What Do Anglicans Believe about the Creeds and Holy Scripture?


From The ACNA Catechism

The following is an excerpt from the Anglican Church in North America’s catechism, To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism (Crossway, 2020), pp. 29–35.

You can download a PDF of the entire catechism here.


The Apostles’ Creed and the Life of Faith

All genuine Christians affirm that authentic Christianity is apostolic Christianity. Apostolic Christianity rests on the historic, eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ first followers, the apostles, to the actual events of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, present heavenly reign, and promised future return. Both Jesus and his apostles understood these events to fulfill the Old Testament hopes of the kingdom (that is, the reign) of God. God’s covenant with Israel prepared for this kingdom, which the Christian Church has received from Jesus and his apostles.

We learn from Scripture about these key events, including what they mean and how they hold together. Anglicans therefore affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are contained in the Bible, are “God’s Word written” (Articles of Religion, 20).

By the second century, these essentials of apostolic faith had been organized into an outline of topics for instruction (the Rule of Faith), and this outline came to be known as the Apostles’ Creed because it sums up the apostolic faith. This Creed came to be widely used by the Church as the declaration of faith made at Baptism and was later included as one of three   p 30  creeds in the 1662 Anglican Prayer Book. The Apostles’ Creed is the briefest and most easily memorized of these creeds, and is complemented and enlarged upon by the later Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

To gather and focus the central truths of apostolic faith is the first task of all catechesis (instruction). That is precisely what the Apostles’ Creed does. It is arranged in three paragraphs, which highlight in turn the work of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, thus distilling the teaching of Holy Scripture and reflecting the triune nature of God. It is a summary of biblical truths that is designed to lead inquirers into a grounded personal faith in the triune God.

The Apostles’ Creed exists to define and defend this commitment, which is basic to being a Christian. The article on God the Creator (the Father) introduces the Creed; its central article—focused on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ—is the fullest and longest; and the article on the Holy Spirit and Christian salvation follows. As a whole, the Creed testifies to the vital core of God’s self-revelation for our salvation. It is a consensus declaration that comes to us with the resounding, universal endorsement of faithful believers over nearly two thousand years. It has been recited by Christian communities throughout the history of the Church. And it is a benchmark of orthodoxy—that is, of right belief—guiding our understanding of God’s revealed truth at points where our sin-clouded minds might go astray.

Concerning the Creeds

18. What is a creed?

A creed is a statement of faith. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe.” (Deuteronomy 11:18–23; 26:1–11; John 20:24–29; 1 John 5:9–12)

19. What is the purpose of the creeds?

The purpose of the creeds is to declare and safeguard for all generations essential truths about God, the Church, and the world, as revealed in Holy Scripture. (Deuteronomy 7:9–11; Psalm 145:4–13; John 20:30–31; 2 Timothy 1:13–14; Hebrews 2:1–4)

20. What does belief in the creeds signify?

Belief in the creeds signifies acceptance of God’s revealed truth and the intention to live by it. To reject any element of the creeds signifies a departure from the Christian faith. (Matthew 16:13–20; 2 Timothy 3:14–15; 4:1–5; James 2:10–26)

21. Which creeds has this church received?

This church believes the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. (Articles of Religion, 8)

22. Why do you receive and believe these creeds?

I receive and believe these creeds with the Church because they are grounded in Holy Scripture and are faithful expressions of its teaching. (Proverbs 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:3–11; Philippians 2:5–11)

23. Why should you know these creeds?

I should know these creeds because they state the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. (Deuteronomy 11:18–19; 1 Timothy 6:20–21; 2 Timothy 1:13–14)

24. What is the Apostles’ Creed?

The Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Concerning Holy Scripture

25. What is Holy Scripture?

Holy Scripture is “God’s Word written” (Articles of Religion, 20), given by the Holy Spirit through prophets and apostles as the revelation of God and his acts in human history, and is therefore the Church’s final authority in all matters of faith and practice. (Psalm 19:7–11; Jeremiah 36:1–8; 2 Timothy 3:14–17; Revelation 1:1–11)

26. What books are contained in Holy Scripture?

The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament together form the whole of Holy Scripture. (Articles of Religion, 6)

27. What is in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament proclaims God’s creation of all things; mankind’s original disobedience; God’s calling of Israel to be his people; his Law, wisdom, and saving deeds; and the teaching of his prophets. The Old Testament bears witness to Christ, revealing God’s intention to redeem and reconcile the world through Christ. (Luke 24:44; 1 Corinthians 10:1–4; Hebrews 11)

28. What is in the New Testament?

The New Testament proclaims Jesus Christ’s birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension; the Church’s early ministry; the teaching of the apostles; the revelation of Christ’s eternal kingdom; and the promise of his return. (Luke 24:45–49; Acts 1:1–11; Philippians 2:5–11)

The Old Testament is to be read in the light of Christ, and the New Testament is to be read in light of God’s revelation to Israel. Thus the two form one Holy Scripture, which reveals the Person of Jesus Christ and his mighty works. As Saint Augustine says, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” (Augustine of Hippo, Questions in the Heptateuch 2.73; see also Matthew 5:17–18; Luke 24:25–27)

30. What does it mean that Holy Scripture is inspired?

Holy Scripture is “God-breathed,” for the biblical authors wrote under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit to record God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:19–21)

31. What does it mean that Holy Scripture is the Word of God?

The Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are therefore the Word of God written. God is revealed in his mighty works and in the incarnation of our Lord, which are made known through the inspired writings of the biblical authors. God “has spoken through the prophets” (Nicene Creed) and continues to speak through Scripture today. (Psalm 33:4–9; Jeremiah 1:9; Ezekiel 2:1–3:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:15–16; Hebrews 1:1–2)

32. Why is Jesus Christ called the Word of God?

The fullness of God’s revelation is found in Jesus Christ, who not only fulfills the Scriptures, but is himself God’s Word, the living expression of God’s mind. The Scriptures testify about him, “In the beginning was the Word,” and “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). Therefore, “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, prologue; see also Genesis 1:26–27; Psalm 33:1–12; Colossians 1:15–19)

33. How should Holy Scripture be understood?

Because Holy Scripture was given by God to the Church, it should always be understood in ways that are faithful to its own plain meaning, to its entire teaching, and to the Church’s historic interpretation. It should be translated, read, taught, and obeyed accordingly. (Nehemiah 8:1–8; Psalm 94:8–15; Acts 8:26–35; 18:24–28; Jerusalem Declaration, Article 2; Articles of Religion, 20)

34. How does the Holy Spirit use Holy Scripture in your life?

Through Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit will teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in the righteousness that God desires. The prayerful study of Scripture forms me for life in Christ and the service of God and my neighbor. (Psalm 119:105; John 14:26; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; Hebrews 4:12–13; see questions 227–32)

35. What are the Apocrypha?

The fourteen books of the Apocrypha, historically acknowledged by this church, are pre-Christian Jewish writings that provide background for the New Testament and are included in many editions of the Bible. They may be read as examples of faithful living but “not to establish any doctrine.” (Articles of Religion, 6)

From The Thirty-Nine Articles

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

Holy Scripture containeth all things 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 the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books.

[List of Old Testament Books]

And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

[List of Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books]

All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.

VII. Of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

VIII. Of the Creeds.

The Nicene Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

The original Article given Royal assent in 1571 and reaffirmed in 1662, was entitled “Of the Three Creeds; and began as follows, “The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed …”

Published on

February 11, 2020


Joshua Steele

Josh Steele was the first Managing Editor of Anglican Compass. Learn more about him at joshuapsteele.com.

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