Fundamentals

Fundamentals A distinction has been drawn, both in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches, between fundamental and non-fundamental articles of faith.

I. Roman theologians understand by articuli fundamentales those doctrines which every Christian is obliged to know, to believe, and to profess, on pain of damnation; and by articuli non-fundamentales such doctrines as a man may be involuntarily ignorant of, without losing the name of Christian and the hope of salvation, it being taken for granted that he would believe them if made known to him by the Church. Substantially the Roman doctrine is that whatever the Church teaches isfundamiental.

II. In the Lutheran Church the distinction between fundamental and non- fundamental doctrines was introduced by Hunnius, and after him was further developed by Quenstedt. See Hunnius, De fundamentali dissenas doctrine Lutherianae et Calvinianae (1626). According to this distinction, fuundamental doctrines are those which are essential to the faith unto salvation, viz. the doctrine of Christ the Mediator, of the Word of Godsas the seed of truth, etc. The later theology has abandoned this distinction, so far as its scientific use is concerned. Practically, however, all Christians agree in considering certain doctrines as essential to the Christian systems, and others as comparatively nonessential. See Bergier, Dict. de Theologie, s.v. Fondamentaux; Pelt, Theolog. Encyclop. art. 66; Dodd, On Parables, 1:14; Chillingworth, Religion of Protestants, part 1, chapter 3; Hammond, Works, volume 1; Stillingfleet, Work, 4:56 sq.; Turretin, De Articulis Fundamentalibus, 1719. Waterland treats the subject largely in his Discourse on Fundamentals (Works, Oxf. 1853, 6 volumes, volume 5, page 73 sq.). He remarks that when we apply "the epithet fundamental either to religion in general or to Christianity in particular, we are supposed to mean something essential to religion or Christianity, so necessary to its being, or, at least, to its well-being, that it could sot subsist, or maintain itself, without it." He holds that Scripture indicates this distinction of things more or less weighty: e.g. Paul, with regard to certain Judaizers, exhorted his converts eo bear with them (1Co 9:19-23), while to others he would not give place by subjection, no, not for an hour (Ga 2:5,21). That the primitive Church recognised the distinction he thinks has been fully shown hey Spansheim, 3:1059; Hornbeck, Socin. Confut. 19:210, etc. Bingham remarks that as to fundamental articles of faith, the Church had them always collected or summed up out of Scripture in her creeds, the profession of which was ever esteemed both necessary on the one hand, and sufficient on the other, in order to the admission of members into the Church by baptism; and, consequently, both necessary and sufficient to keep men is the unity of the Church, so far as concerns the unity of faith generally required of all Christians, to make them one body and one Church of believers (Orig. Eccles. book 16, chapter 1). The difficulty of the subject, according to Waterland, lies not so much in deciding what is fundamental to the Christian system as such, as in deciding whether these things are to be held essential in the belief of particuular persons in order to their salvation. The former are as fixed as Christianity itself; the latter will always vary with the capacities and opportunities of the persons themselves. So the terms of communion may be one thing, the terms of salvation another. Herein Roman Catholic theology differs from Protestant, as it makes the terms of communion identical with the terms of salvation. Jonathan Edwards cites Stapfer to the same purport: "On account of the various degrees of men's capacities, and the various circumstances of the times in which they lived, one man may know truths which another cannot know. Whence it follows that the very same articles are not fundamental to all men; but, accordingly as revelation hath been more or less complete, according to the several mspeensations under which men hamlived, their various natural abilities, and their various modes of circumstances of living, different articles are, and have been, fundamental to different men. This is very plain from the different degrees of knowledge before and since the coming of Christ, for before his coming many truths were hid which are now set in the most clear light; and the instance of the apostles abundantly shows the truth of what I have now advanced, who, although they were already in a state of grace, and their salvation was secured, yet for some time were ignorant of the necessity of the suffering and death of Christ, and of the true nature of his kingdom; whereas he who now does not ackowledge, or perhaps denies, the necessity of Christ's death, is by all means to be considered as in a fundamental error. Therefore, as a man hath received of God greater or less natural abilities, so let the number of articles to which he shall give his assent be greater or smaller; and as revelation hath been made, or information bath been given, to a man more clearly or obscurely, in the same proportion is more or less required of him. Therefore, in our own case, we ought to be cautious of even the smallest errors, and to aim at the highest degree of knowledge in divine truths. In the case of others we ought to judge concerning theme with the greatest prudence, mildness, and benevolence. Hence we see that a-certain precise number of articles which shall be necessary and fundamental to every man cannot be determined" (Edwards, Works, N.Y. ed., 4 volumes, volume 11, page 545).

After Cromwell came into power in England in 1653, a committee of divines was appointed by Parliament to draw up a catalogue of "fundamentals" to be presented to the House. "Archbishop Usher was nominated, but he declining, Mr. Baxter was appointed in his room; the rest who acted were Dr. Owen, Dr. Goodwin, Dr. Cheynel, Mr. Marshal, Mr. Reyner, Mr. Nye, Mr. Sydrach Simpson, Mr. Vines, Mr. Manton, Mr. Jacomb. Mr. Baxter desired to offer the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments alone, as containing the fundamentals of religion; but it was objected that this would include Socinians and papists. Mr. Baxter replied that it was so much fitter for a center of unity or concord, because it was impossible, irt his opinion, to devise a form of words which heretics would not subscribe, when they had perverted them to their own sense. These arguments not prevailing, the following articles were presented to the House, under the title of The Principles of Faith, presented by Mr. Thomas Goodwin, Mr. Nye, Mr. Sydrach Simpson, and other Ministers, to the Committee of Parliament for Religion, by way of Explanation to the Proposals for propagating the Gospel.

1. That the Holy Scripture is that rule of knowing God and living unto him, which whoso does not believe cannot be saved.

2. That there is a God, who is the creator, governor, and judge of the world, which is to be received by faith, and every other way of the knowledge of him is insufficient.

3. That this God, who is the creator, is eternally distinct from all creatures in his being and blessedness.

4. That this God is one in three persons or subsistences.

5. That Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man, without the knowledge of whom there is no salvation.

6. That this Jesus Christ is the true God.

7. That this Jesus Christ is also true man.

8. That this Jesus Christ is God and man in one person.

9. That this Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, who, by paying a ransom and bearing our sins, has made satisfaction for them.

10. That this same Lord Jesus Christ is he that was crucified at Jerusalem, and rose again, and ascended into heaven.

11. That this same Jesus Christ being thee only God and man in one person, remains forever a distinct person from all saints and angels, notwithstanding their union and communion with him.

12. That all men by nature are, dead in sins and trespasses; and no man can be saved unless he be born again, repent, and believe.

13. That we are justified and saved by grace and faith in Jesus Christ, and not by works.

14. That to continue is any known sin, upon what pretense or principle soever, is damnable.

15. That God is to be worshipped according to his own will; and whosoever shall forsake and despise all the duties of his worship, cannot be saved.

16. That the dead shall rise; and that there is a day of judgment, wherein all shall appear, some to go into everlasting life, and some insto everlasting condemnation. Mr. Baxter (Life, page 205) says Dr. Owen worded these articles; that Dr. Goodwin, Mr. Nye, and Mr. Simpson were his assistants; that Dr. Cbeynel was scribe; and that Mr. Marshal, a sober, worthy man, did something; but that the rest were little better than passive. It appears by these articles that these divines intended to exclude not only Deists, Socinians, and papists, but Arians, Antinomians, Quakers, and others" (Neal, History of the Puritans, Harpers ed., 1:131).

 
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