under the dictation of the Holy Spirit;" and names as canonical all tmhe books of the O.T. and the Apocrypha, according to the Vulgate edition; declaring that the Council "doth arceive and reverence, with equal piety and veneration, all the books, as well of the Old as of the New Testament, the same God being the author of both and also the aforesaid traditions, pertaining both to faith and manners, whether received from Christ himself or dictated by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the Catholic Church by continmal succession." The Catechism of the Council of Trent declares (Preface) that "all the doctrines of Christianity in which the faithful are to be instructed are derived from the Word of God, which, includes Scriptures and tradition." These statements are not so decided as those of later Roman theologians, but they were nevertheless received at the time as ordaining a new rule of faith in the Church. Bernard Gilpin (t 1583) had, it is said, been hesitating about accepting Protestantism, but the publication of the decree of Trent decided him: "While he was distracted with these things, the rule of faith changed by the Council of Trent astonished him. For he observed that not only the ancient divines, but even the modern ones, Lombard, Scotus, and Aquinas, all confessed that the rule of faith was solely to be drawn from Scripture, whermeas he found, according to the Council of Trent, that it might as well be drawn from human traditions. The Church of Rome kept the rule of faith entire till it was changed by the Council of Trent. From that time he thought it a point of duty to forsake her communion, that the true Church, thus called out, might follow the Word of God" (Life of Bernard Gilpin, page 69, Glasgow, 1824, cited by Cramp, Text-book of Popery, chapter 3). Bellarmine (t 1621), perhaps the greatest of Roman theologians, sets forth the Roman theory more fully in his treatise De Verbo Dei. He divides it into the written and the unwritten word. The written word includes the Scriptures of the O. and N.T.; the unwritten is tradition, i.e.,
1. divine tradition, including doctrines communicated by Christ himself to the apostles, and taught by them, but not recorded;
2. apostolical tradition, doctrines taught by the apostles, but not recorded in their writings;
3. ecclesiastical tradition, including ancient customs and usages handed down in the Church. The necessity for these traditions he maintains on the express ground of the insufficiency of Scripture as a rule of faith and life — (asserimus in Scripturis non contineri expresse totam doctrinam necessariam sive de fide sive de moribus, De Verbo Dei, 4:3). The substance of these passages is, that in the rule of faith tradition is an authority indapeendent of Scripture, and in all respects equal to it in binding force. Mdhler (Symbolism, § 38) attempts to refine the Roman doctrine, but, in fact, disguises it esnder an ideal theory of his own, intended to be adapted to "the spirit of the age," or else inspired by it. nBut the substance of the Roman doctrine remains, in spite of his skill, in his statement that "it is the Church in which alone man arrives at the true understanding of Holy Writ." One of the latest and most skillful advocates of the Romam view is archbishop Manning, who, in his Grounds of Faith (London, 1852, 8vo), maintains that "universal tradition is the supremae interpreter of Scripture," and that this tradition is maintained only in the Church of Rome, of which the pope is the head and exponent. Dr. Schaff sums up the vices of the Romanist theory of the rule of faith as follows: "The distinction between the divine and the human is unsettled by it. This pantheistic feature runs through the whole system, culminating in the respect shown towards the pope as lawfully holding and exercising the threefold office of Christ himself. Too much is allowed, again, to human agency in the formation of the sacred Scriptures, by limiting the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to mere assistance and guidance (assistentia et directio). Still farther, the Latin translation of Jerome, a work of course proceeding from a particular Church position, and reflecting its image, is not only placed on a par with the original text, but in actual use preferred to it altogether (Bellarmine, De Verbo Dei, 2:10). In the fourth place, the charge of darkness and ambiguity is brought against the Scriptures, whence tradition is held to be necessary for their interpretation, and it is counselled that the laity should not read them except in cases of special qualification, of which the bishop is to be the judge. In short, the whole tendency of the Roman Catholic Church has for its object to subordinate the Bible to tradition and then to make itself the infallible judge of truth, with power to determine at pleasure what is God's word and the doctrine of the Church, and to anathematize everything that may go beyond its past decisions, even though, as in the case of the Reforma'tion and Jansenism, it should be ad actual deepening of the Christian consciousness itself" (Principle of Protestantism, page 74).
(III.) The new Anglican Doctrine. — The so-called Tractariasm party in the Church of England adopted, almost at its first beginning in Oxford, in substance, "the Romanist theory of the rule of faith; so, e.g. "Tracts far the Times" (No. 70): "Catholic tradition teaches revealed truth, Scripture proves it: Scripture is the document of faith, tradition the witness of it: Scripture and tradition, taken together, are the joint rule of faith." The truth was, that the men comprising this new party had already embraced several of the Romanist doctrines, and, not finding any warrant for them in Scripture, sought it in tradition. Thus Keble (Sermon on Tradition) asserts that without tradition it would be impossible to demonstrate the doctrine of the "real presence," that of the "clergy as a distinct order," and that "consecration by apostolical authority is essential to the Eucharist" (see further in Goode, Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2:18 sq.). Some of these writers soon began to decry Protestantism as a failure, and the Reformation as a schism; and the next step was to assert that the Scriptures are both defective and obscure, and that many Doctrines necessary to faith are not in Scripture at all, but must be learned from tradition, which is "partly the interpretation and partly the supplement of Scripture" (see an able article in the Princeton Review 1842, page 598 sq.). Dr. Arnold remarks (Edinb. Review April, 184), that, according to the Tractarian theory, "the Scriptures are not the sole or a perfect rule of faith; they are to be supplementead by tradition; they furnish at best but the germ of an imperfectly developed Christianity, which is to be found full blown and perfect somewhere (no one can tell where) in the third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth century, or some century still later; and the fathers have much to tell us of undoubted apostolical authority, which the apostles themselves have failed to tell. Infinite are the disputes which such a theory instantly gives rise to. In essence and principle it in nowise differs from that of Rome (for it affirms both a written and an unwritten word); it differs only in the pleasant and gratuitously perplexing addition that it is impossible to assign the period within which the circle of Catholic verities may be supposed complete the period when the slowly developed Church system became ripe, but had not yet become rotten. The unity of faith which is thus sought is farther off than ever, for the materials of discord are enlarged a thousand fold.
1. There is the dispute as to whether there be any such authoritative rule of faith at all, and this alone promises to be an endless controversy.
2. Even if we were to admit the possible existence of such a rule, the uncertainty in its application would preclude the possibility of its being of any use.
3. Even if men in general are told that they neednot inquire for themselves, but just receive what their authorized guides choose to tell them, private judgment is still pressed with insuperable difficulties; for, alas! we find that the 'authorized guides' themselves, in the exercise of their private judgment, have arrived at very different conclusions as to. what is Catholic verity and what is not. It is very easy for Mr. Newman to talk in magniloquent phrase of that much abused abstraction, the 'Church,' and to represent his system of 'Church principles' as one and complete in every age. But when we inquire which is that Church, what are the doctrines it has delivered as the complete circle of verity, and who are its infallible interpreters, we find those whom these authorized guides proclaim equally authorized at endless variance — Romanists, Greeks, and Anglicans differing in judgment from each other and from themselves. In a word, we find the 'Church' is just Mr. Newman or Dr. Pusey — not unbecomingly disguised in the habiliments of a somewhat antiquated lady, and uttering their 'private judgments' as veritable oracles. What can one of these 'guides' say to 'a brother guide'
who declares; 'I adopt your principles, and it appears to me and many others that, on the same grounds on which you contend for the apostolical succession — that is, on the authority of the ancient Church — I must contend for the celibacy of the clergy?' Or to another, who declares, 'On our common principles I think there is good a-eason to admit the invocation of saints, the worship of images, the doctrine of the efficacy of holy relies, the monastic institute, to be, of apostolical origin?' Or to another, 'It appears to me that the doctrine of purgatory is but a development of the doctrine which justifies prayers for the dead?'" Dr. Arnold was right in his view of the tendency of the Tractarian doctrine: J.H. Newmnan and many others went logically to Rome, while Dr. Pusey illogically remained in the Church of England to corrupt it. And now, 1869, the Romanizing party in that Church bids defiance to both "Protestant tradition" and the state law.
III. It is one of the charges brought by Romanists against Protestantism that it has violently separated itself from the historical life of Christianity by its denial of tradition. But the charge is unfounded. Protestantism is the continuation of the true life of Christianity, reformed from the errors of Ronee, ancong which errors was the exaltation of tradition to a level ewmith Scripture as an authority. No such view of tradition can be found either in Scripture or in the early Church writers. According to the Protestant view, the Greek and Roman doctrine of the rule of faith takes away Christ, and puts an ecclesiastical corporation in his place. But Protestantism does not deny the value of tradition in transmitting Christian doctrine: its value is inestimable. But it is not authoritative or final; it is a servant, not a master. In fact, the question of the rule of faith is closely connected with that of the true idea of the Church, or, indeed, identical with it in the last analysis. So, at the fourth session of the Council of Trent, when the question of Scripture and tradition came up for discussion, Vincent Lunel, one of the members of the council, a Franciscan, "thought it would be preferable to treat of the Church in the first instance, because Scripture derived its authority from the Church. He added that if it were once established that all Christians are bound to obey the Church, everything else would be easy, and that this was the only argument that would refute the heretics." While Protestantism leads to Christ through the Scriptures, and through Christ to the Church, Rome pretends to lead through the Church to Christ and the Scriptures; the authority of the Protestant doctrine being its conformity with revealed truth, that of the Roman Catholic system the assumed infallibility of the Church. In causis spiritualibus necessario admittendus aliquis supremus judex controversiarum (in spiritual things there must needs be some final and supreme Judge to decide controverted questions) is the old postulate of those who contend for a visible Church endowed with God's own infallibility. Grant them their postulate, in their own sense of it, and the whole theory of "Church principles," as the modern successors of Hildebrand complacently name their dogmas, will inevitably follow. On the other hand, let it be settled that the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, constitute the true rule of Christian faith and practice, and we shall have done forever with the juggling priestcraft which has so long disgraced Christianity, and which finds its only hope of support in ecclesiastical tradition. The question is a vital one. It is not a mere matter of detail, about which men can differ at pleasure; it is the Rubicon which separates Protestantism from Popery. It involves " a choice between the Gospel of Christ as declared by himself and his apostles, and that deadly apostasy which Paul in his lifetime saw threatening — nay, the effects of which, during his captivity, had nearly supplanted his own gospel in the Asiatic churches, and which he declares would come speedily with a fearful power of lying wonders" (Stanley, Life of Arnold, 2:110). The Church of God, according to the Protestant, is built upon the "foundation of the prophets and the apostles, Christ himself being the chief corner-stone;" according to the traditionist, upon the sands of antiquity as well. From the beginning men have made the word of God of none effect through their traditions. SEE BIBLE, USE OF;SEE FATHERS; SEE INFALLIBILITY; SEE PROTESTANTISM; SEE ROMANISM; SEE TRADITION.
Literature. — Besides the authors already named in the course of this article, see Winer, Comp. Darstellung, 1866, page 27; Nitzsch, System d. christl. Lehre, § 36-39; Daille, Right Use of the Fathers (Philada. 1842,12mo); Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, book 1, chapter 1 and 3; Jeremy Taylor, Dissuasive from Popery (Heber's ed.), 10:383 sq.; Chemnitz, Examen Concilii Tridentini; Chillingworth, Religion of Protestants (Philadel. 1838), 8vo; Marsh, Comparative View of the Churches of England and Rome (Cambridge, 1814, 8vo); Stillingfleet, Protestant Grounds of Faith (Works, Lond. 1709, volumes, 4, 5, and 6); Knapp, Christian Theol. § 8; Goode, Divine Rule of Faith and Practice (2d ed. Lond. 1853, 3 volumes, 8vo); Peck, Appeal from Tradition to Scripture (New York, 1844, 12mo, reviewed by M'Clintock in the Biblical
Repository, January 1846, art. 2); Edinb. Review, April, 1843; Lightfoot, Works, 6:54; Rosenmuller, De Orig. Theolog. cap. 11, § 35; Holden, Authority of Tradition (Philippians 1841); Hawkins, Dissert. on Tradition (Oxf. 1819, 8vo); Burnet, On 39 Articles; Browne, On, 39 Articles; Forbes, On 39 Articles (each on art. 6).