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A Case for “No Creed but the Bible”

Tradition 0.5:

by Kessia

Reyne Bennett

Tradition 0.5: A Case for “No Creed But The Bible” Kessia Reyne Bennett (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) ATS, November 2013 What I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-4) Introduction Tradition 0, 1, 2 Sola Scriptura––it was the slogan of the Reformation and it remains the treasured possession of Evangelicals today. Some historical theologians, however, want to correct what they see as a misinterpretation of what the magisterial Reformers actually meant by these words. These Reformers, it is said, insisted on sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), not what has been termed “solo” Scriptura (“the Bible only”). They did not cast off tradition as worthless, but valued traditional readings of Scripture as “biblical tradition” having ministerial authority under the magisterial authority of Scripture.1 Those who advocate for this relationship between Scripture and tradition emphasize that it “is a single-source theory of doctrine: doctrine is based upon Scripture, and ‘tradition’ refers to a ‘traditional way of interpreting Scripture,”2 even for modern times.3 Heiko A. Oberman refers to this as !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <==">?!(1%,&$3!@)!*2A3+&'/!*#)(+,&-.(/$!"(01"-2$3/$4/-+(506-.(/!6;+BC3%DE$/!*(:!F+,%1! F1+2G7$11/!"HII>/!HJK""L?!M$%G-!()!NC$3B+./!!"#$7&8/$()$-"#$*#)(+,&-.(/!6@D%.C53E':! OPO!;1+3G/!"HIL>/!<LHK<HL)!
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Tradition 1, a view that he traces back to patristic theologians who argued for “ruled readings” of Scripture to combat heresies. This is in contrast to what Oberman calls Tradition 2, a “two-sources theory which allows for an extra-biblical oral tradition”4 which stands beside Scripture as authoritative for belief and practice. Oberman’s terms “Tradition 1” and “Tradition 2” have been adopted by many other historical theologians, and Alister McGrath added “Tradition 0” to refer to those radical Reformers who held to a view of Scripture to the exclusion of any tradition. McGrath helpfully summarizes with examples from the sixteenth century: Tradition 2: The Council of Trent Tradition 1: The magisterial Reformation Tradition 0: The radical Reformation5 The charges fall heavy on those who hold to Tradition 0. In supposed contrast to the magisterial Reformers, “the Radicals tried to flee from inheritance”6 and the “most significant practical result has been the scandal of Protestant sectarianism.” To reject

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Tradition 1 in favor of “no creed but the Bible” is “to proceed with arrogance, to privilege particularity, and to undermine the catholicity of Christ’s church.”7 The criticisms of Tradition 0 are basically two. First, critics charge, it naively ignores the utter fact that tradition influences every reader of Scripture—this I know, for postmodernism tells me so. Second, it refuses to acknowledge the ministerial yet genuine authority of some tradition, creeds in particular. The first objection I meet with agreement. Pretending that one can live, interpret, and worship in a tradition-less vacuum will lead to confusion and uncritical use of some traditions. As Timothy Ward remarks, those who ostensibly reject all tradition instead “smuggle ‘tradition’ in, without identifying it as such.”8 The second objection is more troubling, more complex. It employs the concept “authority,” the fulcrum upon which balances the Scripture-tradition question and the item to which I will be devoting much of my attention in this essay.

Tradition 0.5 Given the scheme briefly outlined above (Tradition 2, 1, and 0), I would like to propose and advocate “Tradition 0.5,” a position between Tradition 0 (the Bible alone, with no acknowledgement of tradition) and Tradition 1 (the Bible supreme but accompanied by “biblical” tradition).9 This view maintains “no creed but the Bible,” but in an awareness !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Q!;+31![)!F$2G7%&'/!WO'$!S$Z-3B$3,!+.D!&'$!a%2$.$!b+%&':!(.!(,,5B$D! ;+&'-1%2%&XY!%.!A;&/1#9.6&9<$&/5$B.6#/#$C&.-"2$=+(69&.,./1$-"#$3'(<-(9.6$>.-/#<</!$D)! O%B-&'X!A$-3E$!6A3+.D!S+4%D,/!*8:!F+G$3!(2+D$B%2/!<="">/!L"KL<)!!
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“of the inevitability of descriptive frameworks.”10 Tradition 0.5 acknowledges tradition, even appreciates it as both a theological help and the “given” cultural context, yet without granting authority to it. Oberman’s scheme is built on the assumption that the key issue is not “Scripture or tradition,” but “rather the clash between … concepts of tradition.”11 If Tradition 2 understands tradition as another form of revelation, Tradition 1 understands it as a Spirit-ed way of reading Scripture, and Tradition 0 understands it as an unfortunate obstruction, it could be said that Tradition 0.5 understands it as the context of the faith community: inescapable, necessary, yet corrigible. A full articulation of “Tradition 0.5” is too ambitious for this paper. Instead, I will engage directly with the issue of creeds as authoritative. To bring some specificity to this discussion, I will focus my attention on the Nicene Creed in particular. I will attempt to demonstrate some of the difficulties involved in upholding the creeds as authoritative. On the basis of the sufficiency, clarity, and normativity of Scripture I do not believe that the creeds have any inherent authority for Christians, though they are useful aids in theology. I would like to be clear about what I am not arguing: that writing and using summaries of faith is wrong or anti-biblical; that the contemporary Church has no use for the ancient creeds; that the ancient creeds are wrong in their judgments about the Trinity. Also, a few definitions are required. I am defining a creed as an occasional, concise, formal statement of belief associated with one of the seven ecumenical councils of the ancient

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Christian Church, and intended to be binding on the universal Church.12 Though similar, a confession does not have the same ecumenical, catholic vision as does a creed. It is “a public statement of what a particular church or denomination believes that Scripture teaches in a synthetic form.”13

Authority Drawing from Michael Rea’s work,14 I am defining authority as decisive sayso for person C in domain D. That is, an authority is such when it provides decisive reasons for person C to believe or to do something in domain D. The basic inquiry, then, is Does the Nicene Creed have decisive say-so for the Christian in the domain of theology? Theologians from Traditions 0, 1, and some from 2, would agree that the Bible is more authoritative than the Nicene Creed. The favored language among Tradition 1 advocates is that Scripture has magisterial authority while the creeds have ministerial

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authority. Scripture is the master and the creeds are its servants. Using Rea’s model of authority15 stated with the terminology of this discussion: The Bible [A] is more authoritative than the Nicene Creed [B] (for a Christian [C] in the domain of theology [D]) if, and only if, the Bible and the Nicene Creed are both reasons for belief for Christians in the domain of theology, and the reasons supplied by the Bible have priority for Christian theology over the reasons supplied by the Nicene Creed. This may be held as true unless one accepts the defeater claim that in the domain of Christian theology (specifically, the understanding of the Trinity) the reasons supplied by the creeds are more decisive for the Christian than the reasons supplied by the Bible, perhaps because the creeds are clearer in this domain. That would be a dangerous defeater to offer, however, as it would effectively make the Creed more authoritative than the Bible in some theological domain. Further, excepting the possibility of the defeater listed above, the Nicene Creed is not a foundational authority for Christian theology: the Bible alone is. Again, inserting relevant terms into Rea’s definition of a foundational authority,16 we may say: The Bible is foundationally authoritative over Christians in the domain of theology if, and only if, the Bible has authority over Christians in the domain !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "J!WA is more authoritative than B (for a person C, in a domain D) if, and only if, A and B are both sources of reasons for belief or action for C in D, and the reasons supplied by A have priority for C in D over the reasons supplied by B.”! !
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of theology and there is no source of reasons for Christian theology that is more authoritative than the Bible. We affirm that this is so and, of course, this is really what is expressed in calling the Bible the norma normans non normata. I suggest that Scripture is authoritative for Christians for two reasons. First, Christians have entered into a covenantal relationship with Christ and therefore into a special relationship with His words. Christ described a perichoresis patterned after the Trinitarian community that involves the disciples, the Father, the Spirit, Christ and His words (John 15:4-10; 16:12-15; 17, 21). Though one may “construe” the Bible in various ways, it is acknowledged that the Bible is the Christian Scripture and David Kelsey points out that the concept of authority is analytic in the concept “scripture.” “Part of what is said in calling a text or set of texts ‘scripture’ is that it is ‘authority’ for the common life of the Christian community.”17 Second, the Bible’s ontology as divine discourse puts it in such a relationship with truth itself (Himself!) that even pragmatism (how much more discipleship!) demands that we recognize the Bible as a de jure and de facto authority. Creeds, the Nicene Creed included, do not share in this designation as Scripture or in the Bible’s special ontology. To establish the Nicene Creed as an authority would require different grounds. Likely some would point to the connection of the individual believer to the whole of Christ’s ecclesial body, and the connection of the contemporary Church with the Church of ages past, and then make a case for the ancient creeds as truly ecumenical, truly the consensus of the Church throughout the ages, and truly adequate for the universal Church. More fundamentally, though, one would need to specify what kind of authority the catholic Church !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "Q!9+V%D!M)!#$1,$X/!=+(;./1$7(6-+./#2$!"#$N<#<$()$%6+.'-0+#$./$D(5#+/$ !"#(9(1J!6M+33%,C53E/!`(:!O3%.%&X!`3$,,!8.&$3.+&%-.+1/!"HHH>/!IH)!!

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has, how the Church exercises that catholic authority, and that the creeds are such an exercise of such authority. The functional authority of confessions are clearer to me for the reason that they are part of the covenant that the believer makes when she unites herself with a congregation and/or denomination. Whereas the believer’s connection to the universal Church is indirect, made through her connection with the Trinity— adopted by the Father, baptized in the Spirit, and united with Christ18—she is united with the local body directly. By baptism or confirmation, she agrees that the specific confession is a faithful summary of Bible teaching and she agrees to be bound by that confession. Confessions, of course, are not Scripture, but they are normative for the communities which choose them: the Christian believer elects to be bound by a certain confession as she is bound up together with the community over which the confession rules. In my view, the best confessions are written with a consciousness that they are norma normata and therefore open to change in light of Scriptural witness.19

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The Nicene Creed20 This creed has much to recommend it as useful for Christians thinking and talking about God. It is ancient and has stood the test of time—nearly 17 centuries of Christian faith, practice, and life have been shaped by it. It is widely accepted by Christians, almost unanimously so, and thus provides an agreement, a “togetherness,” in the Christian Church which is too rare. It was produced, not by fringe rebels or fly-by-night theologians, but by respected Church leaders from both East and West (though mostly East) in an ecumenical setting. It is a sophisticated articulation of the relationship between Son and Father, a document with a specificity that gives it great explanatory power. In my view, it affirms that Bible teaching that the Son is equal with the Father, not a creature, but fully divine. Yet the Creed does have some features that give reason for pause regarding its supposed status as an authority for Christian theology. First, the Council that wrote the Creed was steeped in politics. The Jerusalem Council it was not! Not to say that the Holy Spirit is unable to work through political scheming to illuminate the Scriptures, but it does suggest the need for some critical distance. Second, the formulation itself is built using an extra-biblical philosophical system without which its vocabulary is meaningless. The use of an extrabiblical vocabulary or system does not necessarily indicate that a theological formulation is anti-biblical, but it does signal the need for, again, some critical distance. Third, an elevation of the Creed as a Christian authority rests on certain optimistic construals of the council as “the Church.” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <=!A translation by David Bell of the creed can be found in the appendix. !

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Fourth, finally, and most importantly, those who advocate for the authoritativeness of the Nicene Creed have not made clear the functionality of their claim. They have not demonstrated what aspect(s) of the creed is (are) authoritative. Is it the entire formulation, including the anathemas? Is it the vocabulary and wording, so that one must parse ousia and stasis as the Eastern church understood them in order to know the Creed as truly authoritative? The wording of the Creed was ambiguous even to its contemporary audience, with differences particularly pronounced between East and West, so that it became necessary in A.D. 362 to declare “that verbal differences were not important, as long as the meaning was the same,” that is, as long as no one supported one of the rejected theologies.21 So perhaps it is the anathemas which are the most “authoritative” aspect of the Creed after all. Or maybe, as David Yeago argues, what is authoritative about the Creed is its theological judgments and not “the conceptual terms in which those judgements are rendered” so that “the same judgement can be rendered in a variety of conceptual terms.”22 Again, though, “one may affirm that there was a great ambiguity in the Nicene formula. The creed, whose main purpose was to affirm the divinity of the Son could also be interpreted as an affirmation of the divine unity.”23 Or it may be better to say that it is the Creed-asdiscourse that is “authoritative,” discourse of the Church or of the Spirit in the Church, prompting questions that explore illocution and perlocution. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <"!U5,&-![)!A-.d+1$d/!C+(,$-"#$G#1.//./1<$-($-"#$:(0/6.9$()$:"&96#5(//!V-1)!"! %.$$3$L.<-(+J$()$:"+.<-.&/$!"(01"-/!3$V)!$D)!6a+,'V%11$:!(C%.ED-./!"HIQ>/!<IR)! ;-.&3%C5&%-.!&-!&'$!S$2-V$3X!-Z!O'$-1-E%2+1!@]$E$,%,/Y!=+($A669#<.&$R/!.-)!<!6043!"HH^>:! "JH)!
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A separate question, predicated on an as-yet-undefined notion of authority, is how the Creed exercises its authority (wherever it may be found) over the Church, so authorizing her theologies. What do theologians mean exactly by saying creeds have “ministerial” authority? There does not appear to be agreement on exactly how authoritative creeds function inside a system which purports to accept sola Scriptura and Scripture as its own interpreter. Consider the unresolved tension in Ward, a proponent of Tradition 1. He is distrustful of the Vincentian canon,24 seeing it as a move toward denying Scripture as its own interpreter. Also, he believes that although “God uses teachers within the church to lead believers into the truth of the Bible,”25 he looks for God’s own authoritative interpretation of Scripture to come through Scripture, and not “through appointed church teachers making supposedly decisive statements under the guidance of the Holy Spirit about the meaning of Scripture.”26 Yet that is exactly what creeds claim to be and to do.

Objections A. The Spirit of Jesus leads His Church. To neglect or reject as authoritative the Nicene Creed—the declaration of the catholic Church—is to quench the Holy Spirit. A1. “The Church” is notoriously difficult to define concretely; finding the exact boundaries of “the Church” has always been an impractical task. Which Church wrote !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <^!T+3D/!"=I."</!""I)!
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the Nicene Creed? The Church universal? the Church majority? the Church general? the Church official? the Church represented? the Church powerful? But setting aside this significant difficulty, let us assume that the body convened at Nicaea qualifies as the Church in the most satisfactory sense. A2. That the Church made a theological decision does not in itself provide enough assurance that it was led by the Spirit and is a correct decision. Although the Scriptures do lead us to expect a close relationship between “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:19) and the Church as the Body of Christ (Eph 5:23, Col 1:18), the Church has never been pure and faultless, and the Bible warns of false teachers inside the Church (e.g., 2 Tim 3:1-5, 2 Pet 2:1-3, Jude 3-4). A3. Scripture instructs believers not to “quench the Spirit” but to “test everything” (1 Thess 5:19, 21). With what means are we to test everything, including the creeds? By the standard of the Bible. This is what we mean by calling the Bible “canon,” and this is what we mean when we call it “scripture.”

B. The Nicene Creed is “saying the same thing” as Scripture (in Philippians 2, for example).27 Anyone who accepts the authority of Scripture should also acknowledge the derived authority of this creed. B1. In that the Nicene Creed is not identical to Philippians 2, they are different. Where there is difference there may or may not be a difference in quality. In this case, however, one qualitative difference between the two texts can be named: one is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <Q!9+V%D!\$+E-!+3E5$,!2-.V%.2%.E1X!&'+&!&'$!a%2$.$!5,$!-Z!"(,((0<.&/! ,+X,!W&'$!,+B$!&'%.EY!+,!`'%1!<:LZZ!%.!&'$!+3&%21$!3$Z$3$.2$!+C-V$)! !

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canonical, the other is not. (I do not wish to suggest that Philippians 2 stands on its own, of course. The reader can understand “Philippians 2” to be a shorthand way of saying “Philippians 2 in the canonical context,” and an example of how to relate the Nicene Creed with any Scripture text.) As inspired Scripture, Philippians 2 is a superior source of theology to the Creed, which is a human attempt to conceptualize and rearticulate the message of Jesus’ relationship to divinity found in Philippians 2. B2. At best the Nicene Creed is derived from Philippians 2, making explicit what the biblical text supposes implicitly. The Creed may be a useful way of clearly explaining Philippians 2. It is possible, though, that the Creed provides just one option among many for explaining how God can be Three and yet One. Or it may be that the Creed is unhelpfully speculative, that it confuses, distorts, obscures, or even contradicts Philippians 2. I do not wish to claim that the Nicene Creed goes against the text in any of these ways; as I said above, I am not arguing that the ancient creeds are wrong in their judgments about the Trinity. My aim here is simply to say that since the Nicene Creed and Philippians 2 are different, they may or may not have the same theology, the same judgments about the Trinity, the same message about Jesus. The very pressing issue here is How does one know? B3. In order to determine if the Creed is in harmony with the canon’s own teaching about Jesus’ relationship to divinity, it is necessary to compare the Nicene formula with an examination of the canonical text. This is exactly what Yeago does in his discussion of the Nicene Creed and Philippians 2: he studies both texts, compares them, and concludes that they indeed are making the same judgments about the same subjects for the same purpose. My basic claim is that this examination and comparison is necessary, and that attributing authority to the Creed obscures or denies this necessity.

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B4. It must be acknowledged that one cannot “just as easily get” the idea of Jesus as fully divine and equal with the Father from the Bible as from the Creed. The Bible is 66 books from dozens of authors, using multiple metaphors and concepts to talk about the Godhead. Nowhere is it as concerned with opposing Arianism, modalism, Sabellianism, or monarchialism as is the Nicene Creed. So no, we cannot “just as easily get” the Christology of the Nicence Creed from Scripture as from the Council’s formulation, but ease does not authority make. We may get a useful and more easily accessed Christology from Nicaea, but we can get an authoritative Christology only from Scripture.

C. The Nicene Creed provides the necessary “ruled reading” that safeguards biblical truth and protects the Church from heresy. C1. Ruled readings may ameliorate but they do not solve the problem of indeterminate meaning. As discussed above, one fundamental issue is the locus of meaning in the Creed itself. Beyond that problem, the Creed is limited in its ability to oppose heresy. Creeds as “rules” are occasional and anti-heretical in intent, so they are useful for narrowing the range of acceptable readings of the biblical text to exclude certain heresies, but they are unable to fix only certain readings as authoritative and so exclude all heretical readings. The Nicene Creed was written to address Arianism, not Open Theism, for example. C2. If the rule is correct, the problem of indeterminate meaning has been ameliorated but not removed by the use of the Creed. The problem has shifted from say, Philippians 2 to the Nicene Creed. If Nicaea is the authoritative interpretation of Philippians 2, we must ask whose interpretation of Nicaea is the authoritative one. The Eastern or the Western one? Of course, there is always the difficulty of translation and then individual

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interpretation of the creed. If we are uncomfortable with the vulnerabilities of Scripture to heretical interpretations and therefore require a creed to provide an authoritative interpretation of it, we soon find ourselves in an unfortunate regression of authoritative interpretation. The Creed cannot remove us from the hermeneutical circle.28 C3. If we do not allow that the Bible text, unaided by “authoritative interpretations,” has determinate, accessible meaning, then the text is no longer capable of exercising authority. Here some objectors would cry, “Yes, but isn’t all understanding mediated? No one reads, much less understands, the Bible ‘alone,’ apart from all aids.” I agree! However, I do not accept any such aids as theological authorities. Tools, helps, means? Yes. Context and medium? Yes. But authorities? No. C4. If the Bible has determinate, accessible meaning, then the Bible is a sufficient teacher of at least the core Christian doctrines. It would be a rather poor Scripture if it could do only less than this. Advocates of creedal authority may here object, “It is Scripture read in the right way that teaches true doctrine.” I agree. No text can be read any which way. It is a separate question to ask how creeds relate to this “right way” of reading. On this point, McGrath summarizes Tradition 1 by saying that it views tradition as “a ‘traditional way of interpreting Scripture.’”29 This is far from self-evident, however. This claim, in fact, is part of a larger argument justifying the use by the magisterial Reformers of certain councils and theologians of the patristic era”—including the resultant !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <I!*2A3+&'!.-&$,!&'+&!$V$.!%.!+!O3+D%&%-.!<!B-D$1!%.!7'%2'!W&'$!+5&'-3%&X! -Z!,23%4&53$!7+,!E5+3+.&$$D!CX!&'$!+5&'-3%&X!-Z!%&,!%.&$343$&$3!j!&'$!2'532'/!5.D$3!&'$! D%V%.$!E5%D+.2$!-Z!&'$!M-1X!04%3%&/Y!WD%,+E3$$B$.&!-V$3!&'$!.+&53$!+.D!1-2+&%-.!-Z! &'$-1-E%2+1!+5&'-3%&XY!1$D!&-!3+B4+.&!4153+1%,B)!*2A3+&'/!HH)!
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creeds—as “genuine authority in matters of doctrine.”30 Those councils produced not methodological manifestos, but “authorized” conclusions, not ways but ends. Therefore it would be more fitting to read the claim for Tradition 1 thus: “‘tradition’ refers to ‘traditional conclusions about what Scripture says.’” McGrath positions Tradition 1 and the necessity of authoritative creeds over against those who want to interpret Scripture “in any random way,” heretics and Tradition 0 adherents, presumably. Given the choice between “any random” reading of Scripture and authoritative creeds, I sympathize with Tradition 1. The way one reads Scripture is important, but to claim that authoritative creeds are necessary to avoid random reading is to admit that the internal controls of the text itself are insufficient to the task. C5. Again we return to the pressing issue of knowing. From whence did the Council members “get” the theology that is expressed in the Nicene Creed? Was it from the Spirit speaking through the Scriptures? If so, then why is that same privilege not afforded to other Christians? Why cannot Christians of all epochs be able to make the same Christological affirmations on the same grounds—on the Spirit speaking in the Scriptures? The ancient Christians did not need the Nicene Creed in order to believe what they wrote therein. But if the Council members did not formulate this creed “by Scripture alone,” then the Nicene Creed is an example of Tradition 2, not Tradition 1 as some advocate.

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D. “No creed but the Bible” promotes private judgment, the root of all heresy! D1. Individual judgment is necessary; individualism is not. Although every person belongs to multiple communities (chief among them the Church), each person has an individual responsibility before God. Those who oppose Tradition 0, and likely also Tradition 0.5, dislike any suggestion of “private judgment,” imagining the lone thinker with his Bible who feels himself above the community and apart from it. I too would urge such a person to abandon his overblown conceits of private judgment—but I cannot see any way around the necessity of personal judgment done in a community. This personal judgment is necessitated by the personal agency and accountability given to each person. “The biblical testimony encourages the readers to study the Bible for themselves in order to understand God’s message to them (e.g., Deut 30:11-14; Luke 1:3, 4; John 20:30-31; Acts 17:11; Rom 10:17; Rev 1:3).”31 This study should include an openness to other Christian voices past and present, and an awareness of one’s own tradition both as a means of instruction and as the context of interpretation. Yet ultimately one must make a personal judgment on matters of doctrine. History indicates that the Reformers had a change of mind on this matter. Although the Reformation began with what McGrath calls “exegetical optimism … evident in the suggestion that the ordinary Christian could understand scripture,”32 as it grew in power and resources it resorted to providing “authoritative” interpretations of Scripture to its !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! R"!S%2'+3D!*)!9+V%D,-./!WO'$!S-1$!-Z!&'$!;'532'!%.!&'$!8.&$343$&+&%-.!-Z! 023%4&53$Y!64+4$3!43$,$.&$D!+&!&'$!O'%3D!0XB4-,%5B!-.!&'$!F%C1$!+.D!(DV$.&%,&! 02'-1+3,'%4/!(G5B+1/!*$]%2-/!*+32'!"HK<J/!<==L>/!"I)!
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members, people thought to be incapable of arriving at a true reading of Scripture unless it was handed to them. “It is one of the ironies of the Lutheran Reformation,” for instance, “that a movement which laid such stress upon the importance of scripture should subsequently deny its less educated members direct access to that same scripture, for fear that they might misinterpret it (in other words, reach a different interpretation than that of the magisterial Reformers).”33 Ironically, Ward’s sharp criticism of Tradition 0 may come back to bear on Tradition 1: “Within a Christian community it often comes to place great store on the interpretation of Scripture offered by an individual.”34 Like Luther or Calvin, perhaps? The unspoken reasoning seems to be that the Council members at Nicaea had access to true doctrine in the Scripture by the Spirit, the Reformers had that same access, but the average member must take the doctrine of the Trinity on the basis of an authoritative Creed, not an inscrutable Scripture. D2. Advocates of Tradition 1 are themselves exercising this personal judgment as evidenced in the selectivity of the tradition they wish to retrieve from historic Christianity for contemporary use. Why is the Council at Nicaea authoritative but the Council of Trent is not? Because, they would argue, Nicaea is biblical and Trent is not! The ones who praise Yeago’s insightful analysis of the Nicene Creed as proving its authority ought not to deny that Yeago exercised his personal judgment in making the claim that Nicaea is biblical—as they also do when they agree with him. What Tradition 1 proponents deride in others as “private judgment” is inexplicably called “conviction” in the magisterial Reformers.

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If we mean what we say in calling the Bible “Scripture” and “canon,” then it is clear that the Nicene Creed must be judged by the Scriptures. Given this, what is the functional difference between Tradition 1 and Tradition 0.5? How does a Tradition 1 believer make judgments about Christology? What has the decisive say-so? If the Christian is true to her claim that the Nicene Creed is a “normed norm,” then must she not ask the Creed critical questions and make a personal judgment regarding its agreement with the “norming norm”? If not, then how does the Bible norm creeds?

Conclusion In summary, I see no functional difference between a Tradition 1 that judges the creeds by Scripture and Tradition 0.5 that does the same but does not acknowledge them as authoritative. I find particularly objectionable the implication that laypeople do not have access to the basic truths of Scripture except through authorized doctrinal formulations. Attributing authority to creeds is problematic because there seems no clear way to properly relate this “ministerial” authority with the fundamental, normative, magisterial authority of Scripture. I find the concept of authority so problematic in relation to creeds that I wish rather to use different language and refer to the creeds as useful, helpful theological resources for Christians of all epochs. That’s something that Tradition 0.5 can get behind.

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APPENDIX The Nicene Creed We believe in one God, Father, almighty, maker of all things, visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, onlybegotten, that is, from the substance (ousia) of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, through whom all things came into being, both things in heaven and things on earth; who, because of us humans and because of our salvation, came down and became incarnate, and became human; he suffered and rose on the third day, he ascended into the heavens, and he will come to judge the living and the dead; and in the Holy Spirit. But as for those who say, “There was, when he was not”, and “Before he was begotten, he was not”, and that “he came into existence out of nothing’” or who allege the Son of God to be “of a different hypostasis or substance (ousia)”, or “created”, or “changeable”, or “mutable”: these the holy universal and apostolic Church anathematizes.35

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Beckwith, Carl L. “The Reformers and the Nicene Faith: An Assumed Catholicity.” In Evangelicals and the Nicene Faith: Proclaiming the Apostolic Witness, edited by Timothy George. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011. Bell, David N. A Cloud of Witnesses: An Introduction to the Development of Christian Doctrine to A.D. 500. 2nd ed. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2007. Davidson, Richard M. “The Role of the Church in the Interpretation of Scripture.” Paper presented at the Third Symposium on the Bible and Adventist Scholarship, Akumal, Mexico, March 19-25, 2006. Gonzalez, Justo L. From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon. Vol. 1 of A History of Christian Thought. Rev. ed. Nashville: Abingdon, 1987. Jenson, Robert W. Canon and Creed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2010. Kelsey, David H. Proving Doctrine: The Uses of Scripture in Modern Theology. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999. Mathison, Keith A. The Shape of Sola Scriptura. Moscow, ID: Canon, 2001. McGrath, Alister E. Reformation Thought: An Introduction. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1988. Oberman, Heiko A. The Dawn of the Reformation. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986. Pelikan, Jaroslav. Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. 16th ed. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000. Treier, Daniel J. Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. Trueman, Carl R. The Creedal Imperative. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Kindle edition. Vanhoozer, Kevin J. The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistical Approach to Christian Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005. _________. Is There a Meaning in this Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

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Ward, Timothy. Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Acadmic, 2009. Yeago, David S. “The New Testament and the Nicene Dogma: A Contribution to the Recovery of Theological Exegesis.” Pro Ecclesia 3, no. 2 (Spr 1994): 152164.

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